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COLTS vs. BEARS

The Baltimore Sun

TONIGHT, 6:25 // DOLPHIN STADIUM, MIAMI // CHS. 13, 9 // 1090 AM // LINE: COLTS BY 7

COLTS RUN OFFENSE VS. BEARS RUN DEFENSE

EDGE // COLTS

After averaging a workable 107.6 rushing yards during the regular season, theColts' running back duo of Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes increased their production to 136.7 in the playoffs. Indianapolis out-gained Kansas City, the Ravens and New England on the ground in the postseason. The Bears ranked No. 6 against the run, but they allowed five 100-yard rushers (including Seattle?s Shaun Alexander in the playoffs). Matchup to watch: Colts LGRyan Lilja vs. Bears DT Ian Scott. Lilja is an inconsistent blocker who became a starter inWeek 11. Normally a backup, Scott can push the blocking pile, but he?s not close to level of injured starter Tommie Harris.

X-factor: Rhodes. Primarily a third-down back in the first half, he has been important in grinding out yards in the second half against the Ravens and Patriots.

Stat to remember: 3.7. Average yards allowed per carry by the Bears since losing Harris inWeek 14.

COLTS PASS OFFENSE VS. BEARS PASS DEFENSE

EDGE // COLTS

TheColts will split out TEs Dallas Clark and Ben Utecht in the slot to force Chicago's safeties to choose where to help. Indianapolis should exploit the Bears? deep zone coveragebecause it has so many weapons who can run after the catch (especiallyWRReggie Wayne).

Matchup to watch: QB Peyton Manning vs. LB Brian Urlacher. Manning will do everything he can to keep Urlacher guessing. Look for Manning to set Urlacher up with play-action fakes and go over the top of him in the middle of the field.

X-factor: Clark.With defenses keying onWayne andWRMarvin Harrison, Clark has become the Colts' leading receiver in the playoffs. Finding openings down the seam, he has 17 catches in three playoff games, averaging 93.6 yards receiving.

Stat to remember: 10. Total catches by Harrison in an unusually quiet postseason.

BEARS RUN OFFENSE VS. COLTS RUN DEFENSE

EDGE // EVEN

As they have done all season, the Bears want to control the tempo of the game with their running attack. Chicago has run the ball 30 or more times in 11 regular-season games, including a total of 80 rushing attempts in two playoff wins. The turnaround of the Colts' run defense has been the biggest surprise of the postseason. After giving up an NFLworst 173 rushing yards per game through the regular season, they have held teams to 73 per game in the playoffs.

Matchup to watch: Bears Gs Ruben Brown and Roberto Garza vs. Colts DTs Anthony McFarland and Raheem Brock. Brown and Garza can get tremendous push off the line, but McFarland and Brock have controlled the line of scrimmage in the postseason.

X-factor: Colts SS Bob Sanders. The difference in the Colts' transformation on defense has been Sanders, who missed 12 games in the regular season after knee surgery. At 5 feet 8, Sanders shows no fear in dropping down in the box and stopping running backs.

Stat to remember: 196. Chicago's season-best rushing yards came against New Orleans in the NFCchampionship game.

BEARS PASS OFFENSE VS. COLTS PASS DEFENSE

EDGE // EVEN

The Bears had 24 touchdown passes in 2006 and improved from 31st in passing in 2005 to 14th in 2006. ChicagoQBRexGrossman seems more comfortable throwing deep asses than short ones. The Colts' mediocre secondary has yet to be tested in the playoffs, and it?s uncertain whether the erratic Grossman will be able to do so.

Matchup to watch: Bears LT John Tait vs.Colts DE Dwight Freeney. Tait has had one of his best seasons, giving up just four sacks. Freeney is one of the most feared speed rushers. ]X-factor: Grossman. He recorded a quarterback rating of 73 or higher in 12 of 18 games this season ? and the Bears won all 12, including both playoff games. Chicago was 8-0 in the regular season when Grossman was not intercepted.

Stat to remember: 19. Average yards per catch in the playoffs forWRBernard Berrian, the biggest deep threat on the Bears'

SPECIAL TEAMS

EDGE // BEARS

]The Bears could create a spark with their special teams play. Chicago ranks in the top 10 on both return teams and is fifth in kickoff coverage.

