Monday, January 21, 2008

Super Bowl XLII analysis, prediction, betting and more

All season long, the offense had run around Tom Brady, who set an all-time record for passing touchdowns with 50. But his prime target, Randy Moss, has been missing in action down the stretch, and the team has been carried by running back Laurence Maroney. His back-up, Kevin Faulk is a big third-down receiver. Wes Welker is a great possession receiver. Big pressure is on the Pats’ great offensive line against the Giants’ front seven. Defensively, safety Rodney Harrison will do something big, and corner Asante Samuel is most likely to pick off Eli Manning. The linebacking corps is old and a bit slow, but no one’s smarter than Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi.

Halfway through the season Giants fans had all but lost patience with quarterback Eli Manning. But down the stretch and on the road, he’s been playing almost mistake-free football. He’s reached the Super Bowl in his fourth season — far ahead of his famous brother Peyton’s schedule, and now he’s playing with house money. He’s got two great receivers to throw to, Plaxico Burress, a big target in the mold of the Pats’ Randy Moss, and Amani Toomer. The Giants can also run the ball behind bruiser Brandon Jacobs and breakaway threat Ahmad Bradshaw. But the Giants live on their defense. Corners R.W. McQuarters and Corey Webster will be under huge pressure and the Giants will be hoping starter Aaron Ross can return for the big game. The front seven, led by defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan have to get serious pressure on Pats’ quarterback Tom Brady. Giants fans will prefer that the game not come down to a field goal. Their kicker, Lawrence Tynes, badly missed two gimmes before hitting from 47 yards in overtime to beat Green Bay to get to Glendale.

The Patriots win if
It comes down to how the offensive line plays. If they keep the pass rush off Brady and give him time, the Patriots are going to be hard to beat. Defensively, they need to shut down Burress and bottle up the run. That should put enough pressure on Manning to force him into the mistake that sinks the Giants.

The Giants win if
The first order is to score seven and not three when they get in the red zone. That was the main reason San Diego lost the AFC Championship Game — they settled for field goals while the Pats were getting touchdowns. The second order is put enough pressure on Brady to force him into some bad throws. And the Giants have to win the turnover battle to win the game. Mix in a big play on special teams — most likely a return by Domenik Hixon — could spell the biggest upset ever.

The Pats lose if
New England is not invincible. If Moss doesn’t get untracked and the running game also falters, the Pats will really have their hands full. If Brady gets sacked and battered, they can lose this game. If the offensive line is beaten, the Pats can be, too, but it will take a great performance on the other side of the bal by Eli to finish the deal.

The Giants lose if
It’s no secret by now that there’s very little margin of error against the Patriots. Lose the turnover battle, fail to put Brady on the ground and don’t take advantage of trips to the red zone, and the Giants can’t win; nobody can against the Pats.

The Patriots are capable of blowing out any opponent, but I don’t see that happening here. The Giants played them tough in the season’s final game and believe they can win, and that’s a big part of the battle. I see both teams having trouble running the ball and the war coming down to which coaching staff can make adjustments on the fly the best. And no one does that better than Bill Belichick. The Patriots have discovered a way to win all year. I have to assume they’ll do it again, but they’ll probably have to come from behind to finish off the greatest season in NFL history. I see New England winning on a late touchdown in a relatively high-scoring game — thanks to perfect weather and field conditions. Patriots 34, Giants 30.