As it happens, I caught the last half of the Arizona Cardinal vs New Orleans Saints game on Saturday afternoon, and all of the Baltimore Raven vs Indianapolis Colt game after that. And based on what I saw, New Orleans and Indianapolis are going to be very tough to beat.
New Orleans was dominant in its victory. As I mentioned, I missed the first half. By that point, the Saints were already up 35-14. They ended up trampling the Cardinals 45-14.
If the game was in Minnesota, who admittedly did look impressive in demolishing the Tony Romo "led" (yes, those are sneer quotes) Dallas Cowboys 34-3, I'd probably give them a shot. But the game's in New Orleans. And as compelling as the story of Brett Favre in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career gunning for his third Superbowl is, it's dwarfed by the idea of the Saints playing and winning in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. On the other hand, neither team has yet proven itself capable of winning the really big game. Still, I have to go with the Saints.
In its game, Indianapolis went toe-to-toe with a tough Baltimore squad, and looked pretty strong. Yeah, the final score was only 20-3. And the Colts scored 14 of their points in a three minute spurt at the end of the first half when the Ravens botched clock management a bit and took a couple of bad penalties. But they were in control throughout. Baltimore committed several turnovers, had a lot of catchable passes dropped, and couldn't get anything going on offense; while Peyton Manning was surgical in dissecting the defence with a pin-point short-passing game that the Ravens had no answer for.
As for the Jets, I don't know much about them. For most of the season, they were a non-entity. They only squeaked into the playoffs with late season wins over Indianapolis and the Cincinnati Bengals when both teams were resting key personnel. In week one of the playoffs, they won 24-14 in Cincinnati. But like the Saints and Vikings, the Bengals don't exactly have a reputation for winning big games. Pulling off a 17-14 road victory in San Diego against the Chargers, though, that was an accomplishment.
Going into the game, the Chargers had won 11 straight. Judging by the stats, and from what little I've heard about the Jets, they play tough D and rely on a strong running game. Again, if this game was being played outdoors in New York instead of indoors in Indianapolis, I'd give the Jets a shot. But it's not. Which sets up an Indianapolis Colts vs New Orleans Saints Superbowl on Feb. 7.