Ball security: The Saints' defense finished 25th in the league in yards allowed and 26th in pass defense, but first in takeaways (39). Intercepted 26 passes and collected 13 fumbles. Peyton Manning is going to put up big passing numbers against the Saints, but he threw 16 picks this season and had his highest interception percentage since '02.
The waiter and the dog: Just as the Jets did 2 weeks ago, the Saints will focus their defensive attention on the Colts' two 100-catch receivers - Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark. That will free things up for Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, who combined for 18 receptions, 274 yards and two touchdowns in the AFC Championship Game. They might not put up those kind of prolific numbers Sunday, but they need to be productive if Manning has trouble getting the ball to Wayne and Clark.
The Colts' blitz: The Colts blitzed a moderate amount this season, 10 percent, according to defensive coordinator Larry Coyer. But he's probably going to have to increase the blitz frequency with his best pass rusher, Dwight Freeney, not expected to play, or at least not expected to be much of a factor. With the injuries they've already suffered in their secondary, the Colts are cooked if they can't force Drew Brees to hurry his throws.
Colts' unsung hero
Defensive tackle Daniel Muir. The 6-2, 312-pound, third-year player was a big reason the Colts managed to hold the Jets' top-ranked ground attack to 86 yards 2 weeks ago. If he can duplicate that effort and the Colts can force Brees into some third-and-longs, it will improve their chances of winning the game.
- Paul Domowitch