Super Bowl XLVI Prediction(s): New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
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We are down to the final game of the season: Super Bowl XLVI.
With EDSFootball.com headquarters located halfway between New York and Boston, this rematch of Super Bowl XLII means even more interest than usual in the Super Bowl in this part of the country. While I'm a fan of neither team, the majority of people I know are either Patriots or Giants fans including two of our contributors.
In fact, I think we should set up some friendly wager between John (Giants fan) and Dan (Patriots fan) to make it interesting. No surprise, but each of them picked their favorite team below.
Going into this week, John and Steve (a Jets fan) are 9-1 in picking the winner of the first 10 games of the postseason.
[Note: Steve's pick will be available either Friday or Saturday and I will update this post with his pick. (Pick updated below.)]
As of Thursday night (via Sportsbook.com), the Patriots are three-point favorites in Super Bowl XLVI.
Here are our Super Bowl XLVI picks:
John (follow on Twitter): New York Giants 31, New England Patriots 24
With all of the record-breaking offenses we've seen all season, the AFC and NFC Championship games this past weekend were dominated by defense. The Ravens' D was all over the field and held Tom Brady without a touchdown pass, while forcing him to throw two interceptions. In the same regard, it was the New England defense that saved the day for the Patriots. Instead of watching Brady and the Pats offense march down the field to seal the game (a sight we've all become accustomed to seeing), it was the defensive effort of backup cornerback Sterling Moore who made the most critical play down the stretch, stripping the ball from Lee Evans, in what looked like was going to be a sure touchdown. The would-be-score would have put the Ravens ahead 27-23 with under 30 seconds left in the game. Instead, Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal that would have tied the game, to send the Patriots back to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers defense was, in my view, even more impressive than the other defenses of the day. They kept a potent Giants offense that put up 37 points on the Packers last week, completely in check. The Giants finished with 20 points, but scored 10 of them off of two special teams turnovers that occurred deep in San Francisco territory. Eli Manning was hit time after time, play after play, and was sacked six times. Fortunately for the Giants, their defense was up to the challenge of a defensive battle, and while they weren't quite as good as the Niners D, they didn't have to be. Alex Smith did a good job managing the game and not turning the ball over, but he was unable to do enough offensively to really win the game for San Francisco. His two touchdown passes were long plays to Vernon Davis for 73 and 28 yards respectively, but Smith was unable to get in any kind of a rhythm. His first completion to a wide receiver came on the last play of the third quarter, and he finished the game with only 12 completions (3 to WRs). Early on, San Francisco was successful running the ball, but by the end, the Giant defense buckled down and started stopping the run. And with Smith unable to get the ball downfield, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Giants scored. As it turns out, Kyle Williams' second fumble led to a Lawrence Tynes FG that once again kicked the Giants to the Super Bowl.
We've been hearing about the comparisons to the 2007 team for a few weeks now, and this past weekend put the icing on the cake. Once again, the Giants won the NFC Championship on an overtime field goal that came as a result of a turnover; and once again, the New England Patriots await them. Forget the fact that the Patriots really didn't look very good this past weekend and that their 31st-ranked defense has made them look vulnerable for much of the season. Forget the fact that the Giants were 9-7 on the year and no team in the Super Bowl era has ever won the Championship with fewer than 10 regular-season wins. All that stuff goes out the window. There are so many variables to analyze, and so many things one could consider when making a prediction about Super Bowl 46. Rather than focus on all those things, I'm going to concentrate on what I feel is the most important variable: the emergence of Eli Manning as one of the game's best quarterbacks. His numbers will never be as spectacular as guys like Rodgers, Brees, Brady, or his older brother Peyton. But when it comes down to it, is there anyone who has been as clutch as Eli? He has been brilliant late in games, throwing for more touchdown passes in the fourth quarter than any quarterback in the history of the game. His victory over San Francisco gave him his fifth road playoff win, more than any other quarterback in history. Tom Brady will go down as one of the top five or even top three quarterbacks of all time, but right now, today, Eli is playing better football. He is playing better against a weaker defense than Brady who will be going up against one of the best front four's in the game, and a secondary that has been playing much better of late. I expect the Giants defense to pressure Brady and limit his scoring opportunities, while I expect Eli to have a much easier time finding the endzone. I'd love to see a game that is as good as it's predecessor, with each quarterback getting an opportunity to win it for their team in the final minutes. Ultimately, I'm going to take the more complete team, and the team that is playing as hot as anyone in the last five weeks. No surprise here, I'm taking the Giants win their second straight Super Bowl over the Patriots 31-24. Go GMEN!
[Editor's note: HOMER!]
Dan (follow on Twitter): New England Patriots 21, New York Giants 17
This year's championship game will rematch one of the greatest games ever between the Patriots and Giants. This game boasts two of the league's hottest teams as the Giants have won five straight, and the Patriots have not lost since the Giants beat them in October. The Giants won head-to-head, 24-20, on a last-minute Eli Manning drive, but the Patriots were able to move the ball, posting 438 yards to the Giants' 361.
