Okay, so enough gushing about the past, onto the present. I'm sure like me you've been fed Super Bowl "insights" at nauseum (especially if you live up here), so I'm gonna hope to touch on things that perhaps have gone unnoticed. Let's get right into it...
What The Giants Have Going For Them:
- The "Hot" Factor: While the Patriots are riding a 10-game winning streak, the Giants have arguably been the best team in football in the last month outside of the Niners game which they miraculously pulled off. They demolished two solid pass offenses in Atlanta and Green Bay and, much like four years ago, they are playing their best ball now coming off of two wins on the road vs. the #1 and #2 seed in the NFC.
- Pass Rush: You would be remissed to talk about the Giants and not talk about their front four, which is the best in the game. Canty, Umenyiora, Tuck, Pierre-Paul...they're really good...we get it. It worked the last time these two teams played, and the G-Men are going to do everything they can to make that happen again.
- Wide Receivers: Again, you really can't talk about this team without mentioning the wideout group, especially when you have someone as talented as Mario Manningham being an almost after-thought in the grand scheme of things. Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, and Victor Cruz are an imposing group, and helped Eli to almost throw for 5,000 yards this season...speaking of which...
- Eli: For a while, it didn't seem like Eli would ever be put under the "strengths" of the Giants, as he was prone to go Romo on his team late in games, causing people to believe he would never get out from under his brother's shadow. However, if he pulls this down tonight, he could be argued as being better than Tom Brady right now (all-time, he's got a LONG way to go to catch TFB), and being the best QB in the league. If Eli had the season he had basically any other year but this one, he likely would have been a runaway MVP choice. Now, he has a chance to become the best player at his position by winning a Super Bowl at the place his brother built, and take a 2-1 lead over his brother in rings...it's an interesting subplot.
- Tom Coughlin: Oddly enough, Tom Coughlin is almost facing the same shadow-fighting that Eli is. Belichick at this point has to be thrown in the discussion with Lombardi, Walsh, and Landry for greatest coaches in the history of the league, while Coughlin may not even make people's top 5 list for best coaches in the present NFL despite having a 10-7 postseason record and a Super Bowl ring. Both he and Belichick came up through the aforementioned Tuna with the Giants back in the day, and you can tell that Coughlin is not at all happy to be playing second fiddle again to Bill despite beating him not only in the Super Bowl but in the 2011 season with yet another two-minute drill for the win.
- A Much Improved Rushing Attack: It was tough for me to understand why the Giants were so awful rushing the ball with two very good backs in Bradshaw and Jacobs, but they were 31st in the regular season in yards. However, it appears like the G-Men are using their new and improved "thunder and lightning" attack much more effectively, and was evident in all three of their playoff wins. Ahmad Bradshaw is practicing back-to-back days for the first time all season apparently, so you know he's going to be at his best tonight, which the Giants need to create a semi-equal mix of run and pass (I say semi-equal because I will be shocked if it's not about a 65/35 pass/run split and Eli has at least 35-40 attempts.
- Brady and Belichick: I mean what can you say really? They have outdone Walsh and Montana thus far, and only need the one more ring for both of them to be the greatest ever at their respective positions. Brady beat the all-time passing yard mark in a season set by Dan Marino by 150 yards...and got no MVP votes...ZERO!!! (Drew Brees, who now has the record with 5,476, got two votes...yikes). Clearly he has been playing with that pissed off mentality ever since these said Giants beat him, which, oh by the way, was the last game we have lost in almost three months. Belichick apparently will not be rocking an ultra-gay red hoodie like he did the last Super Bowl. I thought we were in trouble going into that game, and then I saw his neon red ensemble, and I knew we were screwed. Stick with gray Bill. Remember, the more homeless looking, the better (or the more evil looking...something like that)
- Dub-Dub: Okay, so it is possible that this is Wes Welker's last game in New England, but honestly, if we can't work something out to keep the greatest slot receiver in the history of organized football here, we have more problems than I think Pats fans ever want to know about, and furthermore, I don't want to ball and weep which is what I know will happen if my favorite Patriot of all time goes anywhere else. In any event, the aggressive Giants front means a lot of looks for the human chain mover. His 11 catches in XLII against the G-Men tied a Super Bowl record, and also added a nine catch, 139 yard performance against them this season. They have no answer for him, as basically the NFL has yet to figure him out. Speaking of offensive weapons no one can figure out...
