(there’s no truth to the rumor Peyton came up with the “Cut That Meat” line by himself).

Congrats to the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Rodricks for pursuing a Super Bowl angle that’s gone unmentioned until now. Namely, that Colts QB Peyton Manning “makes millions encouraging use of plastic by the same socioeconomic class he pretends to celebrate in his commercials. Already a millionaire many times over, he has racked up millions more pushing something that will probably lead more Americans to financial ruin.”

There’s a lot riding on the outcome of today’s Super Bowl for Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. For one thing, he needs to prove that he can face the big one and not choke. (Actually, he seemed to finally prove that against New England in the AFC championship game two weeks ago. But, hey, there’s a ring on the line today.)

Manning also needs the win to stay on top as America’s first-string shill for credit cards and potentially ruinous consumer debt. If everything goes his way — and even if it doesn’t — Manning’s star will continue to rise, and he’ll make even more big money from MasterCard. Timing is everything, and by all measures, the iron is very hot in plastics right now.

News item from our colleagues at the Associated Press: People are saving at the lowest level since the Depression. The Commerce Department reported Thursday that Americans’ personal savings rate during 2006 was minus 1 percent, and that’s the worst since the time of dust bowls, bread lines and buddy-can-you-spare-a-dime.

“There have been only four years in history that the savings rate has fallen into negative territory,” the wire service reported. “The other two were 1932 and 1933 during the Great Depression. During the Depression, when as many as one in four people were out of work, households were exhausting savings in order to pay the rent and buy food.”

Now they’re doing the same — and buying sport utility vehicles and wide-screen TVs and using credit cards to pay cell phone bills. (Manning is also a pitchman for Sprint.)

At first, I thought the Manning MasterCard commercials were funny, but the more I saw them, the more Manning came across as a patronizing put-down artist, making fun of — not championing — the working stiffs of America who earn a tiny fraction of what he makes for throwing footballs and acting as pitchman.

Of course, if you believe one person’s account, Peyton’s ill-treatment of working stiffs has gone far beyond dopey TV commercials.