by Ryan Meehan
Super Bowl XLVI is upon us, and it’s a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, in which the Giants shocked the world by defeating New England 17-14. Some of the players that made that game so special are still on their respective teams, most notably the quarterbacks Eli Manning and Tom Brady. Others are missing, like future Hall of Fame Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and Patriots linebackers Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi, who will likely be joining him in Canton. But technically the term “rematch” will never be truly accurate when you think about it: No two teams will ever meet each other with the same exact players in the same exact condition even if they play in consecutive weeks. There’s a seemingly endless list of variables that would cause each game to be slightly different. So in my mind, I retract my previous statement that this is a rematch, and hereby deny the existence of the word entirely. Somebody had to stand up and do it.
In the past four years since these two franchises mistakenly bumped into each other in the Super Bowl, the game has arguably changed a bit. A significant amount of focus has been placed on protecting the quarterback, especially in the case of the more popular quarterbacks in the league. It’s quite probable we’re going to see some BS roughing the passer calls, which is sad because otherwise this one could have potential to be the one of the greatest games of all time. We can only hope this doesn’t happen. So let’s crack the egg open and find out what’s really inside this thing.
The game itself: The Patriots and the Giants are very much unlike each other which will present a lot of similarities between this game and SB XLII. The Pats can be an offensive machine when they have everything going their way, but struggled on defense during the regular season. They are still trying to fill the void left behind by players such as the ones mentioned above. The Giants have made some amazing offensive plays in the clutch throughout this season, and have a very strong defense when they aren’t lining up in the opposition’s backfield.
The Television Angle: The game will be shown on NBC Television at approximately 5:29 PM Central Time, 6:29 PM on the East Coast. Professional waterweight illusionist Kelly Clarkson will be performing the national anthem. (She should really look into boxing. Just saying…) Anyway, he game will be called by Al Michaels (a broadcasting legend who is no stranger to calling Super Bowls) and Cris Collinsworth. (a disgrace to all that is good in the world of broadcasting) Madonna will be this year’s halftime entertainment which should be interesting because she’s 53 years old. If I had to attempt to call her set, my guess would be that she’ll open up with “Vogue”, close with “Hung Up”, and will likely torture the living hell out of us with some of her new material in between.
The Commercials: You might see one or two good ones, but don’t expect this year’s to be an extravagant lineup. I’m guessing that they’ll be a few cute commercials involving animals speaking, dancing, or partying. From what I’m hearing Bud Light will be launching a new product called Bud Light Platinum that I’ve heard is not only delicious but also something that I won’t want anything to do with. I would imagine there’s going to be yet another Danica Patrick spot for that domain hosting site that won’t make any sense and will have every 13 and 14 year old male in the country leaving the room to actually log onto the website to see if there is any “unrated” content, and I’d also imagine that would be the moment where they begin to realize that this is a very cruel and sad world.
When New England has the Ball: The Patriots are going to be facing a tough defense again this week, a front that has established itself as one who isn’t going to take any shit from anyone. AS mentioned above, the Patriots will not have to worry about Michael Strahan. That’s the good news. The bad news is, when Strahan was playing in SB42, he was past his prime whereas his replacement Jason Pierre-Paul is in a very ripe, disturbing part of his career where his speed can become crippling at any point during the matchup. So Brady needs to use those tight ends to his best advantage to sort of wear that defense down. The Giants become a very mentally beaten team once they start falling victim to all of these three consecutive first down flanker routes. That’s where they get tired and where New England should have a close watch on how the Giants are exhausting themselves.
The main question remains to be seen: Will Rob Gronkowski be healthy? He’ll play, but if something is out of whack early the Giants’ trainers will know it at the same time the Pats trainers will and they’ll make sure to switch focus. The only problem is, that’s still where he can get you. If New England can combine the Giants third quarter weakness with their willingness to hang back on Gronk the Pats could explode out of halftime. It’s no secret New England doesn’t have much of a running game, so you can understand that there isn’t going to be a whole lot of balance to their approach. It’s very mysterious to me how they get away with keeping Brady under 45 pass attempts per game when they run so infrequently, but I think I’ve figured it out: Team Kraft doesn’t usually win the time of possession battle. Most of the passes Brady completes are just too short to be big plays – twelve to 20 yard strikes that move the chains. Therefore, they can get away with an ineffective running play right afterwards. So in the long run, his arm doesn’t get worn out as much as some of the other QBs in the league.