- Gronk Spiking and Making It Rain: I don't even have to look this up, but Gronk and Hernandez are the greatest 1-2 TE punch in the history of the league...that has to be true. Gronk obviously is getting more of the attention due to having the most prolific season by a tight end, having an ankle injury that no one really has any clue about how severe it is to him (while high ankle sprains could derail a lot of people, consider that Gronk a.) played immediately after injuring it in the Baltimore game, and b.) landed on his neck earlier this year that would have caused most people, like myself, to have induced paralysis, and not only did he get up, but he Gronk spiked the hell out of the ball), and for his general aloofness to pressure or any scrutiny whatsoever (how clutch was "yo soy fiesta?"...even my Mom knows about that). However, Aaron Hernandez is a top 5 TE in this league, and he's on the same team. If Hernandez is on any other team (which I pray to God never happens), he would probably make the Pro Bowl and have Gronk-like numbers. However, he has excelled in his role and has even added running out of the backfield to his repertoire (the formation with him directly behind or set next to Brady with Gronk on the end of the line has proven to be lethal this year). I expect a monster game from both collectively. Vernon Davis, who I consider to be like a Gronk/Hernandez hybrid, torched the Giants for 112 yards and two scores (granted, he only had three catches). Gronk had eight catches for 101 yards and a score against them in Week 8, while Hernandez added four catches for 35 and a score as well.
- The Middle of The Field (offense): As I just demonstrated, the WHONK combo lit the Giants up this year (well, they pretty much did that to everyone), so there's that. Then, you look at the other part of the Pats' offense that goes overlooked, and it's the interior linemen. Both Logan Mankins and Brian Waters were selected to start the Pro Bowl...that's impressive. Dan Connolly has done a great job filling in this year for the injured Dan Koppen...it's a very good G-C-G tandem. While the Giants will likely be flooding blitzers and linemen from the outside, the Pats excel at moving the chains between the numbers. The Law Firm had a terrific game against the Ravens with 68 yards and a score, and at one point was averaging close to nine yards a carry. Look for the Pats to impose their dominance up the middle early.
- The Middle of The Field (defense): It all starts with Vince Wilfork playing up front. He has been probably the most consistent defensive player we've had on this team since Bruschi. Without Big Vince, all the injuries we had on defense would have sunk us. Speaking of injured players, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, who both missed time this year, look to be at about 100%. Mayo is a known commodity in the league and is one of the biggest tackle machines in the league. Look out for Spikes though. This was one of those picks the Pats made that I was super-excited about from the jump. Spikes not only can play the run and the pass, but he's also shown that ever-mentioned "ball hawking" ability. I will be stunned if he doesn't make a significant mark on this game (oh yeah, he got hurt during the last Giants game and missed the final drive...but the media doesn't seem to bother to tell you about that...hmmm...interesting). At safety, Patrick Chung can just straight light people up, and that's all you really need to know.
- The Wild Cards: I could be wrong, but I think we know everything about the Giants on a team level. I'm pretty sure no one is going to come up and surprise anyone today. However, on the Pats side? We're littered with them. You have to start at the receiver position because never on a Tom Brady-led team have the WRs been downplayed this much. Deion Branch won Super Bowl MVP against Philly and has shown that he still has the speed and abilities to make big plays (the 60+ yarder against Denver). Julian Edelman is Wes Welker's backup at the slot, but he's also the starting punt returner and plays corner on nickel packages. The Giants have been salivating to get out and test Edelman's abilities, but honestly, I'm not extremely worried about Julian out there. I think we have precedence with Troy Brown playing corner, and I think once he was able to do that successfully, having Edelman take reps at corner was not really that big of a deal to me. Eli will be looking his way a lot, and Victor Cruz is going to make catches, but they're not going to do nearly the amount of damage that they think they will. Perhaps the biggest wild card of all is the Ocho...yes, him. I have been going on for months and months about how Ocho could have his breakout game this week. Well, this is it. This is the reason Chad came here. Honestly, if he's out there, it's put up or shut up time. He will have all the advantages in the world going up against Aaron Ross with all of the defensive focus being funneled into the middle. I just can't see how if Ocho is healthy he doesn't at least make one play to make us remember that he's good and he actually plays on this team. Defensively, Mark Anderson has been a Godsend for us, especially in the wake of the Andre Carter injury (who would have gone to the Pro Bowl if his season wasn't cut short), Gerard Warren up the middle in the 4-3 sets, and the biggest one of all on defensive, Rob Ninkovich coming off the outside. Again, another one of those "ball hawk" types who has received zero press these past two weeks, and really, the whole season.
