And they're returning to South Florida, site of their 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears during a torrential downpour in Super Bowl XLI. That, in itself, might very well prove to be a good omen for the Colts, who certainly look as if they're on track to capture another Vince Lombardi Trophy.
1. Peyton Manning
Let's start with the most obvious. Just when you thought his game couldn't get any better, it does. He followed a season in which he won a record fourth NFL MVP award with a pair of highly impressive playoff performances.
His best came in the AFC title game, when he scorched the NFL's top-ranked defense for 377 yards and three touchdowns. The Jets tried a variety of different defensive combinations to stop him, and none of them worked. He is not likely to be confused or stopped by anything he sees from the Saints, who pressured Brett Favre on Sunday but still gave up 310 passing yards.
2. Receiving depth
The Colts have an embarrassment of riches here, and they'll be facing the Saints' 26th-ranked passing defense. They're capable of doing significant damage with wideout Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark. But if, as was the case against the Jets, an opponent is able to even somewhat limit their production, Manning has a couple of other options that are equally explosive: Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie.
Garcon has been a rising star who more than adequately filled the void left by Anthony Gonzalez, who was supposed to have been the Colts' No. 2 receiver before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 1. Garcon has actually played more like a No. 1 in his second NFL season; he caught 11 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown against the Jets. He's good enough to have the upper hand against any opponent's lesser cornerback. Despite being a rookie, Collie is an ultra-smart, ultra-disciplined route-runner. The postseason is not too big for either young receiver.
3. A swarming defense
Who says the Colts can't stop the run? True, their defense ranked 24th in the NFL in that department in the regular season, but the unit makes up for it with speed and hustle. Linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Session cover a tremendous amount of ground, and get to the ball in a hurry. Both are also very sure tacklers. Defensive tackles Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson have done admirable work staying fairly stout at the point of attack.
The Jets' running game suffered a huge blow early in the third quarter on Sunday, when rookie Shonn Greene suffered bruised ribs that sidelined him for the rest of the game. But the Colts' run defense still was holding its own up to that point. Greene and Thomas Jones combined for 83 yards on 26 carries. Overall, Indianapolis did exactly what it wanted to do, which was force rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez to have to make more plays than the Jets' coaches preferred.
4. A fierce pass rush
The Colts have two of the best pass-rushing ends in the league in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. They weren't spectacular against the Jets, but were good enough in dealing with a run-oriented team. If the Colts can play the run as well in the Super Bowl as they did in the AFC title game, that should only help enhance the effectiveness of Freeney and Mathis. And if the Super Bowl is a shootout, a likely scenario considering the opponent, they'll have their chances to make what could prove to be a decisive play.
5. Been there, done that
While the Saints are making their first ever Super Bowl appearance, the Colts have a fairly substantial group of veterans who were with the team during its previous Super Bowl run. Manning, Wayne, Clark, Brackett, Freeney, Mathis, and center Jeff Saturday were a part of the Colts' Super Bowl XLI win. That wasn't all that long ago, and allows the Colts to have an advantage of understanding what it takes to prepare for the game and handle the massive hype that goes with it.
Another plus is the fact that the man who leads the Colts' organization, president Bill Polian, has a wealth of Super Bowl experience, going back to his days as general manager of the Buffalo Bills. He and the rest of the administrative staff have already done plenty of work to help make sure the trip goes as smoothly as possible.