Hold the presses! I’ve just had yet another example of how horrible my memory is. I looked back at my past football predictions, and realized that my record was actually 5-6 for the past three years, not 6-5 as I’ve been telling you. So in reality, I suck worse than I thought I did. Nice.
However, that makes my performance this postseason more impressive. My picks for Championship Sunday were spot on, and those two picks raised my record this postseason to 6-4.
6-4! Barely above .500! Woo hoo!
I know, I set the bar low. But I still celebrate when I jump over it. Heh.
That means no matter what happens in the Superbowl, this will be my best record of any postseason yet. Sad, isn’t it?
With that being said, here is my pick for the Superbowl (and my chance to go 7-4):
New England Patriots over the New York Giants
This was actually a tougher pick than it should have been. The NFC side of things is lacking a truly elite team. The Packers and the Saints both decided to not show up for their playoff games, and that made the Superbowl this year a little less exciting. Sure, the Giants are good, but they’re certainly not elite – or even great, probably. But they caught fire at just the right time, won games they shouldn’t have, and now all that matters is they are just one game away from another Superbowl trophy.
Another Superbowl trophy, however, would have to come at the expense of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots — the team they beat four years ago for their other one. And even though the Giants’ wide receiver corps is greatly improved since they implausibly won that game, I just can’t see history repeating itself this Sunday.
Four years ago, the Patriots lost to the Giants in the Superbowl. Then Tom Brady got hurt. Then they began rebuilding their defense after they lost a slew of veterans. Two years ago on this blog, I wrote that as the young, new defensive players began to really learn the Patriot system that the Pats would be a championship-caliber team once again. And here they are, two years later, playing for the championship.
It’s true: the Patriots’ defense still isn’t the best in the league. Not by any stretch. There are still a lot of young, no-name players holding it together. But they do enough to allow Tom Brady and Belichick’s offensive system to work its magic, and that’s all that matters. And that defense looked like it finally started really clicking toward the end of the season, and they brought that into the playoffs with them where they have excelled.
The Giants are riding a six-game winning streak into the Superbowl. Everybody is talking about their momentum. Well, the Patriots are riding a ten-game winning streak. There’s some momentum for you.
The Giants’ pass defense is the worst in the NFL. And that’s not good when you’re going up against Tom Brady. Especially not when you’re going up against Tom Brady and Belichick’s newly patented two-tight-end domination offense. The way the Pats utilize Hernandez and Gronkowski is nothing short of remarkable to watch. Belichick is once again on the cutting edge of offensive evolution, and those two tight ends have been a huge reason for their success this season.
The hesitation with this pick comes on two levels. First, that two tight end offense isn’t going to be playing at 100% because of Gronkowski’s injury a couple of weeks ago. On any other team, having one of your biggest star receivers injured would spell doom. However, this is the Patriots we are talking about here. Gronkowski is likely to play, but he won’t be at his normal level of domination. It will be interesting to see how well he does and how well the Giants are able to neutralize his threat. What makes me still favor the Patriots here, even with Gronkowski’s injury, is the fact that Hernandez is sitting on the other side of the line ready to make huge plays as well. It’s virtually impossible to stop this Patriot’s offense.
And secondly, the Giants did beat the Patriots four years ago – and they did beat them earlier this season. How? The Giants made up for their lacking pass defense in both games by devising all sorts of crazy honey-badger like blitz schemes to put pressure on Tom Brady. That pressure is what made the difference both times. The Giants apparently have the Pats’ number when it comes to winning the battle of the trenches.
Or do they? Bill Belichick is famous for his “bullseye” game plans – that is, devising schemes and formations specifically to match up against the teams he is playing. And now, with two weeks to prepare for the Superbowl, you can’t tell me he isn’t working hard with his offensive linemen and backs to neutralize that part of the Giants’ game plan. It was completely unexpected four years ago when the Giants won. It will not be unexpected this time around.
One way or another, this game may come down to how much pressure the Giants can get on Tom Brady. Outside of that, neither team’s defense is that great, so I look forward to another Superbowl shootout with a ton of points being scored. My final prediction: the Giants get the ball to end the game, six points down and needing a touchdown to win. The Patriots defense steps up, holds them off, and when the clock reads 0:00 the scoreboard will read Patriots 30, Giants 24.