Super Bowl XLII: Pats will prevail

Friday, February 1, 2008

One team, the New England Patriots, was expected to be in Arizona for Super Bowl XLII. The other team, the New York Giants, was not.

The Patriots swept through the regular season at 16-0 and did what they had to do in defeating the Jaguars and Chargers in the playoffs to punch their ticket for Arizona. They are a 12-point favorite.

The Pats are looking to become just the second team in NFL history to go through an entire season undefeated. The 1972 Miami Dolphins were the only other team that finished undefeated, going 17-0 after a 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.

The New York Giants started the season at 0-2, giving up 80 points in the process and looking like a team in disarray. The Giants then won six straight ballgames to move to 6-2, before losing to the Dallas Cowboys at home 31-20 on Nov. 11. The Giants finished the regular season at 10-6, earning a wild card game at Tampa Bay.

The Giants then got red hot, beating all three NFC Division winners on the road in the play-offs to secure a berth in the team's fourth trip to the big game. The "road warrior" Giants have won 10 straight with suitcases packed.

They are 2-1 in the big one, losing in their last trip, 34-7, to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV.

The Patriots are the neo-dynasty, making their fourth trip in just seven years. Their record in the Super Bowl is 3-2, winning the last three they have appeared in. The three wins still leave them two wins behind the Cowboys, Steelers and 49'ers for winningest Super Bowl team.

The Patriots rank first or second in eight major offensive categories, the most telling being total points per game, total yards per game, first downs, and quarterback Tom Brady's quarterback rating of 116.0. Brady and wide receiver Randy Moss have combined for 23 touchdowns this season, an all-time record.

On defense, the Patriots are strong up front and at the linebacker position with 41 years of combined experience in Mike Vrabel, Teddy Bruschi, and 18-year veteran Junior Seau. New England has only given up 17.1 points per game this year, while scoring 36.8.

The strength of the Giants is their rushing defense, sacking opposing quarterbacks a league leading 53 times this year. If they can put heavy pressure on Brady to get rid of the ball sooner than he would like, the Giants stand a good chance keeping it close.

Giant quarterback Eli Manning will make it two super bowls in a row for Archie's boys, following Peyton's run to glory last year when he led the Indianapolis Colts over the Bears 29-17. The younger Manning comes into the game on the best roll of his short four-year career.

Manning will have to be at his best, managing the game and staying away from costly turnovers. The masterful Patriot's coach Bill Belichick has a knack for coming up with just the right defensive package to confuse young quarterbacks.

The Giants must run the ball and use the bruising Brandon Jacobs to soften and keep the Pats defensive line off balance, giving Manning time in the pocket when he needs to throw to Plaxico Burress and veteran Amani Toomer. The 6'4", 264-pound Jacobs has rushed for 1,009 yards on the season and is a load to take on. He could be a factor in the fourth quarter.

The Patriots are on the verge of history and the Giants are on a roll. The game looks like it could be one of the best Super Bowls ever if the teams play like they have over the past couple of weeks.

The Boston area is hot with the Red Sox winning the World Series, the Pats back in the big game, and the Celtics sporting the best record in the NBA.

I think the Giants will cover the spread, but will lose the game 34-24.