In the playoffs, the Giants have rushed for an average of 117 yards per game and 287 through the air. The Patriots have rushed for 121 yards and 299 passing. This game will be won by the respective offensive and defensive lines. Can the Giants front four pressure Brady, and can their weak secondary cover Welker, Hernandez, and Gronkowski? Can the Patriots slow the red hot Manning, and cover their dynamic receivers Cruz and Nicks? This pick probably reeks of homerism, but the Patriots will get a measure of revenge as Brady and Belichick will figure a way.
Kevin (follow on Twitter): New York Giants 24, New England Patriots 20
Based on regular-season stats, neither team was balanced. Both teams ranked in the top eight in offense and in the bottom six in defense, but they have both been more balanced in the postseason. The Giants have played an extra postseason game to get to the Super Bowl, but the Giants and Patriots have allowed 13 and 15 points per game, respectively, in the playoffs.
One of only three quarterbacks to throw for 4,000-plus yards in each of the past three seasons, Manning played much better against the 49ers last week than the stats indicated. In the past four weeks, all must-win games, Manning has thrown for 1,259 yards and has an 11:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. While either Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz have had 100-yard games, Mario Manningham has scored a touchdown in three straight games.
While the Patriots have an equally-explosive passing attack led by Tom Brady, their defense has faced only Tim Tebow and Joe Flacco in the postseason so their improved defensive stats should be taken with a grain of salt. On the other hand, the Giants shut down Matt Ryan and held Aaron Rodgers to his worst passer rating (78.5) of the season.
Both teams have great offenses, but I like the overall balance of the Giants and think they pull out a close win.
Sean (follow on Twitter): New England Patriots 27, New York Giants 23
Sean plans on posting his pick on his blog next week, but he is leaning towards the Patriots and sent me a final score prediction (as noted).
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[UPDATE AS OF 1/29/12] Steve: New England Patriots 34, New York Giants 24
The sports media loves the Giants-Patriots rematch for the Super Bowl, as it provides a litany of storylines to talk about. There are obvious similarities to the last championship matchup between the two, with Giants being the “hot” team and the Patriots looking like an unstoppable offensive juggernaut. There’s the Parcells connection: both teams previously coached by the Hall-of-Famer and both head coaches, Coughlin and Belichick, former assistants under Parcells. Not to mention the intriguing position matchups like the debate of best quarterback, Tom Brady vs.
Peyton Eli Manning. However interesting, most of these storylines are really just noise in terms of analyzing the game and predicting a potential winner. Given the dynamics, this game has a very public interest beyond the usual Super Bowl hype. The line opened with the Patriots favored by 4 and it quickly compressed to 2 without any meaningful news (i.e., Tom Brady breaking his leg), showing a lot of public money on the Giants. Since I think most of what you’ll hear will be a distraction, I’ll break-down three myths you’ll hear about and actually tell you whether they are fact or fiction.
Myth 1 - Eli Manning played better than all the other playoff QBs. I’m sorry, but I’m calling fiction on this one and I nearly swerved off the road when I first heard this. Let’s keep in mind that box scores don’t tell the whole story. Although the stats say Manning went interception free in the San Francisco game, he was lucky to do so and as such it probably saved the Giants the game. In San Fran, Dashon Goldson should have had an interception had he not knocked out his teammate, Tarell Brown, who was also in position for the ball. Had Brown or Goldson made that pick, the Giants lose the game. Manning has a habit of throwing into double coverage, and being saved by his wide receivers.
Myth 2 – The Giants front four are the best in the NFL. This is close enough to fact that I’ll support the position. The Giants can switch to what they call their “NASCAR” package on obviously passing down, which enable them to generate substantial pass rush with Tuck, Pierre-Paul, and Umenyiora (and Mathius Kiwanuka as the 4th DE in this package), in the game at the same time. Unfortunately, it won’t provide great deal of help in stopping the Patriots for a few reasons. First and foremost, Brady and Patriots can run an effective no-huddle, preventing the Giants from substituting to the desired personnel. Secondary to that, the Patriots tight-ends, both Gronkowksi and Hernandez, will be used in either the 12 or 22 sets (one TE, 2 RB; 2 TE, 2 RB). The flexibility to line-up Gronk or Hernandez at the line or in the backfield, will force the Giants into decisions at the line of scrimmage that their base personnel can’t handle, especially if the Patriots try to run.
Myth 3 – The Patriots can’t win the championship with the 2nd worst defense in the NFL. To this, I say statistics is just another form of lying. Yes, technically, by total defense the Patriots were 31 of 32 in the NFL. Then again the “mighty Giants D” were 27th. Both defenses are better than the numbers say. The Patriots were up by multiple touchdowns frequently this season and were actually middle of the pack (15th overall), when it came to points against. The Giants were only slightly better than their total defense stat at 25th. What would concern me about the Patriots D, is the loss of Andre Carter a few weeks ago. He was their best pass rusher and will make the Pats susceptible to Manning throwing downfield to Cruz and Nicks.
So to sum it all up: Brady is better than Manning, the Giants D-Line will be neutralized, and the Patriots defense is underrated. It sounds like a Patriots win to me – but I do think this will turn into somewhat of a shootout.