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Air Force, Navy journalists weigh in on upcoming Super Bowl

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Editor's Note: As the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints get set to square off in Super Bowl XLIV Feb. 8 (on Guam), two of our reporters weigh in on the team they think will win. All statistics attributed to www.nfl.com.

Air Force - Senior Airman Shane Dunaway
Colts 34 - Saints 14

Sportswriters nationwide used to say Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning couldn't win the big games. Three years ago, he silenced the critics with an MVP performance in Super Bowl XLI, defeating the Chicago Bears, 29-17.

Fast forward to 2010 and Manning, a four-time NFL MVP winner, is prepared to do it again versus the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Manning's Colts have become the model of consistency in the NFL, finishing the regular season with 12 or more wins for the seventh straight season. Factor in Manning's postseason experience -- the Colts have been in the playoffs every year since 2002 -- and it's easy to see why the Saints will be outmatched on Super Bowl Sunday.

My Navy counterpart insists the Saints' pass rush will be introducing Manning to the ground in Sun Life Stadium early and often, but the reality is the Colts unheralded offensive line surrendered only 13 sacks in 16 regular season games. The Colts line will give Manning more than enough time to do what he does best -- be surgically accurate with his passes.

Though both teams are suspect in run defense, the Colts pass defense, ranked 14th in the NFL, far surpasses the Saints, ranked 26th in the league. In two playoff games, Manning dissected two of the league's best defenses against the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets so don't expect Saints free safety Darren Sharper to rally the troops and save the day.

Will the real Reggie Bush please stand up? He only had seven carries for eight yards against the Minnesota Vikings after a dominant performance - five carries for 84 yards with one rushing touchdown (TD) and an 83-yard punt return TD - against the Arizona Cardinals. I'd bet on the former, as Bush continues his Eric Metcalf-esque career of being a mediocre running back and stellar special teamer. One 100-yard rushing game in his four-year career means no breakout game for Bush.

I predict the Colts to jump to a two-score lead early in the first half and put the game squarely on the shoulders of Saints quarterback Drew Brees, effectively eliminating the Saints ground game from the equation.

A quick launch out of the gate for the Colts will put immense pressure on Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod, filling in for injured Pro Bowl left tackle Jammal Brown. Bushrod will get a heavy dose of Dwight Freeney while protecting Brees' blind side.

There will be no second-half resurgence. The Saints overall inexperience in big games will be their downfall as the Colts take home their second Lombardi trophy in four seasons.

Navy - Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Corwin Colbert
Saints 35 - Colts 31

Since my counterpart, a Panthers fan, believes or hopes the Colts are going to win, I am going to play the devil's advocate.

There will not be many field goals in this game. Throw the stat book out the window, because this will not be a Super Bowl one is used to. This is the first time in 17 years the No. 1 AFC seed team will play the number No. 1 NFC seed team.

With a high explosive offense, the Saints are going to take the championship for the first time ever. But I am going to bet that it's the running game that's going to get the job done.

Reggie Bush decided he wanted to join the NFL during this year's playoffs, showing glimpses of his old University of Southern California self -- at least on the receiving side. Between Bush and Pierre Thomas, I am predicting the Saints' running game to take over late in the second half to seal the deal.

Manning is the man but that Saints' secondary is going to lock down his receivers in the second half after getting torched in the first. This is not new to the Saints, letting offenses score in chunks in the first half and shutting them out in the second. The Saints pass defense will get a few sacks -- something the Jets did once. Figuring the Jets scored 17 points with that overrated rookie at the helm; I am looking for Brees to have an easy day.