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Super Bowl XLIV scouting report

When the Colts run: The Colts won't win this game - or any game - if it has to rely on its running game. Indianapolis rushed for only 80.9 yards per game this season, an average that was worse than every other team in the league. Joseph Addai was right at that average with 80 yards in the AFC championship game against the Jets, though to his credit, he did it on only 16 carries. The Saints' run defense has been decent, allowing 122.2 yards per game through the regular season, but slightly more than that in the postseason, and has shown to be vulnerable at times (like when Arizona's Tim Hightower scored on a run on the first play of the game in the divisional round).

When the Colts pass: Apologies to the New Orleans secondary, especially safety Darren Sharper, but there is no question who holds the edge here. His name is Peyton Manning, and he continues to rise in those discussions of Greatest of All Time. Doesn't hurt, either, that he's got a receiving corps that includes Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark. The Saints have given up only 235.6 passing yards per game and have picked off 29 passes to this point.

When the Saints run: For all the talk of the Saints passing attack, the success of the offense depends on the running game, led by Pierre Thomas and complemented by Reggie Bush and even Mike Bell. If those guys can get going early, Brees will be in perfect position to hit those explosive big plays New Orleans is known for. You might not know the names of the top Colts run stoppers, but guys like Daniel Muir and Gary Brackett have been quite effective, and held the Jets (the No. 1 rushing team) to only 86 yards in the championship game.

When the Saints pass: The Saints run a complicated timing-based offense that quarterback Drew Brees has mastered. Brees threw for nearly 4,400 yards in the regular season and 444 more yards in two playoff games. But most impressively, he's completes around 70 percent of his passes. New Orleans' wide receivers Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Lance Moore aren't stars, but Brees can make them great. The Colts secondary is led by underrated safety Antoine Bethea, but the unit has been proven to be vulnerable on the outside (remember Bronco Brandon Marshall's record-setting day against Indianapolis) and starting cornerback Jerraud Powers, a rookie, didn't practice all week with a foot injury.

Special teams: The Colts have one of the most clutch Super Bowl kickers in Adam Viniateri on their roster - only he's not playing - and 42-year-old Matt Stover is. The kicker everyone has been talking about since the championship games is Garrett Hartley of the Saints, who nailed a 40-yarder in overtime to get the Saints here. New Orleans' kickoff and punt returns, including Reggie Bush, also have an advantage as well.

Five things to watch

1) How is Freeney's ankle? The most buzzed-about body part in South Florida this week has been Indianapolis defensive end Dwight Freeney's ankle, which he sprained badly in the AFC championship game. Even with the bye week, Freeney will be questionable for the game and no one really knows if he will play, and if he does, how much the injury will affect his ability to get to Drew Brees. And with Brees' efficiency and the potential for big plays, disrupting Brees' flow by getting into the pocket will be very important for the Colts' defense.

2) Peyton in the pocket: One of the more amazing feats about the Colts' offense is that quarterback Peyton Manning has been sacked only 12 times this season. It's a credit to Indianapolis' offensive line and certainly to Manning too, and is among the biggest challenges for the Saints defense. Manning has consistently beat the blitz all year better than any other quarterback, so New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams must find a way for his players to get Manning to the grass.

3) What about Bush? New Orleans running back Reggie Bush is one of the league's most intriguing players - ridiculously talented with big-play potential, but with so many questions about how to actually use him effectively. When the Saints find a way to get Bush involved consistently, by using him as a receiver and a target for screen passes, the New Orleans offense takes on a completely different look. It will be interesting to see how the Colts, especially with an ailing secondary, find a way to take Bush away.

4) Turnover machine: On the stat sheet alone, the New Orleans defense can seem pedestrian, with plenty of yards and points allowed. But no team in the NFL this year has been as good at making the game-changing defensive play. The Saints have picked off 29 passes - including three in the playoffs - and recovered 13 fumbles. Four of those fumble recoveries have come in the postseason. Peyton Manning and the Colts rarely turn the ball over (the glaring exception was Manning's three-interception game against Denver), but the Saints should be able to find a way to get the ball away from him.

5) Wayne and the kids: Think back to August. Did you know who Pierre Garcon or Austin Collie were? Now, they are as integral a part of the Colts offense as stars like Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. With so many play-making receivers, opposing defenses have often chosen to try to eliminate Wayne, undoubtedly the biggest threat, and take their chances with Garcon, the second-year player out of Division III Mount Union College, and rookie Collie. Ask the Jets how well that worked out.

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