Friday, February 01, 2008

Super Bowl Preview

Hey Folks,

Well, it's that time of year again. It's all come down to this. Sure, we expected the Pats to get there, I mean, they sure look like the best team of all time. C'Mon! They're 18-0! For God's sake, assuming they win the Super Bowl, can we not just pencil them in there?

I love the hypotheticals about this. Not a month ago, ESPN had Bill Parcells breaking down historical matchups between the '07 Patriots vs. other teams of football past. It was quite hilarious and bizarre, I must say.

The one thing I hate is that no one ever brings up the '94 49ers as one of the greatest teams of all time. They were the reason the NFL created the salary cap. I believe they could've given the Pats a run for their money.

Anyway, I hate the fact that people are rooting against the Pats in this game. I mean sure, people like underdogs, but these Giants are not likeable in my opinion. You've all been witnesses to history with New England this year, and yet people somehow find themselves rooting for a sniveling little brat named Eli, a wannabe gangsta rapper in Antonio Pierce, and an evil old man in Tom Coughlin.

It's probably jealousy of New England and all its success. They've got a perfect quarterback, they resurrected Randy Moss's career, and they have a collective shoulder chip that caused them to run up scores all year. As Bill Simmons might say, "They hold the record for the most "Eff You" touchdowns in a season." That's not even bringing up the Red Sox winning the World Series twice in 3 years or that the Celtics have Kevin Garnett and the best record in the NBA. Yeah, I'm jealous of them too, but within reason.

The only, and I mean ONLY, storyline that I'd be okay with other than a Pats victory would be Michael Strahan winning a ring, going out on top, and taking Jerome Bettis or Tiki Barber's analyst spot on NBC next season.

I'd still be disappointed though. The Patriots have come this far, and I've enjoyed watching it. They'll take care of business this Sunday and here's how I see it breaking down.

1) Brady vs. the Giants D:

As good as the Giants have been on defense lately, they haven't had to go up against a well-oiled machine like the Pats in a while-- other than two losses to the Cowboys. In fact, most of the Giants wins this year have been against purely inept offenses like the Falcons, 49ers, Jets, Redskins, Ravens, Bills, and Dolphins. Pretty much all of their wins came against offensively inferior teams; teams that can't get it done. Their schedule was actually a cakewalk if you think about it, as evidenced here.

In addition, the fact that New England now has a healthy and productive Laurence Maroney along with the versatility and consistency of Kevin Faulk, the Giants will be forced to stop the run. They've done that quite well statistically all season, so it's conceiveable that the Pats will be slowed down in that respect.

But... with this team, we all know that's irrelevant. This was one of the only examples of an offense (in NFL history mind you) that didn't need to run. They are so good that they pass to set up the run-- OR DON'T BOTHER RUNNING AT ALL! They're that dominant. For God's sake, Brady threw for 50 TDs!

Even if the Giants are able to shut down Randy Moss with double and even triple coverage over the top, Brady will just chill out, hit Wes Welker over the middle, Kevin Faulk out in the flat, or Ben Watson on a seam downfield. Again. They are that good. Despite the great pass rush of the Giants, Brady's O-Line is too consistent, and The Golden Boy usually has enough time to recollect the last night he had with Gisele, smile to himself, and dump it off to Faulk or nail Moss or Stallworth in stride downfield if he's so inclined.

The only way-- and I mean the only way the Giants keep this game close is by getting consistent pressure on Tom Brady and knocking him down a few times. The guy's a gamer, but he's still not used to getting hit. When timing is disrupted, stuff happens. Fortunately, I don't foresee that happening. This team has been here before. They know what to expect, and what they do on offense is the definition of execution.

2) Eli vs. the Pats' D:

I cringe at the fact that we're even talking about this. Eli bleepin' Manning is in a Super Bowl? You've got to be kidding me. I just hate the guy. Flat out. I'll never respect him, even if he does win somewhere down the line. Probably the only time I would ever appreciate him is if he beats his brother Peyton in a Super Bowl. I'm a pretty forgiving sports fan. I'm even beginning to accept the fact that Chris Webber is rejoining the Warriors. Don't get me wrong, I'll still boo his ass next time I'm at Oracle, but I in general, I'm open to rooting for anyone in the right circumstances. But not Eli.

