They’re playing the Giants. It’s billed as a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, when the Giants won 17-14 and spoiled New England’s shot at a perfect season. And for Boston and New York fans, it is a rematch. However, these are two different teams. None of the four players who scored touchdowns in that game – Laurence Maroney, David Tyree, Randy Moss and Plaxico Burress – are involved in this game (in fact, Burress is the only one who’s even still in the league). Only 15 Giants and 7 Patriots on the active rosters played in that game.
Every year I make a Super Bowl prediction. I think these two teams are evenly matched and I wouldn’t count anything out. Both teams have their strengths and weakenesses.
Because this is an even-numbered Super Bowl, the NFC-representative Giants are the designated road team. So I’ll begin with them:
THE CASE FOR THE GIANTS
· Their playoff push this year has emulated their Super Bowl XLII run with eerie precision.
· The Giants will be wearing their white uniforms again, just like they did in Super Bowl XLII.
· Giant WRs vs. Patriot DBs is an exploitable mismatch (and Hakeem Nicks missed the regular-season matchup between the teams).
· The Giant defensive line has historically had success putting pressure on Tom Brady.
· You can’t spell “Elite” without “Eli”
· Big brother Peyton will be watching, and the Patriots aren’t too popular in Indianapolis. The stadium crowd will be dramatically skewed in favor of the Giants. This could be a de facto home game for them.
THE CASE AGAINST THE GIANTS
· The Giant defense has given up 23.11 points per game (439 points in 19 regular-season and postseason games). No team has given up that many points or PPG and gone on to win a Super Bowl (The 2006 Indianapolis Colts yielded 425 points and 21.25 ppg on their way to winning Super Bowl XLI).
· On Saturday, the Giants Web site briefly announced that "the Giants are Super Bowl champions" before someone quickly took it down. Bad karma.
· No 7-loss team has ever won a Super Bowl, and no team has ever sustained a four-game losing streak during the season and gone on to win a Super Bowl.
· You can’t spell “Eliminated” without “Eli.”
· No team has ever been outscored during the regular season and gone on to win a Super Bowl (though if you include their playoff wins the Giants are now +36 in point differential).
· The Giants have battled inconsistency all year. They’re hot right now, but you never know which Giant team will show up. The same team that beat 15-1 Green Bay and 13-3 San Francisco also lost to Philadelphia-with-Vince-Young-at-QB, Seattle and cellar-dwelling Washington (twice). No team has ever been swept by the last-place team in its division and gone on to win a Super Bowl.
THE CASE AGAINST THE PATRIOTS
· The Patriot defense has given up 401.50 yards per game (7,227 yards in 18 regular-season and postseason games). No team has given up that many yards or YPG and gone on to win a Super Bowl (The 2009 Saints yielded 6,998 yards and 368.32 ypg en route to winning Super Bowl XLIV).
· The Patriots didn’t defeat a team with a winning record until their AFC Championship victory over the Ravens. Even one of their playoff wins was against a team that ultimately finished 9-9 (Denver).
· Nobody knows how Rob Gronkowski’s ankle will hold up.
· The Giants have beaten New England twice in a row in agonizing fashion. They could be in the Patriots’ heads.
· The Patriots (in the persons of Tom Brady and Bob Kraft) have been on the cover of Sports Illustrated the past two weeks. This will be the true test of the SI cover jinx.
THE CASE FOR THE PATRIOTS
· This will be the 13th Super Bowl in which the teams also met in the regular season – the Giants beat the Patriots 24-20 in Week 9. Interestingly, the team that lost the regular-season matchup has the upper hand, going 7-5 in the Super Bowl rematch (and the losing regular-season team is 5-1 in the last six).
· The margin of victory in eight of those 12 regular-season previews was seven points or less. In those eight contests, the team that lost the regular-season game is 7-1 in the Super Bowl.
· Patriot TEs + WRs vs. Giant LBs + DBs is an exploitable mismatch.
· Anastasia the Balloon-Popping Dog picked the Patriots. (Anastasia begins her antics at 9:40 of the link.)
· Nobody outside of New England is giving the Patriots a chance to win. The Patriots play best with a chip on their shoulders. Nobody outside of New England gave the Patriots a chance to beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, either.
So, basically, all this shows is that one team will defy history and do something no Super Bowl champion has ever done before. Nothing would surprise me in this game. I can envision the Giants kicking the shit out of the Patriots. I can envision the Patriots kicking the shit out of the Giants. I can see one team taking control of the game early in the second quarter and not looking back en route to a 17-point victory. And Tom Brady and Eli Manning have both quarterbacked Super Bowl-winning drives, so if either has the ball, down four with two minutes to play.
But I’m a Pats fan. In a game that could go either way, I have to go with my heart.
Patriots 32, Giants 27.