I picked the Giants to beat the Cowboys and I was one of the few who picked them to beat the Packers. But now they’re facing the varsity, a team playing for its place in sports history. Here’s a breakdown:
Coaches: Bill Belichick may well be some sort of insane genius. Tom Coughlin is mean to his players. In football, insane always wins.
Last meeting: The Giants have been playing with tremendous confidence since losing 38-35 to the Patriots on Dec. 29. But while the score was close, it was deceiving. The Giants scored a meaningless touchdown with 68 seconds left. They also scored on a kickoff return by Domenik Hixon in the second quarter. The return came after the Patriots were penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration after a touchdown. It was a fluke score. The Patriots also played the game without the entire right side of their offensive line yet Tom Brady was sacked only once.
The quarterbacks: Tom Brady is the Joe Montana of his day. Says the right thing, does the right thing on the field. Never panics. The idea that the Giants can rattle Brady is ridiculous. Eli Manning was Carl Pavano earlier this season, everybody wanted him out. Now he’s Mr. Wonderful. But remember this: After the Giants went up 28-16 against the Patriots back in December, Manning was 4 for 7 in the next three series with an interception. He also fumbled and was sacked. By the time he got going again, the Giants were down 38-28. He is better, but he can still be had.
Key matchup: Patriots C Dan Koppen vs. Giants DT Justin Tuck. Brady likes to step up in the pocket to escape pressure. The versatile Tuck figures to line up over Koppen to try and collapse the pocket. He’s probably more of a concern to the Patriots than Michael Strahan or Osi Umenyiora.
How the Patriots can lose: The Giants control the ball with their backs, Laurence Maroney fumbles in a key spot and they miss the winning field goal because Adam Vinatieri is watching on television.
Intangibles: The Giants have handled the lead up to the game like high school kids. They predicted scores, they all dressed in black for some silly reason and they did every television show possible. The Patriots are professional hit men. Cool, calculating, ruthless. Given the salary cap, weighted scheduling and free agency of the NFL, going 19-0 would be one of the greatest accomplishments in sports history. You can’t screw that up.
Final score: This Super Bowl reminds me of the 2000 World Series. The Patriots are the Yankees. They’re a powerful, seemingly flawless team facing a scrappy bunch of underdogs. This is the game to cement their dynasty. Like the Mets, the Giants have done well to get as far as they did. Patriots 42, Giants 21.