Saints or Colts? Manning makes Indy overwhelming pick

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Super Bowl predictions are in the fabric of the game itself. And it seems like everyone has one for Super Bowl XLIV. As the hours before kickoff are being counted down, we asked our football experts at NFL.com and NFL Network who will win the Big Game?

The results were heavily skewed toward Indianapolis; 13 picked the Colts, four liked the Saints, and one couldn't decide to follow his head (Colts) or heart (Saints).

Here are the picks, plus thoughts on the game:

Brian Baldinger

Pick: Colts, 31-23

The Colts have been the best team from start to finish, and are led by the best player in the league at the most critical position. If this game turns into a shootout, I want the ball in Peyton Manning's hands.

Brian Billick

Pick: Colts, 31-27

If Dwight Freeney does not play, this game gets placed in the pick-'em category. This should be a track meet, with the team that has the ball last being the winner. I'm not sure New Orleans can put enough pressure on Manning.

Gil Brandt

Pick: Colts, 34-31

Two reasons the Colts will win: Manning might be the greatest QB of all-time; and second, of the 27 teams that played in the game for the first time, 19 have lost. Four of the wins were done by teams with a Hall of Fame coach and quarterback.

Bucky Brooks

Pick: Colts, 27-17

Peyton Manning's ability to exploit defenses makes the Colts offense nearly impossible to stop. The Saints will keep it close for a half, but eventually Manning will make Gregg Williams' defense pay for bringing a lot of pressure.

Vic Carucci

Pick: Colts, 27-24

Peyton Manning has owned the 2009 season. Why should the Super Bowl be any different? He is in a zone unlike any he has been in during his career. The Colts defense should be able to hold its own enough to allow Manning to make plays.

Fran Charles

Pick: Colts, 27-24

The Colts' underrated defense has finally jumped into lock-step with their offense. Indy's defense gave up the fewest number of plays over 20 yards all season (36), and even without Dwight Freeney, that's not likely to change.

Stacey Dales

Pick: Colts, 27-24

Experience wins out in this one. Manning is possessed. As much as I love the storyline surrounding the Saints, another complete 53-man effort from the Colts wins it. The Colts have 19 undrafted players on their roster; they're a true team.

Charles Davis

Pick: Colts, 31-21

Indy's ability to take care of the ball will be key vs. a Saints defense that was dented for big yardage by the Vikings, but capitalized on five turnovers. The Colts' defensive speed could be key, but the injury to Dwight Freeney gives me pause.

Jamie Dukes

Pick: Colts

Are the Saints a team of destiny or is this the next step for Peyton Manning as he tries to matriculate up the pole of greatness? The Saints rely too much on turnovers for me to pick them over the Colts, who do a good job of not killing themselves.

Scott Hanson

Pick: Colts

The Colts won every game they tried to win this season. Granted, they were losing in the fourth quarter in seven games ... but they won them all. I can't help but think it will be similar against the Saints.

Michael Irvin

Pick: Undecided

In my mind, I can't put anyone above the greatness of Peyton Manning. My mind says Colts. But I also understand the importance of emotion in a football game. I love what Manning is, but this thing in New Orleans is huge. The Saints have my heart.

Pat Kirwan

Pick: Saints, 31-30

It's going to be a high-scoring game with the point total a little over 60. The lead will change six or seven times. And the Saints' red-zone defense will force enough field goals instead of touchdowns for New Orleans to grab the victory.

Jason La Canfora

Pick: Saints, 31-28

I'm going to continue to go with my gut over my head. New Orleans scores a defensive touchdown, Reggie Bush is big in the return game and the Saints win the turnover battle. Darren Sharper as the game's MVP perhaps?

Michael Lombardi

Pick: Colts, 27-20

The Saints are a formidable opponent for the Colts, but the difference in the game is Peyton Manning. Drew Brees is the best quarterback the Colts have faced all year, but Manning is the best QB the Saints have faced as well. Manning is always the difference.

Steve Mariucci

Pick: Colts, 31-24

I see two high-scoring offenses going up and down the field in a very exciting game. Two great offenses against two vulnerable defenses. I think any turnovers in this game will be huge, because either offense can score quickly on a short field.

Bob Papa

Pick: Saints, 30-26

It's hard to pick against Peyton Manning -- ever. But Dwight Freeney's injury levels the playing field, and the Saints secondary is as healthy as it has been since midseason. The Saints have won so many dramatic games. Destiny has arrived at New Orleans' doorstep.

Warren Sapp

Pick: Saints, 24-21

Two premier QBs in this game, and a pair of defenses that will need to pressure them. Without a premier rusher up front, the Saints will need to find a way to disrupt Manning. Let's see if Gregg Williams can dial up something that Manning hasn't seen, and maybe the Saints get a turnover late.

Steve Wyche

Pick: Colts, 31-28

Peyton Manning's ability to get his offense playing its best in the fourth quarter pays off again. Tight end Dallas Clark could have a huge game. The Saints stand a good chance if their special teams hits a few big plays. Mike Bell is an X-factor.

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