Matchup to watch: Bears return man Devin Hester vs. Colts coverage teams: Hester set an NFL record with six kick returns for touchdowns, including a 108-yarder on a missed field-goal attempt to tie the longest play in NFL history. TheColts? coverage teams rank in the bottom three in the NFL. X-factor: Colts K Adam Vinatieri. He holds the career mark for postseason field goals with 37, including two to win Super Bowls for New England. Stat to remember: 0. Number of punts returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl history.

COACHING

EDGE // EVEN

Indianapolis' Tony Dungy and Chicago?s Lovie Smith, the first black head coaches in Super Bowl history, are similar from their strong religious faith to their genial nature. Dungy, 90-38 since taking over theColts in 1999 (the best record of any coach in that span), has finally led a team to the Super Bowl after failing to do so in his eight previous playoff trips. Smith, the 2005Coach of the Year, is a protege of Dungy?s who has built the Bears with a defense-first mentality.

Both teams use the cover-2 defense - a staple of Dungy's and those who have coached with him - which features two safeties dropping deep to eliminate big plays.

INTANGIBLES

EDGE // COLTS

The Colts are the more confident team after beating the Ravens in Baltimore and storming back from 18 points down to upend the three-time Super Bowl champion Patriots. They also have gotten the breaks in the playoffs, from Vinatieri's 51-yard field goal going over after hitting the crossbar in Baltimore, to two linemen scoring touchdowns in the AFCchampionship game. The Bears are getting no respect from the national media - and for good reason. Their 13-3 record is deceiving because their wins came against teams who were a combined 84-124 (.404).

PREDICTION

The Colts' thrilling AFCchampionship victory over the Patriots was the true Super Bowl. This one will be more of a coronation than a classic.

With Manning and Dungy over the playoff hump, there is no way they will let this slip through their grasp. Chicago's defense is overrated, and Grossman is out of his league in this game. TheColts will win the first NFL title of their Indianapolis era in a rout. COLTS, 30-10

STAFF PICKS

JOHN EISENBERG

Playoff record: 6-4

Comment: Rex Grossman doesn't lose it and a runback by Devin Hester wins it.

Bears, 30-27

JAMISON HENSLEY

Playoff record: 5-5

Comment: The teams are evenly matched, except at the quarterback position, where theColts have a major edge with Peyton Manning.

Colts, 30-10

EDWARD LEE

Playoff record: 5-5, Comment: Back in the state where he was a stud quarterback at the University of Florida, RexGrossman has a solid game and the Bears' defense stifles Peyton Manning & Co.

Bears, 24-16

RICK MAESE

Playoff record: 7-3 Comment: Peyton Manning has his day in the sun - and we all have to deal with a 500 percent increase in Manning commercials in the next 12 months.

Colts, 27-13

MIKE PRESTON

Playoff record: 6-4

Comment: The team with the fewest weaknesses will win. TheColts have become more balanced as far as offense vs. defense in the postseason. Plus, you can't win a championship with Rex Grossman as the quarterback, can you?

Colts, 21-17

PETER SCHMUCK

Playoff record: 7-3 Comment: Peyton Manning got the monkey off his back against the Patriots. Now, he's going to have some fun against a Bears team that would not have beaten any of the final four AFCplayoff teams. Colts, 31-13

DAVID STEELE

Playoff record: 6-4 Comment: Peyton Manning is good for a couple of turnovers, but also a couple of touchdown passes. It's hard to say that much for the Bears' offense - the feeling is too strong that they'll have to count on return man Devin Hester to create, if not actually score, points for them. Colts, 26-20 GUEST PICKS

Jim Duquette // Colts

Jay Gibbons // Colts

Stacy Keibler // Colts

Barry Levinson // Bears

Anita Marks // Bears

Kimmie Meissner // Colts

Michael Phelps // Colts

Cal Ripken Jr. // Colts

Brian Roberts // Colts

Pam Shriver // Bears

Sage Steele // Colts

Mark Viviano // Colts

Danny Wiseman // Bears

Chip Frankin// Colts

Marty Bass // Colts

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