In what borders on a holiday in the U.S., just about everyone will be with friends and family on Sunday, watching the Super Bowl and consuming copious amounts of food and beverages.
About half of those around the TV are there to watch the game and the other half are there for the halftime show and the commercials, which undoubtedly will feature cute animals, attractive women, funny old people and foolish, emasculated men. For those of us who are Patriots or Giants fans, the commercials will be a chance to regain our composure and teeter back from the edge of our seats; Madonna at halftime will be an opportunity to take a deep breath and maybe bring our blood pressure back to normal after a suspenseful first half. But most importantly, it’s our chance to analyze the first half and try to convince ourselves why our team is going to come back or hold on in the second half.
Why the Pats will win:
1. Tom Brady. Already considered one of the best of all time, Brady is determined to win his 17th playoff game, which would be an NFL record, and his fourth Super Bowl, which would be tied for the most all time. If there’s one thing Tom Brady is, it’s proud – and he wants to redeem himself after his sub-par AFC Championship game, where he didn’t throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 36 games.
2. Revenge. Bill Belichick will do anything and everything not to lose to the Giants again. He, Brady and the rest of the Patriots want to redeem themselves not only for their Week 9 loss to the Giants and, more importantly, their loss in Super Bowl XLII. If there’s one thing I would always bet on, it’s Belichick and Brady when they have a chip on their shoulder.
3. Patriots Tight Ends. Never before have we seen a team with two dominant tight ends. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for 2,237 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns this season. Gronkowski set an NGL record with 17 touchdowns in the regular season, and added three more in the playoffs. In their last meeting, they torched the Giants for 12 receptions, 136 yards and a touchdown each. If the Giants want to have a chance at this game, safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle need to step-up big-time for the G-men. That being said – the entire game changes if Gronkowski’s ankle injury limits him on the field Sunday.
Why the Giants will win:
1. The Patriots defense. The Pats defense, decimated by injuries and draft picks who haven’t lived up to their supposed potential, allowed 4,703 passing yards in the regular season, ranking 31st in the league – lower than any team that has ever won the Super Bowl. Of the 45 Super Bowl champions, 11 ranked first in yards allowed, five ranked second and six ranked third. Thirty-eight defenses were ranked in the top 10. Of teams that lost the Super Bowl, the worst-ranked defenses were the Buffalo Bills teams of 1991 and 1993 that ranked 27th (in a 28-team league); no other runner-up even ranked as low as 20th; the average defensive ranking of the past six Super Bowl teams was 18th … and the Patriots were significantly below that this season. Eli and his trio of receivers have ability to pick apart this mish-mash defense.
2. Giants receivers. It infuriates New England fans that a product of the University of Massachusetts, Victor Cruz, is an out-of-nowhere receiving star for a New York (yes, we know he is from New Jersey). For the 2011 season, he set a franchise record with 1,536 receiving yards and led the team with 82 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns. In the NFC championship against the 49ers, a great defense, he had 10 catches for 142 yards… which doesn’t bode well for the Pats defense. Cruz is young, hungry, and a big-play receiver. Put him alongside Hakeem Nicks (1,192 receiving yards) and Mario Manningham and you have the best trio of receivers in the game – a near impossible match up for the Pats.
After all of the analysis, it comes down to who wants it more – the Patriots, who’s thirst for redemption will overcome their sub-par defense; or Eli Manning and the Giants, who want to erase the memories of a 6-6 mid-season record and come out of the shadow of a certain big brother. Belichick and Brady won’t lose this game, so if they Giants want to take it from the Pats again, they’re going to have to play the game of their lives.
As I said before, I don’t bet against Belichick and Brady with a chip on their shoulder – Patriots 27-24.