- MHK: While unfortunately going unnoticed in terms of national coverage, thankfully, the life and work of Myra Kraft is now being given its proper due. While everyone who is a Patriots fan knows the kind of impact that this amazing woman had on our community, even we are appreciating her efforts even more now that she has passed on. You have to understand that before 2000, it was a very interesting time to be a Patriots fan. There were rumors that the team might get moved to Hartford, and once the momentum from that started to grow, we all kind of cooled on the Krafts, which in retrospect, was an unfortunate thing to happen. Without the Kraft family, none of this happens. We are the gold standard because they are the gold standard for running an organization. Myra's work in the community is well documented now, and as we get ready for this game, we're going to see that MHK patch on the Pats' jerseys and think of her and everything she did for us...she embodies what the Patriot way is all about.
Your New England Patriots (-2.5) vs. The G-Men: It's a biased pick, but honestly, if you have read this far and didn't see this coming, you need to be slapped. Also, I happen to think we're going to win as well, so it may not be that biased after all...okay it is.
In addition, here are my best Prop Bets for this evening:
- Successful 2PT Conversion (+375): In what promises to be a close game, this is a great line. Not sure how many there have been in Super Bowl history, but we've had one in each of the last two with Lance Moore two years ago vs. Indy and Antwaan Randle-El last year against Green Bay. Also, Kevin Faulk had one against the Panthers in Super Bowl 38.
- Tie Score At Halftime/Pats Win (+1200): Again, another wildly realistic outcome, but an even bigger payout.
- Wes Welker Receptions vs. Hakeem Nicks Receptions (-190): If you think Nicks can win this bet, then you may want to bet on him for, gulp, Super Bowl MVP (12/1).
- Tom Brady Has More Than One TD Pass (-500): Because if he doesn't, we're probably going to lose...okay I have to stop dwelling on the negative shit here!
- Kelly Clarkson Will Sing The National Anthem In Over 1:34 (-130): This has become the most researched non-sports prop bet of them all. People have scoured the internet and YouTube for months most likely to get some kind of read on this. From what I can gather, it's going to come down to almost a millisecond either way here. Her average is 1:38, but there was an outlier discussed from the Indy 500 when she sang it as a duet with Seal (good for Seal by the way). She had 1:34 at the World Series, 1:35 at the NBA Finals, but I have to believe a girl from Texas has football at #1, so I'm thinking somewhere in the 1:38 range...hahaha, I have absolutely no freggin' clue what I'm talking about here guys (my scouring was done on the Lincoln Journal Star by the way).
- Kelly Clarkson Will NOT Omit A Word Or F*ck Up (-325): Christina Aguilera is a dumb bitch, Kelly Clarkson is not...questions, comments, concerns?
- Wes Welker Receptions vs. LeBron James Assists (-125): Ahhh rooting for Wes and against LeBron...what's not to like?
- Henrik Lundqvist Saves vs. Giants Points (-130): This is yet another one that I picked because if it losses, we're probably gonna lose, and since I think we'll win, I think it happens.
- Rob Gronkowski Scores a TD (-170): Considering he averaged a TD a game, this is a great price...and what would the Super Bowl be without a Gronk spike?
- Aaron Hernandez Scores a TD (+105): And that children is what we call hedging our bets.
- No Player Will Be Called For An Excessive Celebration Penalty (-400): Gronk spikes and rain-makings have officially been tolerated by the No Fun League, so let the party continue (I did link this on Facebook, but I am loving "Welcome To The Gronk Party"...this is brilliant!)
- The Super Bowl Will Be Decided By Exactly 3 Points (+325): We do very well when they do. Not so much 4, but 3 is our wheelhouse.
- Boston Has The Higher Local TV Rating (-7) Than New York (-130): Quite simply, they have more people who care less about sports...so there you go. Furthermore, I've been to NYC, and it's such a Jets town. Oh there are a bunch of Giants fans there, but it's a Jets town. Having said that, even if you're a Jets fan, it's going to be tough to pass up watching the Super Bowl. However, I think I speak for everyone when I say that New York and everyone from there can go fornicate themselves with an iron stick.