That stunt that Eli and his family pulled on draft day in '04 is unforgiveable in my eyes. I was too young to remember when Elway did the same thing, but I do remember Steve Francis refusing to play in Vancouver, and I'll never forget that BS that Eli pulled. He thought he was above San Diego because his last name is Manning. What a disgrace. Was his daddy too good to stink it up in New Orleans all those years? I would much rather see Phil Rivers playing in the Super Bowl. Now that's a guy who's got a pair. He's like a gutsy, talented Ryan Leaf. In fact, he's like a combination between Jose Lima and Ryan Leaf-- except the guy can play, he's a good teammate, and he played a few days after surgery with a ruptured ACL. That guy is a flat out gamer.

So, that's how I feel about Eli Manning. Oh, how I wish he'd prove that he's still the same overrated baby that I know him to be. It was only earlier this year that you could almost pick the moment where he'd throw an interception or throw an errant pass behind Shockey. Then the camera would pan to both of them talking to themselves as they walked off the field after another 3 and out. Of course Shockey looked more like Kid Rock on PCP and steroids, and Eli looked like a vertigo-suffering mental patient with his head wobbling from side to side and a stupid Down's syndrome smile on his face.

But this is now. Eli has been shockingly effective and has limited his mistakes. This is the reason and reason alone why the Giants have advanced to this point. Their defense could only carry them so far; they needed help. They've been getting it from the quarterback position, and it couldnt've have come at a better time.

In addition, I believe we can all say that Plaxico Burress is a top 4 receiver in this league. The guy is an absolute beast out there. He's 6'5, and does not drop passes. In fact, he catches passes that Terrell Owens would only reach for, and that Steve Smith can't reach. It's also worth noting that they guy doesn't practice because he's been playing with an ever-present high ankle sprain and torn ankle ligaments. He doesn't complain. He doesn't half ass it, and he's nothing short of a monster on Sundays. The way he destroyed Al Harris in that playoff game at Lambeau was almost hard to watch. At the same time it was like a car wreck; you couldn't help but watch.

The Plax factor (that sounds like some kind of oral disease or colonic product) along with the resurgence of Amani Toomer and the semi-emergence of Steve Smith gives Eli some good targets to work with, and work with them, he has.

The one trouble spot that I forsee with the Patriots defense are their linebackers. During the San Diego game, I saw a lot of instances where people were running little crossing routes across the middle with an old-balls Patriot linebacker 2 steps behind them in tow. Let's be honest, it's a nice story with Seau and Bruschi, but these guys can't cover people any more, and it's required of them from time to time in the 3-4 defense. As much as I like those guys, they're just too slow, and the Pats could really use Roosevelt Colvin. I see the G Men taking advantage of that, but little else.

The Giants' running game has been average, but it seems to be effective enough to pick up some first downs and to grind down defenses occasionally. They've figured out that Brandon Jacobs needs to have another decent running mate to be effective, and it looks like they found it in Ahmad Bradshaw. I don't anticipate either of these guys breaking 70 yards on Sunday, but they may have some effect.

The Patriots defense has not been as invincible as their offensive counterparts. They aren't perfect, but they know how to play. Everyone knows their role, they know where to be, and they execute. Their defensive line is stout, versatile, and effective, and their seconday is solid for the most part. It's all about forcing Eli to make the mistakes that we all know he will.

3) Special Teams:

I don't put a lot of stock in special teams usually. But... there are some interesting factors here.

I love Wes Welker returning punts. He could break one at any time. He hasn't in a while it seems, but he's always dangerous, and could be factor when he's not on offense. The Pats never have to punt and they rarely kick field goals, but it won't come down to either of those actions.

It may however, come down to the effectiveness of one Lawrence Tynes. This guy is a disaster. He was cut loose by Kansas City last year because of erratic kicking, and he tried his best to lose the game to Green Bay two weeks ago. But now that he's been on Letterman and he thinks Tom Coughlin likes him again, he'll be brimming with confidence. But, this Scotsman has underlying accuracy and self-esteem issues. If he gets a kick blocked or he misses one wide early in the game, it will affect him. Lucky for him, the ball won't be a frozen sack of lead like it was in Green Bay and he'll be kicking indoors. But, he could still be a problem for the Giants.

So there you have it. I've tried to avoid the two weeks of Super Bowl hype by reading multiple feature articles on Phoenix and Glendale and Scottsdale and how cool everything is, and how sweet all their sports venues are. Well screw them. It's too frickin hot there 8 months a year, and I still think anyone who lives there is out of their mind. Anyway, it looks like a good scene for a Super Bowl, and I'll enjoy watching it.

Prediction: Patriots 31, Giants 17.

Gambling Lines:

Patriots (-420), (-12)
Giants (+330), (+12)
Over/Under: 54

I'd throw down big on the Patriots outright on the money line or take the under. The spread is too many points for my liking. It could easily go either way. (Not that I will. Gambling is illegal).