It’s really hard to find someone who is picking the Giants to win the Super Bowl on Sunday. Oh, sure if you surf on over to the website of the New York Mets (and who would except me, the world's nuttiest Mets fan), there’s a video featuring the Mets players’ predictions. Not one of them picked the undefeated juggernaut that is the New England Patriots. Not a one. Those boys are smart enough to know not to pick against the hometown team. Even the King himself isn’t immune to that sort of backlash.
Before I make a fool out of myself by trying to predict the outcome of tomorrow's Super Bowl XLII (that's 42 for those of you who do not speak Roman Numeral), let me give a shout out to cool cat who I only know by his moniker Oliver 62 at Flickr.com and his fabulous photography. Oliver lent me the use of the photo on this page. Please check out his other great photos by clicking on the image above or going here.
Okay, now for my bold prediction, as in boldly going where no sane sports prognosticator would dare go. But hey, I'm a nut, remember?
Really, how can you not pick the Patriots? No team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins has run the table in the regular season and few have been as dominant in the NFL's current Era of Parity as New England, winners of three Super Bowls this decade. They have one of the most dominant receivers in Randy Moss and another receiver, Wes Welker, who may be the best offensive player nobody’s heard of. A strong running game, a small but disciplined front line and a defense that is underrated, mostly because the offense is so freaking good. They have the consummate field general in Tom Brady, a player who seems to do nothing but win and they have the best coach of our generation, a man that is not only freakishly focused on football (say that 10 times fast) but has somehow imprinted his personality on his team so that they are as freakishly focused on football as he is.
Everybody expects the Patriots to win because they just keep on winning. And they’ve been winning every which way and then some. Close games, crazy games, high scoring, low scoring, defensive, offensive, ugly, pretty, whatever, whenever, however, these guys find a way to get the W. And no matter what happens with the renewal of Spygate, it’s surely not going to rattle this team. Fact is, controversy makes them play even harder. Seriously, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team play so well and have such a ginormous chip on its shoulder.
From what’s been said and written, maybe the Giants would do better to not even show up.
I do think the Patriots are the better team. I think as a general rule, they’re better coached. I think giving Belichick two weeks to prepare for a team is like letting the Patriots play with 12 men on the field. I think the Giants, as loose as they appear, are not prepared for the glare of the game’s biggest stage. I think they will have to play near perfect football to even have a shot at winning tomorrow.
I think they're basically outmatched, outgunned, out everything. And yet.
Ah, hell. And yet, you know what? I think they’re going to win.
There. I said it. It's out there in cyberspace. The Giants are going to win the damn Super Bowl.
I’ve had a feeling since the final game of the regular season between these two teams that they would be facing each other again in the Super Bowl. I think the Giants, even though they knew they’d be underdogs, were secretly hoping to get another shot at the team they led by 12 points going into the fourth quarter.
Because that game, which I wrote about here, was THE game for the Giants, the moment in their season when they measured themselves up against the best and played as if they belonged on the same field. It was a loss that showed them how much they had to gain. It was the defining game that sent them on a rampage straight to Glendale, Arizona and a date with destiny. (Man, don't ya just love sports?)
I also think the Patriots are human. The pressure is on them. Almost going undefeated isn’t going to look so hot when the reward is finishing second. There’s a weight on their shoulders and its name is History and right about game-time tomorrow who would blame them if running out on the field feels like they’re lugging an 8,000-pound guerrilla on their shoulder pads?
Tom Brady is not 100 percent. Randy Moss has proven in the past that he doesn’t play well with distractions. The Patriots’ defense is vulnerable to a team that can pass and run, and the Giants have been the most balanced team during the playoffs.
My two X-factors in this game are Eli Manning, the Giants young and until this last month, mostly disappointing quarterback and Michael Strahan, the Giants veteran leader and captain and defense end.
Manning has a knack of rising to the occasion and has consistently played well in big games. He just seems to sparkle in meaningful moments, a player who seems to play to the level of his competition, an even-keeled kind of guy who almost never gets rattled. He’s playing the best football of his life and I expect Sunday will be his moment in the sun. Manning will lead the Giants to victory.
Strahan is at the end of his career and even considered retiring before this season. He is one of only two current Giants who were on New York’s last Super Bowl team (a dispiriting loss in 2000 to Baltimore) and he has been waiting his entire career to have a second shot at glory. I really don’t think you can put too much emphasis on this fact and I think Strahan, a certain Hall of Famer, will leave everything on the field and then some to stop Brady and his boys.
If there’s any position on defense that can be a difference-maker, it’s the defense end, a player who is charged with rushing the passer and disrupting the line of scrimmage. Strahan won't be the youngest DE on the field on Sunday but he'll be the best.
If there’s any will involved, Strahan has the strength of his to overcome any obstacles New England throws in his way. He knows what it’s like to lose a Super Bowl and he doesn’t want that bitter taste in his mouth in this, is last chance for the crowning moment of his career.
I think it’s going to be a great game, with both teams scoring points early before it settles into a struggle of defenses. And I think the Giants will win time-of-possession behind a disciplined offense and its one-two punch of a running game.
In the end, it’s gonna be the upset of the century, kids.
Giants 30, Patriots 24
Enjoy the game.