By: Shawn Davis
There’s supposed to be a football game airing this Sunday but I may be wrong. Could that be the case? I also heard Madonna is supposed to be singing or dancing or whatever it is that she does nowadays – when she’s not working out her biceps. I still love her eyes though. What a woman.
Now we know all the story lines that have been beat TO DEATH this week – and that’s why I stepped away for a bit but I’m back. “Legacies at stake” is a dominant theme but I don’t believe that it will hurt either team to lose – but of course it’s best to be the team holding the trophy once the confetti begins to fall on Sunday evening. It’s best to keep things as simple as possible because regardless of all the glitz, glamour, SIX HOUR pre-game shows (Really?), pizza, veggies (yeah, ok) and wings, the only thing that matters is the game. On to it:
SUPER BOWL 46
New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
This game can break in a multitude of ways. New England is favored by a field-goal but media heads and celebrities seem to be favoring the Giants for the most part. I’ll give my pick at the end, as usual, so I’ll bore you with a breakdown. As fans and viewers of the NFL we are trained to watch the ball-carrier or wherever the ball is going, you know? That’s how the programs are packaged; follow the ball, ignore all else. Most of the action takes place away from the ball and when you see footage of the whole field, there are times you can diagnose why a play broke down and why another was successful.
I’m stating this because the line-play is going to determine the winner of this game so don’t be swayed by anything else my flock. Every “intangible” and “x-factor” will be under the microscope but once one of the thousands of talking heads that have convened in Indianapolis mention the offensive and defensive lines, pay close attention. This is where the title will be won and I will not be swayed at all – don’t you either.
Looking at how the teams compare to one another there are a few things that stand out to me. I really like Eli Manning and the Giants offense to move the ball – and score points – against the Patriots. On the flip side, Tom Brady is one of the best, ever, (we all know that) so I would never overlook his resume. He brings it in a way that few others have at the position. Vince Wilfork will probably play every D-line position in this game which will give the Giants O-line some headaches and I’m sure Tom Coughlin and Manning will be alert wherever he lines up before the snap.
Bill Belichick usually has a decided advantage in the coaching department but don’t be fooled in this one; Tom Coughlin is an equal to the guy in the gray hoodie. The headmasters in this game are totally even! Fitting that they both come from Bill Parcells’ coaching tree and they’re both on the cusp of another title. A win won’t hurt Coughlin but it could possibly vault him (and his quarterback) into serious Hall-of-Fame consideration.
Brady goes against Manning for another title. What Eli has done this season has been talked about in bunches so I won’t chew your eyes out with more. But think about when the year started and how Manning was viewed. He was respected as a top-10 quarterback, for sure (close to the bottom-half), but he’s rushed into the small club of the top-five guys regardless if he was on the VIP list. He burst his way in! Brady, P. Manning, Rodgers, Brees, Ben and Eli Manning – that’s the list of the BEST quarterbacks in the league. Before this season many people (not me) had Rivers, Romo and possibly Vick ahead of Manning, not anymore. A loss doesn’t define E. Manning but it validates how he’s elevated himself into “elite” status.
Same goes for Tom Brady. A loss doesn’t hurt him (regardless of the crap that’s being printed echoing those sentiments) but it puts him in air that only Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana have breathed the last few decades. No matter how you feel about the guy, who he’s married to or whatever he endorses, a player of his pedigree – at his position – does not come along but every so often.
Back to the field:
If Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw can get on track, I feel they can offset the danger that Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski will pose to the Giants defense. Since the G-Men’s linebackers aren’t talked about that doesn’t mean they should be overlooked because they play well in space (meaning pass coverage) and I also feel defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will have third safety, Deon Grant, playing a lot to help with the two tight-end monster the Pats will employ.
The secondary is where the Patriots are leaking – and Patrick Chung is the only constant (and consistent) performer in the back-end. The bad part about that is he cannot cover Cruz, Nicks, Manningham (and possibly Ballard) on his own. Like I mentioned above, I love these game-within-the-game breakdowns and this favors the Giants. There is no one the Patriots have on their roster for this game (in the secondary) that will put a scare into the Giants attack. I think this is the main reason I’m hearing people choose New York by a touchdown…or two. I see why but I think people are getting ahead of themselves. This game is going to be tight. All he Patriots’ Super Bowl appearances – Belichick/Brady era – have been decided by a field-goal (3 wins, 1 loss) so I’m not positive it gets out of hand for either team. However, their defense has been so bad this year I understand the thought process.
This game will be won or lost by the quarterbacks and the line-play. I like to break things down in their simplest form and see how it all settles at the end. (Sue me; I loved fractions in grade school – along with Priscilla. Ha!) Among Brady and Manning who will have the cleaner pocket? Will Gronkowski and Hernandez wreak havoc? Who covers Cruz, Nicks and Manningham? Will the Pats go strictly no-huddle? All good questions.
New York wins if they employ the exact same strategy they used four years ago. Let the front-four generate all the rush, drop seven into coverage and punish Brady in the pocket. PAY ATTENTION here: A great pass-rush has nothing to do with sacks at all. (Those just happen to be the by-product at times.) A great rush forces the quarterback to move in the pocket, make throws under duress and also accelerate the clock in his head – which decimates the timing the Patriots build their offense around.
When New York is on (you know, like, when they’re not losing to the Seahawks in NJ and the Redskins twice) they have the formula to defeat any team and quarterback in professional football. When you can generate pressure with only your front-four you are not forced to blitz, foolishly, and allow pitch-and-catch touchdowns to the opposition and you can cater your defensive draft/free agent strategy towards athletes at linebacker and the secondary so you can cover down the field. The Giants come forward with an array of pass rushers who are a mix of speed, power, athleticism, and youth – but most dangerous of all is that they are healthy and interchangeable.
If the Giants find an offensive balance or Manning has a clean pocket, they can skate away with this contest. Like I said earlier, I doubt it happens but it is feasible.
New England wins if their O-line can afford Brady the time he’s had to scan for his targets all season. If he has time, whatever defense that’s on the field is at a disadvantage (sorry Baltimore, you had them beat) because coverage breaks down after 7-10 seconds in most cases. Similar to the Giants in that if Brady’s weapons have a big day, the game could be over because the NY secondary isn’t a daunting unit at all.
Also if Wilfork can push through unabated to Manning, it won’t go well for the New Yorkers. He’s the last man they want to see setting up shop in their backfield. If Belichick’s elaborate defensive concoctions can put doubt in the head of Manning, they will hoist the trophy.
What’s the pick then?
Well, I do not like the Patriots – and it’s not because of the classic New York-Boston rivalry, to be quite honest. New England irks me because they took the championship from “The Greatest Show on Turf” ten years ago, a team that holds a special place in my football hierarchy and it still baffles me that it happened. Over the years I’ve – begrudgingly – come to respect what New England has done as franchise from top to bottom.
My pick: I believe it’s going to be a close affair, especially since the schizophrenic Giants are involved. Patriots…and I bet it’s by a field-goal. Ugh. Enjoy everyone and good luck making it to school or work on time. Why isn’t Super Bowl Monday a holiday – or why doesn’t the league try the game on a Saturday?