I know that there are a lot of people who aren’t excited to see a rematch of Super Bowl XLII just four years ago, but I’m all for it. The last time these two teams met on the game’s biggest stage, it was deemed one of the best Super Bowls of all time – that is, unless you are a Patriots fan.
In the unforgettable shootout, Eli Manning threw a 13-yard go-ahead touchdown to the not-yet-convicted Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds remaining in the game. It was the final completion of a 12-play, 83-yard drive where the Giants were able to convert on three third downs and win the game by a score of 17-14. Yes the 12-point underdog Giants were the first NFC Wildcard team to win the Super Bowl, and they did it against a Patriot team that was looking to go an unprecedented 19-0.
So why am I reliving the past here? Well, that 18-1 season, in combination with the Super Bowl loss, continues to burn in the hearts of everyone within the organization – as well as Patriots fans. Let’s face it, 18-1 is tattooed on their souls. So there is a fire burning with the Patriots to get revenge. No doubt about it, they have the fire to win this game and win it big.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, this unbiased columnist knows it’s just not going to happen. The Patriots are only in the big game thanks to a severe late-game choke by the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game, and the Giants, well, despite their regular season troubles, are peaking out at just the right time and will play their best football game of the year on Sunday.
While the Most Valuable Player for the previous Giants-Patriots Super Bowl was Eli Manning, the real reason the Giants were in a position to win the game at the last minute was thanks to a fierce Giants pass rush. They got to Vampire-boy Tom Brady and they got to him often. Brady was sacked five times. Going into Sunday, the game plan for the Giants shouldn't be much different. In fact, when facing the Patriots, the game plan should always be the same: Get to Tom Brady. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you have no pass rush against Brady, he’ll chew you up passing down the field. Then you are in a game of playing catch-up, and against Brady, it’s almost impossible.
Look at the Broncos’ playoff game against Brady. No pass rush. Brady scores often. No way Tim Tebow could keep up.
This Super Bowl is going to be a little different, though. Yes, the Giants are going to have to get a pass rush on Tom Brady, but the pressure will be on Brady to keep up with the Giants offense. Eli Manning and the likes of wide receiver Victor Cruz can move the ball downfield and score touchdowns in surprisingly efficient fashion. What was the Green Bay Packers’ weakness? Defense, particularly in the secondary. What’s the Patriots’ weakness? Defense, particularly in the secondary. I suspect we will see a lot of the same play out of Eli and Co. on Sunday that we saw against the Packers a few weeks ago. And frankly, the Packers were a much better team than the Patriots are, right? OK, so using parity to predict outcomes isn’t always the best way of doing things but in this case, it will hold up in the end. The Giants were forced to beat much better teams throughout the year, and that notion will become very apparent on Sunday. Eli is going to score at will and Tom Brady, for once, will be the one trying to keep up.
Those willing to put money on this game should deeply consider the high ankle injury of Patriot tight end (and porn star aficionado) Rob Gronkowski. If he is unable to play at full strength, which he won’t be able to do without shooting up his ankle before the game, the Patriots will really have their hands full, moving the chains. On Monday, ESPN’s bottom line announced that statisticians figure the Patriots have around a 60 percent chance of winning the game with Gronkowski in the game, and right around 50 percent without him.
So far, the boys in Vegas have the line set at 2.5 in favor of the Patriots. I saw a tweet on Monday that 80 percent of those who are putting money on the game are betting in favor of the Giants. With Gronkowski listed day-to-day (and not playing 100 percent on Sunday if he plays), I’d say it’s smart money.
Of course, there are a few things to never underestimate when going into a game like this. One, you can never underestimate the ability of Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick to game-plan. Despite his dumpy sweatshirt attire, Belichick can get a team ready to beat just about anyone. He’s the best, and I hate to admit it. Two, I wouldn’t underestimate the fire the previous Super Bowl loss put into the hearts of the Patriots. That loss will certainly give them an edge, but not enough to overcome Eli and the Giants.
In the last Super Bowl, the Patriots and the Giants put together a two-possession first quarter. It was a Super Bowl first. Somehow, someway I don't believe that’s going to be the case this year. I say there will be a four possession first quarter with both offenses moving the ball easily. By the end of the third quarter, though, the Patriot offense will tire, and will turn the ball over several times. It’s going to be lights-out football for awhile, but in the end the Giants will have the upper hand once again, this time 38-28. And for once, Peyton Manning will find himself in the shadow of his younger brother Eli.
What better place for this all to happen than right in the heart of Indy?
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