Poor Prognostication: The Superest of Bowls
The NFL season has all come down to this. The New England Patriots, led by Tommy “Dreamboat” Brady, against the New York Giants and Eli “Little Brother” Manning. I assume the teams will bring other players, but since they’re not quarterbacks, they don’t matter as much, or at least that’s what I’ve learned watching ESPN this year. The rematch of the 2008 Super Bowl finds much of the roster turned over, but the identities still the same. The Patriots bring a prolific offense led by the arm of Tom Brady while the Giants sport an elite defensive line which can pressure quarterbacks relentlessly. Tom Coughlin still leads Big Blue with his perma-scowl (though his smile is terrifying, so it’s probably for the best) and Bill Belichick still helms Brady nation with questionable fashion choices and mumbling gravitas. For the final football game of the season, we will combine our preview of the big game with our weekly picks, thoroughly erasing any doubt that we have no idea what we’re talking about. After the jump, we break down Super Bowl XLVI and make our picks in bold. After this, we will have to wait until September to make football picks poorly…we’ll try not to get too emotional about it.
The New England Patriots have made it to the Super Bowl almost exclusively because of their offense. The defense is widely acknowledged as the worst defense Belichick has ever taken to a Super Bowl, ranked 31st overall during the regular season. The Pats made a habit of winning games by outscoring their opponents, really only looking to their defense for the occasional turnover to ice the game. They also benefited from a soft schedule, going 13-3 without beating an opponent that finished the season better than 8-8. Their only win against an opponent with a winning record happened in the AFC Championship game against Baltimore (thanks again for that Billy). That strength of schedule does not fill a Pats fan with confidence. What does fill them with confidence is the offense. Brady has had a historic season (which would be more notable if he hadn’t had only the second best in the NFL this season) and the emergence of the tight end tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, along with the continued excellence of Wes Welker, and the occasional chip-in by the running game and other wide receivers have made scoring 30-points per game pretty commonplace for New England and has propelled them all season. Brady is coming off his worst performances in recent memory (230 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) and has vowed to do better. Standing in his way is the same defense that stifled him once this season (a 24-20 Week 9 loss) and once already in a Super Bowl.
Speaking of those Giants, there was a good portion of this season that they didn’t even look like they’d make the playoffs, let alone a deep Super Bowl run. Getting swept by the Redskins, along with losses to the Seahawks and a four-game losing streak in November dropped the Giants down to 7-7 and needing help to make the playoffs. They got that help from Dallas, winning their last two games and winning the NFC East, finding their rhythm at the right time and riding their hot streak through the playoffs with wins against Atlanta, at Green Bay, and at San Francisco in an overtime slug fest. They’ve gotten this far by relying on their defense (in particular their front four) and their offense finding ways to win without the help of their 32nd ranked rushing attack. That’s come on the arm of Eli Manning, who has had one of the best season’s in the fourth quarter in the history of the NFL, throwing 15 touchdowns in the fourth quarter and being clutch for his team every time they needed him. The emergence of Victor Cruz in the receiving corps, setting a Giants’ team record for receiving yards in a season, has helped to propel the Giants to the 5th ranked passing attack. Eli will be called on again to lead his team, this time against one of the worst pass defenses during the regular season. Don’t expect the going to be as easy as usual, with Bill Belichick dialing up the defensive pressure and level of play for the big stage, setting Eli up for another chance at 4th quarter glory.
So who prevails on the biggest stage in football between the team who has made its name in the Super Bowl with 4th quarter heroics, or the team led by the quarterback who has rewritten the history books with his 4th quarter heroics this season? Well…
New York Giants (+3) vs. New England Patriots
The offenses are on a similar level, but it will be the defense of New York which makes the difference, just like they did last time they met in the Super Bowl. Expect the defensive line with Usi Umenyora and Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul to be pressing Brady in the pocket, forcing him to make rushed decisions into the waiting secondary of New York. Baltimore showed last week that Brady can make some big mistakes when he’s made uncomfortable, and the Giants have the tools to make him uncomfortable. At the end of the day, New York is built to beat teams like the Packers and Patriots, teams who are built to outscore opponents, no matter what their defense does. The defense has shown their ability to ground this team, and will do it again, slowing the offensive machine of the Patriots, and Eli Manning continues his season of brilliance, taking his team to the glory land one more time. Eli gets his second ring and passes older brother Peyton, Tom Coughlin wins another championship and solidifies his job security with New York fans (at least until he loses two games in a row again), and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are denied another Super Bowl championship. All in all, a pretty Super Sunday. Giants by 4.