Now don’t get me wrong, they have done a hell of a job with that strategy, riding a 13-3 record all the way into a bye week into the playoffs and eventually into the Super Bowl. But they need to be on alert to make sure that they don’t turnover the ball, as that will likely be a focus of the Giants as they are just two weeks removed from the NFC Championship in which turnovers proved to be key. It wouldn’t shock me one bit if one of these big name tight ends who is usually reliable when it comes to hanging onto the ball gets stripped. (It might even be Wes Welker, he’s bound to come across some bad luck at some point. Well, I guess there was the injury, so maybe he isn’t as due as I originally thought…)
When New York has the Ball: Snap count is very important, I can’t stress that enough. I say that because I watched the Giants almost throw away about four games this year due to their inability to comprehend the snap count, and blow at least two or three more because they were never able to figure it out. When they do all understand when everyone is going to start blocking, then they decide IF everyone is going to start blocking, which is a whole different world in and of itself. I’m not worried about Eli Manning’s ability to hang back in the pocket and take a shot because the 49ers game proved that’s not really a concern.
Obviously the most reliable offensive weapon that the Giants have had this year has been wide out Victor Cruz. Even when he’s dropped easy passes, he hasn’t stumbled away sobbing and hoping we’ll all feel sorry for him. He’s gotten right back to the line of scrimmage and allowed himself to get open on the same series and once again prove his immediate effectiveness. Hakeem Nicks is great for those corner of the endzone “jump ball” passes, much similar to the game winner in XLII that made Plaxico Burress so famous the first time. As for the running game, my hope as a Giants fan is that Ahmad Bradshaw has a career day. Because when it comes down to putting up or shutting up, my money isn’t on Brandon Jacobs to do either of those things.
There’s a lot of talk about the weakness of the Patriots being their defensive squad – part of that is true and part of that isn’t. On my way to work today, I heard some stats about how the Pats have performed in the first three quarters all season. For the most part - the performances have been pretty impressive – They’ve held most opponents between 7 and 13 point in the first 45 minutes before they go into that awful prevent defense that never seems to work before the last play of any NFL game. Of course the fourth quarter is the most important and New England has definitely shown some vulnerability during that period, but this will be the biggest game of most of these players’ careers. In other words, what’s happened up until this point doesn’t mean anything.
How the Patriots can blow it: If Tom Brady looks anything like he did against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game, it’s very likely that this game could sway in the Giants’ direction very easily. Also if New York’s defense plays consistently all four quarters then it’s over, and I say that with confidence.
How the Giants can blow it: Unless the New York Giants can somehow convince the NFL into removing the third quarter, that fifteen minute period could cause a struggle when it comes to putting points on the board. Truth be told, there are hundreds of ways the Giants can blow this game: Name just about anything and I can get a visual.
Why the Patriots will win: The Patriots will win for three reasons: 1) They are really the best team in the NFL all regular season stats set aside. 2) Their owner’s wife passed away, so it’s been a very emotional season for everyone close to the organization 3) Whether or not he admits it, this is a career game for Brady: He has the chance to tie Joe Montana for number of all time Super Bowl Wins (OK, and Bradshaw too but that Rams SB in 1980 shouldn’t even count. And for the record, Bradshaw’s performance in that game is eerily similar to Ben Rothlisberger’s performance in SBXL against the Seahawks.) Brady will literally have the chance to tie these two legends in Indianapolis with one of the end zones painted in Patriots colors. In other words, there’s just too many reasons for them not to win.
Why the Giants will Lose: The combination of having an assortment of penalties and the lack of ability to convert on third down are going to be very obvious early on. It will then become “How many third downs?” and “what types of penalties?”. They will have some very good drives and some impressive play out of their wide receivers. But in the end the little things (See “Brandon Jacobs never performing up to par with all of the junk that comes out of his mouth”) will end up putting this game just out of reach for New York.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Giants 23
I’m saying Tom Brady gets one three and a half minute drill at the end of this game, and even though it isn’t pretty, it’s enough for them to win it all.
Hopefully you will reap the benefits of one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever. At very least, hopefully you’ll get to hang out with friends and family, which is really what all of this should be about. I was very disappointed when I saw a lot of Packers fans in this area getting so mad that they were almost impossible to deal with in a workplace environment. Of course, I understand that my team won, so I didn’t have to feel the same feeling of loss, but it’s still just a goddamned football game. Don’t get me wrong, if the Giants have a chance to win and blow it…I’ll be pissed. But it’s still just a game.
And once again, please drink responsibly and always use a designated driver.
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