Originally Published: January 24, 2010

Key Super Bowl XLIV questions

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesAustin Collie picked a great time to have his first 100-yard receiving day as a pro. Collie's seven-catch, 123-yard, one-TD performance helped Indy beat the Jets, 30-17. Conference title leaders

INDIANAPOLIS -- Viewers of Super Bowl XLIV might need an IV to withstand the expected excitement of the matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.

For the first time since 1993, when the Dallas Cowboys faced the Buffalo Bills, the No. 1 seeds in each conference will meet in the Super Bowl. For whatever crazy reason, it's been hard for No. 1 seeds to not only make the Super Bowl, but win it. The last top seed to win a Super Bowl was after the 2003 season, when the New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers.

Super Bowl XLIV features the best of the best.

It's Peyton Manning going against a Saints team he grew up following; Manning's father, Archie, was one of the Saints' greatest quarterbacks.

It's Drew Brees and the league's No. 1 offense going against Manning and one of the league's most dangerous possession offenses.

It's New Orleans in its first Super Bowl, ending its 43-year-old drought by beating Minnesota 31-28 in overtime. The city bounced back from Hurricane Katrina. Now, its residents get to watch their team as a Super Bowl participant in Miami.

It's offense going against offense.

Here is the first round of questions heading into two weeks of Super Bowl hype.

1. Is there a significance of having the Saints and Colts in the Super Bowl?

Absolutely. The presence of both teams shows how the league has changed from one geared toward defense and running to passing. Blame the Colts for changing the trend. When the Colts won the Super Bowl after the 2006 season, they were the first team to rank outside the top 10 in scoring defense to win the title since 1983. The Saints ranked 25th in yards allowed per game, and they gave up 21.3 points a game. The Colts ranked 18th in yards allowed and yielded 19.2 points a game.

Both teams win with their offense, and they survive on defense. The NFL has become an offensive league. The Vikings are loaded with stars on defense -- Pat Williams, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield, to name a few -- but the Saints were able to score 31 points on them. The Colts' defense was on the field six plays a game more than their offense in the regular season, but that didn't stop the team from winning 14 games.

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Short Takes

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

What's going on with place-kickers in the playoffs? In the greatest era of place-kickers, they are having their worst postseason. Through the playoffs this year, kickers are 20-for-33 on field goals, less than 60 percent efficiency. Nate Kaeding of the Chargers, the most accurate kicker during the regular season, missed three field goals in the Chargers' loss to the Jets in the divisional round. Jay Feely of the Jets missed a 44- and 52-yarder against the Colts. Shayne Graham of the Bengals, Neil Rackers of the Cardinals and Shaun Suisham of the Cowboys were other kickers who had playoff games in which they missed two field goals. … Referee Tony Corrente made one of the most memorable coin tosses in playoff history when he mistakenly called the Jets the Giants. Too bad the Jets' pass defense played like the Giants' pass defense, giving up 377 yards to the Colts. … Here's how bad things are getting for the Pro Bowl. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer turned down the invitation. The AFC had to go all the way down to the sixth alternate, David Garrard of the Jaguars. If players continue to say no, the AFC eventually might get down to JaMarcus Russell. … Mark Sanchez's accuracy and poise during his three playoff games bode well for the future of the Jets. He completed 17-of-30 against the Colts for 257 yards and two touchdowns, but most importantly, he converted 6 of 14 third downs. Knowing they should be good on defense and have a good running game over the next couple of years, the Jets should continue to be a factor in the AFC. … The rib injury that kept running back Shonn Greene out for almost half of the AFC title game hurt the Jets' running attack. Greene had only 10 carries for 41 yards -- and only two carries in the second half. With Thomas Jones looking a little old in the Jets' last two playoff games, there is a chance the Jets could go with Greene as their featured back next season. Jones had 16 carries for 42 yards against the Colts, and 14 carries for 41 yards against the Chargers last week. … I guess it isn't a surprise Reggie Bush didn't repeat his divisional-round performance (217 all-purpose yards) in Sunday's NFC title game against the Minnesota Vikings. Bush doesn't have a history of putting together great back-to-back games. Bush fumbled a punt return toward the end of the first half and briefly gave the Vikings great field position. But an Adrian Peterson fumble allowed Bush to avoid becoming the potential goat. … Listening to Brett Favre after the Vikings' 31-28 overtime loss to the Saints, you get the feeling he'd like to find a reason to return for another season, but he took a beating on Sunday. He has to evaluate whether his body can bounce back. As he said, he might need months to make the decision.

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