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Super Bowl XLVI.

New York Giants.

New England Patriots. 

Confidence vs. Revenge.

It’s almost here.

And now some words on the game and my prediction…

Lucas Oil Stadium, site of Super Bowl XLVI

I’ll start with the New York Giants. This team is playing as confident as they come during the playoffs. They’re feeding off a five game winning streak dating back to the regular season and you know they’re confident matching up against New England. I’ll rehash it one more time. New York is among the NFL’s elite at three positions. Eli Manning at quarterback. At wide receiver with Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and a side order of Mario Manningham. And lastly the defensive line led by Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora. In overly simple terms, the Giants ability to pass on the Patriots’ defense and get pressure on Tom Brady with their defensive line will be major signs for how this game shakes out. I imagine those two things are a big focus of New York’s game plan. Offensively, the Giants will try to make big plays with their receivers while balancing it out with doses of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. On defense, again, they will look to pressure Brady and limit the Patriots passing attack, especially in the middle of the field. The Giants are the more tested team. The G-Men have played seven games against teams with winning records, five of which were on the road. The Patriots, on the other hand, have played three games against teams with winning records with only one game coming on the road. In games against teams with winning records, New York is 4-3 while New England has a 1-2 mark. New England did, however, have an 8-0 record against teams that finished the regular season 8-8.

I don’t care what anyone affiliated with the New England Patriots says. They’re still bitter about losing the Super Bowl to the Giants four years ago (even with so many different players on the roster). It cost them a perfect season and more importantly a championship. How many times do you think they’ve seen or have been asked about “The Helmet Catch” in the last two weeks (and for that matter the last four years)? If there is one team that could use it as motivation while simultaneously blocking it out, not allowing it to be a distraction it’s New England under Bill Belichick. Just like the Giants, at this point we are well aware of who the Patriots are. On offense they are led by one of the all-time greats in Tom Brady at quarterback. The strength on New England’s offense, outside of Brady, is their two stellar tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Perhaps the biggest storyline in the two-week lead up to the game has been the injured ankle of Gronkowski. Considering how much he means to the offense (over 1,300 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns in the regular season!) it is critical to New England’s chances that he is able to be on the field and play near his normal capabilities. I would be shocked if he didn’t play and I would even be a little surprised if he was significantly limited. There’s one more game left in the season, he’ll be out there. Brady, as he has shown, will likely be looking for Gronkowski, Hernandez and wide receiver Wes Welker against the regular season’s 29th ranked pass defense. The Patriots ability to run the ball will be one of the more interesting things to unfold in my opinion. If New England has some success running the ball and is able to dictate play calling, that would be huge. As good as the passing attack is being one dimensional does not work towards a team’s advantage. The Pats defense has come on in the playoffs and is pretty healthy. In two playoff games they have given up an average of 15 points compared to over 21 points during the regular season. Where it can get really dangerous for the Patriots is their secondary versus the Giants’ receivers. That is a clear strength against a weakness. Lastly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Patriots had a trick or two up their sleeves.

These teams played each other in Week 9 as New York won in New England 24-20 in dramatic fashion on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to tight end Jake Ballard with 15 seconds remaining in the game. The loss to the Giants ended Brady’s NFL-record 31 straight home wins in the regular season and the 20 straight regular season home wins for the Patriots as a team. The Giants also did it without the services of either Ahmad Bradshaw or Hakeem Nicks. At the time it was New York’s third straight win. The win was followed by four consecutive losses and five out of six overall before the Giants turned around their season winning their last five games. The loss to New York was New England’s last loss of the season as they have won 10 consecutive including the playoffs. In the past 10 games, the Patriots have a +171 scoring margin (New York’s is +29 in their last 10 games).

Bullet Points:

  • Outside of rushing yards per game where both teams were below average, but New England ranked higher (20th vs. 32nd), these teams were similar when looking at their yardage ranks in the regular season.
    • Passing yards: New York – 5th, New England – 2nd
    • Passing yards against: New York – 29th, New England – 31st
    • Rushing yards against: New York – 19th, New England – 17th
  • Each team in the AFC East played each team in the NFC East this year giving the teams many common opponents. In games against common opponents, New England was 8-1 while New York was 6-3.
  • Against playoff teams:
    • New York Giants: 4-3
    • New England Patriots: 3-2

It seems to me a lot of people are picking the underdog-Giants to win. The bandwagon is pretty full. I have been a believer in the Giants since the playoffs began (Check here, here, and here if you would like proof). At the same time it’s foolish to bet against a Bill Belichick coached Patriots team in this situation (payback game coming off a game in which they didn’t play their best). I have gone back and forth on this one. Once the matchup was set I thought it could go either way. Then I thought there was a slight edge towards the Giants. At the beginning of this week I started to feel more confident about the Giants’ chances. In the last couple days I swung back towards the Patriots. Anyway…

Pick: New York Giants 27 New England Patriots 23

It’s a prediction, I could be wildly off, but whether I am close or not I think we are going to see a great game.

Thoughts on the game? Please share.