WE MAKE THE CALL! COLTS HAVE IT DOWN C

Well, well. Old Blue Eyes is back.

Or is it Old Gray Hair?

I knew you couldn’t stay away, Curt. Like it says in the Bible, “As surely as a dog returneth to its vomit, so does Curt return to his Super Bowl picking.”

Or something like that.

Just so the crowd knows, Curt, I did attend your retirement party, right? That’s “retirement.” With the cake? The funny cards? The jokes about playing horseshoes?

In most cultures, Curt, “retirement” means you stop working. Apparently, in your world, it just means you sit in a different seat.

What’s the matter, buddy? The Early Bird Specials getting too crowded? Here I thought I was going to have to debate myself again – as I did last year when you were still, you know, actually retired – and then I find out you’re back.

And you’re picking against me.

And here I thought that was the REASON you retired.

Well, OK, I accept your challenge. If you will just put down that shuffleboard stick, we can get started.

Now, then, I …

Uh, Curt, put down the pinochle deck.

OK, so we …

Curt. Please. The dentures?

Thank you. Now, then. The Super Bowl. You are taking the Bears. I can see that all your time away hasn’t changed your unique perspective on the NFL, which can be summed up by the words: “Rex Grossman is a good quarterback.”

Curt. Buddy. Pal?

Wake up, Curt. It’s not nap time yet.

Grossman is not a good quarterback. He’s no better than average. And while it is true you can win a Super Bowl with an average quarterback, you had better not be playing the Indianapolis Colts when you try it.

The Colts have been everybody’s favorite to win this thing for the last few years. They bring seasons of frustration into this game, and they mean to stake the claim they should have staked several times already.

The Bears? I think even THEY can’t believe they’re here. Wasn’t it just a blink ago that Dick Jauron was coaching them? And then he left to coach … the Lions?

Maybe you thought you were coming back to the 1985 Bears? But Curt, the Super Bowl Shuffle is a thing of the past.

And so, too, is your prediction.

Colts 31, Bears 17.

So when’s the next retirement party? That cake was pretty tasty.

SIDEBAR

COLTS TO WATCH

Quarterback

Peyton Manning

Old Colts fans, still bitter about the team’s move from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984, say that No. 19 will always be greater than No. 18. Manning has a lot of respect for Johnny Unitas. “When my dad says that Unitas was the best to play, that’s what I have to believe.”

Kicker

Adam Vinatieri

Vinatieri kicked the winning field goal with no time remaining as the New England Patriots upset the St. Louis Rams, 20-17, in Super Bowl XXXVI. Then he kicked the winning field goal with four seconds left as the Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers, 32-29, in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Defensive back

Marlin Jackson

Jackson sealed the Colts’ Super Bowl berth when he intercepted Tom Brady in the final moments of the AFC title game. It was one U-M product picking off another. “Let out a ‘Go, Blue!’ to end the game,” said Colts linebacker Cato June, another ex-Wolverine. Jackson could play a big role in this game, too. “It’s the Rose Bowl times 10,” he said. He is the nickel back, but could play at corner if Nick Harper’s ankle acts up.

Why the Colts will win

•BETTER

COMPETITION: The Colts are from the better conference and already have beaten two of the AFC’s top defenses (Baltimore and New England).

•MAN UP: Peyton Manning, above, is the best quarterback of his generation and finally demonstrated he can produce under pressure. His 80-yard drive in the final minutes against New England shows he can win a big game.

•THEY GOT D, TOO: The Colts’ defense has played statistically better than the Bears in the playoffs. The Colts have given up 229.7 yards per game while the Bears’ defense has given up 340.5.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com.

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