New England Patriots (15-3) -2.5 vs. New York Giants (12-7)
1. Tom Brady and Eli Manning.
It is rather remarkable how Brady has been overshadowed this season. He is coming off a game where he said he sucked against the Ravens, but the game before he had 6 touchdowns, and finished this year with the second most yards in NFL history, coupled with 39 TD passes. Rodgers and Brees stole so many headlines it’s easy to forget Brady put together a season equal to or better to his previous unanimous MVP season.
Even this week, so much of the focus has been on Manning…both Peyton and Eli. Don’t get me wrong, Eli Manning deserves praise, coming off his best season as a pro, both statistically, and competitively. He carried the Giants through many injuries and weaknesses until the team began to match his stellar play late in the year and into the playoffs.
2. Scoring power.
The Pats don’t have a Randy Moss, but they sure pack a punch. New England averaged over 32ppg during the season, which put them 3rd in the NFL. But consider what they accomplished made them the 11th highest scoring team in NFL history previous to this year.
The Giants were the 10th highest scoring team in the NFL this year, but averaged 8 points per game less than New England, at 24.6 points.
Including the postseason the Giants have been held under 21 points 5 times, the Patriots 3 times. New York scored over 30 points 5 times, New England scored over 30 points 13 times.
A lot has been made over New York and their big-play ability and scoring, but they aren’t in the Patriots ballpark.
3. Defensive bending.
These defenses gave up a lot of yards. A LOT. Statistically the Patriots and the Giants are the worst two defenses in NFL Super Bowl history when it comes to allowing yardage. Against the pass, the Patriots were second to last in the NFL, which also happened to be the second worst in NFL history. The Giants weren’t much better as 29th ranked in passing yards allowed. Overall NY was 27th, NE was 31st.
4. Defense breaking.
New England’s defense takes more gruff for being terrible, but the Giants would have the worst defense for a Super Bowl winner ever based on points allowed. The 2006 Colts allowed 360 points on their way to the crown. These Giants have allowed 400!
The Pats by comparison only gave up 342 this season.
5. Hot Late vs. Bad season
The Giants are here no question because they began playing much better the final two weeks and it carried into the playoffs. The defense has been the difference. The first 14 games they gave up 26.6ppg. The last 5 games they’ve allowed almost half that, 13.4ppg.
So which is it? They are the third 9-7 team to make it to a Super Bowl. The 1979 LA Rams and 2008 Arizona Cardinals both lost hard-fought Super Bowls.
The Rams possessed the worst offense to get to the Super Bowl. The Cards had the worst running game ever. The Rams outscored opponents that season 323-309. The Cards 427-426. These Giants have been outscored 400-396.
I wrote about rematches  earlier in the week. Read more about it, or trust that all the numbers slightly favor the Patriots.
The Giants are hot, and that’s why they are here. New England has won 10 straight games and scored under 30 just twice during that run, so I think we can agree they are hot too.
New England only beat one team with a winning record all season, and that was Baltimore in the AFC Title Game. They were 1-2 against winning teams. They played an easy schedule, but they dominated an easy schedule. The better teams did give them trouble and slow down their offense though. See Ravens, Steelers, Giants, and Cowboys.
New York was 1-3 vs. winning teams in the regular season before reeling off three straight in the postseason. The Giants played a similar schedule to New England, but performed worse.
8. X’s and O’s
Both the Giants and Patriots came up with third down stops in their first encounter. NY was 4-14, NE was 5-15. So many of those came up just short and forced punts. I am going predict both do better this time around and move the chains more often.
I think the Patriots will run the football because they can, and the Giants will allow it. The Pats will see a lot of nickel and “big” nickel from NY and take advantage of the numbers. With Vollmer healthy for NE, I think we’ll see some unbalanced lines and big formations with an extra tackle on the field to protect Brady and run more.
The Giants were without two of their best offensive players in the first meeting, but they were also playing great football, much like they are now. So having Nicks and Bradshaw back will help, but I don’t think this Giants team will be so much better than the one the Pats saw earlier this year. I do think Nicks will play well and have a big game though totaling over 100 yards.
The Giants struggle with tight ends (see Vernon Davis) and that doesn’t bode well for them. Hernandez and Gronkowski each scored in the regular season meeting. I see them combining for about 10-150 in the Super Bowl.
I love the way the NY secondary has been playing, but Corey Webster is more an outside corner and him taking Deion Branch out of the game isn’t a big deal. I am not sure he can play Welker in the slot if they try. Covering the tight ends just doesn’t seem possible.
The pass rush will have to be huge for NY. In the first meeting they had 2 sacks and 3 knockdowns. I think they’ll need more than that. I don’t think Belichick will allow it after what happened 4 years ago. They’ll protect and see how the Giants coverage holds up.
NY must force turnovers. It was a key for them in all their playoff wins. It was key in their win in Foxboro earlier this season. I don’t think they can win unless they force at least 2 turnovers and protect the ball themselves.
9. Final thoughts.
Neither team is great, at least not against history. Both could go down as one of the worst winners ever. Of course, that doesn’t matter much to either, nor should it. Both have flaws, but both have overcome those weaknesses to get here. New England has some great players, and those guys have to be great for them to win. Brady, Welker, Gronkowski, Wilfork, Mayo. New York, the same thing. Manning, Nicks, Cruz, Pierre-Paul, Tuck, and Osi.
The team that avoids mistakes and has their stars play great will win. Obviously every game has “others” chip in, but I think this will be about the guys that need to get it done, getting it done.
I just think too much history is pointing to the team more north. They’ve been great for so long and lost in years they should have won, that this year they’ll win in a year they shouldn’t have. Plus, when all else fails, do what Vegas says.
Patriots 27, Giants 20
MVP: TOM BRADY, 28-37, 329 yards, 2 TD