Lots of talk this week, and who knows what to make of it. This will be my 46th Super Bowl and I have a pretty good record at picking winners. I don't have the exact numbers, and I may be exaggerating, but I'll say I have been right about 85% of the time.
That record is buoyed by riding the wave of the game's most storied teams: Green Bay, Miami, Dallas, Pittsburgh, the Raiders, San Francisco, New England, Washington and, of course, the Giants.
Dynasties no longer exist in this league, thanks to Pete Rozelle's installation of his parity design that has flourished under the stewardship of Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell. As a result, the Super Bowl games have gotten more difficult to pick. Teams come and go. Others get hot and go on runs, while better teams slump at the wrong time. In the past decade or so, the teams that make it to February aren't always the league's two best.
This year's game features the Giants - a team that set records the past few seasons for collapsing - and Bill Belichick's New England Patriots, who are always at the top of preseason Super Bowl polls.
These two teams played in the Super Bowl vs each other four years ago and neither has made it back since. They come into tonite's game with only about 30% of their 2007 rosters still in uniform.
Some of the primary principals are still in place: Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, Justin Tuck, Chris Snee, Brandon Jacobs, Osi Umenyiora, Ahmad Bradshaw and Lawrence Tynes for the Giants; Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Steven Gostkowski, Matt Light and Wes Welker for the Patriots.
I have analyzed this game to the hilt and I have come up with following observations. You may agree or disagree accordingly. I originally called for a Giant 30-27 win on Friday, btw...
The outcome will be one of the following three:
- The Patriots will win by less than seven.
- The Giants will win by less than seven.
- The Giants will blow the Patriots out.
In the Week 9 game (won by the Giants, 24-20), Gronkowski was Brady's top target (15 TARs, 9 receptions) and Welker was next, getting ten passes thrown his way, grabbing nine. No one else got more than five looks. With Gronk sure to be limited, Brady will have to find other options.
We keep hearing that the Pats were missing players in that game, but the fact of the matter is that the Giants actually were the team missing key personnel. WR Hakeem Nicks, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, FB Henry Hynoski and C David Baas were all inactive. OL Mitch Petrus dressed, but did not play on offense.
Nicks and Bradshaw are good for 10 points. I'm sorry, but think about the offense without them. Nicks is still the Giants' #1 wideout and Bradshaw the big play back. Hynoski's role in the offense has expanded since then as well. The Giants would have danced right through that game had that trio been available.
I only see one mismatch in this game favoring New England, and that is the Pats' interior D-line vs the Giants' interior O-line. Every other one favors New York. This game should be all Giants tonight.
Eli Manning did not get sacked in Week 9. Tom Brady was sacked twice and threw 2 INTs. New England also lost two fumbles. The Giants had two turnovers - a muffed punt by Aaron Ross, who is no longer their primary returner (Will Blackmon is) and Eli's underthrow of Manningham on 3rd and five from the NE 5 that was picked by Kyle Arrington in the end zone.
But questions do linger.
- This game looks too easy. What are we missing?
- Why is New England still favored?
- Does Bill Belichick have an ace in the hole (Ochocinco?)
- I don't think we are missing anything. The Giants are the better team. They don't have a solution for the Giants' offense. That's because nobody does.
- New England is favored because the Super Bowl is mainly bet by casual football fans. They see Brady and Belichick and they immediately go for their wallets.
- I don't think Belichick has a plan B. Gronkowski was the meat and potatoes of the Pats' passing game. Aaron Hernandez is a very talented player, but he and Gronk are not interchangeable.