So here we are... After two weeks of hype, the game is finally before us. I think we're all pretty tired with the talk about Brady's ankle, Plaxico's prediction, and every other story line that has been jammed down our throat these last couple weeks. Of course, now comes the tricky part... the game itself. There's definitely a wave of public support for the Giants, as the spread came down by a couple points while we've been waiting for the game. And I keep hearing people talk about "if there's any team to beat the Patriots, this is the team..." Why do I feel like we're all forgetting exactly how good the Patriots have been this season? Sure, they haven't been as dominant as they were when they were putting up Tecmo Super Bowl numbers, but they've proven that they can win playing any style in any condition. And there's been much talk about the Giants winning 10 straight road games. Um, well haven't the Patriots won 8? Why does that never come up? Oh, that's right, because they're undefeated and that's a much better storyline...
Of course, on the flip side, I convinced myself to jump back on the Patriots point spread bandwagon in the conference championship game and that cost me, even though I specifically said that they had not been playing well against the spread in recent weeks... again showing why I'm doing this as a hobby and not for actual cash... But now everybody is rested, and Bill Belicheck has had two weeks to prepare a game plan for Eli Manning. Let me repeat that... Bill Belicheck, two weeks, Eli Manning. I know Manning has played well this post-season, but it's still Eli Manning. Up until last year, Peyton wasn't exactly known as a big-game QB, so we know that there's a familial history with screwing the proverbial pooch here. The Patriots defense may bend more than it would like, but it hasn't been breaking. They're veterans and savvy and always good for a few big plays in a big game. Jacobs and Bradshaw will definitely test the Patriots throughout the game, but all in all, it's not exactly a matchup that the Patriots haven't managed to overcome... see Week 17, for example.
On the other side of the ball, you have the Giants defensive line against the Patriots offensive line, which is essentially where this game will be won or lost. If the Giants can get pressure on Brady, then they can limit the big plays and scoring opportunities, keeping the game close late where anything can happen. But if the league's best offensive line can keep Brady's jersey clean, then you can expect an aerial attack that will completely tear apart the Giants mediocre secondary. I mean, R.W. McQuarters is running around back there. He was awful 5 years ago. Did he mysteriously get better now? I don't think so. So can the Patriots offensive line hold their own against the Giants. I'm guessing yes. They've done it against everybody else this season, especially the vaunted Jaguars and Chargers defensive lines the last two games. So you have the Giants offense evenly matched against the Patriots defense and the Patriots offense one step away (albeit a big step) from being able to score at will.
And, of course, my favorite aspect of this entire game is the potential history involved. One way or another, the Patriots are going to be forever known for this game. Win or lose, it's a front page headline. But I've always been a fan of watching records be broken, not being close to broken. Hell, I still remember when the Buccaneers went 16-0 in the aforementioned Tecmo Super Bowl. Now that was an upset... But to get this close to perfection, this close to shutting up the '72 Dolphins, this close to forever being on the short list of greatest teams ever... it's tough to picture Brady and Belicheck screwing this one up.
So why am I going with the Giants against the spread? Well, there are a few reasons. One, the Patriots, for as good as they've been this decade, have won their three Super Bowls by a combined 9 points. They don't blow people out. Up until early this season, they were never known for that. Two, the Giants can put up points too, and their defense can create opportunities for Eli and Co. And three, that's a pretty big spread. Granted, the AFC has dominated the NFC of late, but 12 points is quite the spread. And as I've mentioned, the Patriots haven't been doing all that well against the spread of late.
With that being said, I think the two weeks between games really hurts the Giants momentum, while it allowed Brady to get fully healthy from however bad his injury really was. The Patriots give up points, but pull out the win, thus earning their 4th Super Bowl this decade, just like I predicted before the season began. As for their opponent... well, let's just say I was a little off on that half of my prediction.
New York Giants (+12) vs New England - Final Score: New England 38 - New York 27
Last Week: 1-1
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