|Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press|
|The Cardinals' Antrel Rolle saw firsthand what the offenses of the Colts and Saints are capable of.|
His heart tells him to root for the New Orleans Saints because of the feel-good story that connects their success with their city's comeback from Hurricane Katrina.
But Dockett's head tells him that the Indianapolis Colts will end up with their second Vince Lombardi Trophy in four seasons.
"As much as I want the Saints to win, I know who will win," the Arizona Cardinals' defensive end said while preparing to represent the NFC in Sunday's Pro Bowl. "I know the Colts are going to win, but I would love for the Saints to win for the City of New Orleans. The New Orleans Saints are playing for more than just football. They have the people that suffered from Hurricane Katrina, and things like that, and they're really trying to back that city up. And they're doing a great job."
Dockett, whose team suffered a 31-10 loss to the Colts in Week 3 of the regular season and a 45-14 defeat to the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs, just doesn't think they'll have enough to overcome the Colts' strengths on both sides of the ball.
Other Pro Bowl participants who faced the Super Bowl opponents agree with that perspective. Although they acknowledge that the matchup of the two best quarterbacks in the league -- the Colts' Peyton Manning and the Saints' Drew Brees -- could produce a wild, high-scoring game, they're mostly leaning toward Manning because he already has won a Super Bowl and has delivered in more pressure situations.
They're also leaning toward the Colts because of how consistently well they have performed leading into the postseason.
"I'm going with the Colts on this one," said New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, whose club beat Indianapolis, 29-15, in a Week 16 game from which Manning was yanked in the third quarter and then lost to the Colts in the AFC Championship Game, 30-17.
After a 3-0 start, the Jets suffered their first loss of the season, 24-10, at New Orleans. Revis recalls that the Jets defense had trouble matching up with the Saints offense. He sees a multitude of reasons to like their chances in the Super Bowl: An outstanding receiving core, a strong running game, and Reggie Bush's ability to make an impact as a runner, receiver, and kick-returner.
Still, it's hard for Revis to envision Manning on the losing end.
"He's like a coach out there in a player's body," Revis said. "He controls the game very well. He audibles four or five times to get them in the right position for them to make the good play."
Miami Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell also was part of losses to both Super Bowl teams -- the Colts, 27-23, in Week 2, and Saints, 46-34, in Week 7. Like Revis, he's picking the Colts for one simple reason: Manning.
"Best in the game," Bell said.
He considers Manning a consummate deep-thinker whose success is driven by his ability to properly orchestrate the Colts offense. But he also has a healthy respect for Brees, describing him as a quarterback who thrives on the uncanny way that he and his receivers anticipate each other's every move on the field.
"Peyton is very smart; he dissects the defenses very quickly," Bell said. "You know you can only throw so much at him because, eventually, he's going to get into the right check and get those guys in what they need to be in. He's just so smart that he's seen everything.
"Drew is just so efficient in his offense. It's like he and his receivers have ESP. They're always on the same page. No matter where he puts the ball, it seems like they're always ready for it. He can put the ball on their back shoulder, they're ready. He can put it low, they're ready."
Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle sees a potential nightmare awaiting the secondaries of both teams because of how well Manning and Brees can find and exploit an opponent's weaknesses. Using their spread offenses, he explained, they don't follow a script so much as they build an attack around the vulnerabilities of the defense.
"A lot of teams go into a game plan running the things that they're used to running, the things they like to run as an offense," Rolle said. "Those two teams try to find your weaknesses and match you up against those weaknesses. So you pretty much have to study yourself in order to be able to study them."
Bell said an important element of the Colts' offensive prowess is that "they don't run the ball all the time but they do it just enough to keep the linebackers honest."
With such explosive offenses, it's easy to forget that the Super Bowl teams also play defense. Each defensive unit has a trademark. For the Saints, it is opportunism; they ranked second in the NFL with 39 takeaways. For the Colts, it is the ability to cover plenty of ground and swarm to the ball.
However, as Jets offensive guard Alan Faneca points out, they have plenty in common.
"You're looking at two defenses that utilize team speed and an everybody-to-the-ball-type mentality," Faneca said. "It seems like every time the a Saints' highlight is on TV, they're getting a fumble, they're getting a pick, they're getting the ball, which is huge. You put Drew Brees back on the field one more time, that's a big plus.
"The Colts did a great job (in the AFC Championship Game). They played hard, and (Wednesday night) was actually the first time I saw a couple of clips of the game on NFL Network and kind of got glued to it for a little bit. We left stuff out there on offense. They'd bend, but they didn't break. We'd get down to the 30-yard line, in that ballpark, and we couldn't punch it in. And when you're playing Peyton Manning, you've got to punch it in."
As a New Orleans native, Faneca admittedly is "going with emotion" and picking the Saints.
Nose tackle Vince Wilfork, whose New England Patriots lost to the Colts, 35-34, in Week 10 and to the Saints, 38-17, in Week 12, isn't saying which team he expects to win. He just thinks it's a perfect matchup to determine the championship of the NFL.
"They're by far the best teams in the NFL this year," Wilfork said. "Two great quarterbacks, great receivers, great core on offense, good defenses. It's going to be a good game."