Thursday, January 31, 2008

Super Bowl Preview

Finally, can we get to the damn game already? Whatever genius from the NFL made the executive decision to stick an extra week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, look what you have wrought. Media Day is an absolute joke, where nothing of note has happened since Jim McMahon mooned a helicopter in 1986. Reporters from such sports non-entities as and Entertainment Tonight descend upon the host city looking for “fun” “entertaining” “stories”, resulting in such hard hitting tales of what Tom Brady is doing at his baby mama’s house at 9:00 in the morning. Riveting stuff.

It’s a shame too, because as potentially great a game this could turn out to be, one gets the feeling it could’ve been even better had it been played last Sunday. The Giants’ momentum coupled with the drama surrounding Brady’s ankle….sounds like a great game. Too bad we had to endure BootGate instead.

That said, we feel this will still be a competitive game. Let’s do a little breakdown and see where we end up:

When The Pats Have The Ball – Ahh, so many weapons, only one football. Much has been made of how this group has slowed down as the season progressed, and there is some statistical evidence, mainly on the scoreboard, to support this. However, getting back into a dome/warm environment could be just what the doctor ordered to let this bunch flourish as it did in September/October. How impressive have the Pats been in the playoffs? Randy Moss has two, count ‘em, two catches in the two games, and they’re still here, winning by an average of 10 points. Brady is not afraid to make full use of everybody, and when Moss, Wes Welker, Ben Watson, Dante Stallworth or Jabar Gaffney are all covered, he dumps to no-longer unsung hero Kevin Faulk. Truly a terrifying bunch, and one that is no doubt keeping Giant defensive coordinator Steve Spagnolo from getting a lot of sleep this week. Oh, and the emergence of a ground game, which drained the final 9 plus minutes of the AFC title game behind Lawrence Maroney and occasionally Heath Evans, needs to be considered as well. If there is one team that has as front seven which could unnerve the Pats, it’s the boys from Jersey. No team was better this year in pressuring the QB, and the Pats should expect plenty of heat along with some looks they didn’t see either on film or during the Week 17 match-up. Football purists will be in their glory watching the trenches during this game, particularly the Matt Light/Osi Umenyoura battle. The key will be found here, as any lack of pass rush or general pressure from the front seven will put immense pressure on the Giant secondary, which is no doubt still smarting from that December night in the Meadowlands. It will be a long night for these guys if Osi and Michael Strahan don’t make some noise.

When The Giants Have The Ball – What else can be said about Eli Manning? The kid has been fantastic in getting his team here, and you can see his confidence and leadership growing with each win. Jersey will not be intimidated by this Pats defense, which they moved the ball on quite well in Week 17. Only when the Pats started blitzing were they able to slow down Manning, so he should expect to see some blitzes, or blitz looks, early on. One way to neutralize that is by utilizing the double barreled ground attack of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw – both of whom have been able to pick up crucial yardage in big spots. Doing this along with a controlled passing attack could enable the Giants to drain some clock, keep an older bunch of guys on the field for a long time and, most importantly, keep Brady and Co. on the sidelines.

Special Teams – Lawrence Tynes is an adventure, and many Giant fans are hoping that this doesn’t come down to a late FG attempt. Nothing else about either team’s units poses a significant edge over the other.

Coaching – It’s been said that if you give Bill Bellichick two weeks, and he’ll usually come out ahead. Tough to argue with that, but don’t underestimate Tom Coughlin. Rarely, if ever, mentioned when talking about great current coaches, the guy seems to always find his way to the playoffs, and finally got over the hump to make his first Super Bowl. He modified his approach this year, and his players responded in kind. Well, losing Tiki Barber likely helped him a lot as well, since it eliminated the whispers to the beat writers that the Today Show pretty boy became noted for. Watching how the Pats players rallied around their leader after the whole “SpyGate” thing in Week 1 showed how much these guys love their coach too. Don’t think for a minute that these guys don’t want 19-0 as much for Bellichick as for themselves.

The Pick – All signs point to a close game, and we honestly have been going back and forth since the Tynes kick sailed through the frozen Lambeau uprights as to which team we would pick. We could see the Giants grinding it out a la the bunch that upset the Bills in Supe XXV. We could also see a high scoring, wildly entertaining repeat of the 38-35 game from December. After all that, we’re going with what many might feel is a cop out: Pats win, Giants cover, and the inevitable 19-0 dream year becomes a reality. Bonus: we’ll never have to see another televised interview with Mercury Morris!

Giants (+13.5)
Let’s say Patriots 31 Giants 20

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