There are two sides to every argument, and I’ve decided I’m going to be in both. This part of the Super Bowl XLVI preview will explore the reasons why the New England Patriots will best the New York Giants this Sunday and capture their 4th Super Bowl. After that, I’ll flip the switch and talk about how the Giants will once again best New England for a 3rd consecutive game.
1.) No one puts Brady in a corner. There is something about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick that makes them almost impossible to beat twice in a season. Since Brady became the full-time Patriots starter, only the 2005 Broncos, 2006 Colts, and the 2010 Jets have beaten New England twice in a single season (inc. playoffs). New England has won every other “revenge game” — 10 to be exact — with Brady posting a 100.8 QB rating on average. I guess you could say New England is very bent on correcting mistakes from past defeats and their adjustments almost always come through.
2.) Tight End Usage. Hurt or not hurt, Rob Gronkowski will play in the Super Bowl. He’s arguably the best tight-end in football and I believe New England will attempt to neutralize New York’s front-four through TE screens and quick passes. Aaron Hernandez has even played at the fullback position to improve their fairly weak running game. In their regular season meeting, Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for 12 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The Giants aren’t necessarily vulnerable defending the TE, in fact they’re 12th against TEs according to Football Outsiders, but last week their defensive resistance was broken twice by Vernon Davis, whose two catches both resulted in long touchdowns. Hernandez and Gronkowski are both running threats in the open field and possess great strength, routinely shrugging off tacklers like they’re minor annoyances. I don’t expect New York to stop them this time.
3.) Turnovers. The reason the Giants were able to beat the Patriots in the regular season was through four Patriot turnovers, not necessarily through QB pressure. In both the Giants and Bills losses, New England turned it over 4 times. Their defeat against Pittsburgh is the only game where you could definitively say pressure on Tom Brady stifled the Pats’ offense. The Steelers recorded 3 sacks and 4 QB hits and held New England’s passing attack to under 200 yards and just 17 pts in total. New England thrives off of being a relatively mistake-free football team, committing just 17 turnovers in the regular season, good for fewest in the AFC and 3rd fewest in the NFL. And as much as their 31st ranked defense is rightly criticized, they forced 34 turnovers including 23 interceptions. Not bad for a secondary occasionally featuring WR Julian Edelman, is it? Kyle Arrington leads the team with 7 interceptions and is their best DB by far. Their season was saved when practice squad player Sterling Moore swatted a touchdown away form Baltimore’s Lee Evans.
Now, for whatever reason they’ve lost the turnover battle in both playoff games (NE 5 Opp 2) but they still came out victorious. Given how much of the Giants’ success has come off of forcing turnovers I think New England will go back to playing efficient football and minimizing game-changing turnovers and capitalizing on any errors from the Giants.
4.) Beating the Giants is indirectly beating the Colts. This is a stupid stupid argument, but I’m sure winning the Super Bowl in the stadium of their biggest rivals would be so enjoyable. Tom Brady would indirectly defeat both Manning brothers by beating Eli in the actual game and pulling further away from Peyton in the Super Bowl rings count. You have to think New England is on a determined mission to not only hush the whole “Eli Manning is an elite QB” talk, but to avenge their Super Bowl XLII defeat to New York and cement their status as the best team in the NFL over the last decade. In fact, today is the 10th anniversary of Adam Vinatieri’s legendary game-winning field goal to upset the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger, so this could be one of their final chances at a deep Super Bowl run.
Convinced that the Patriots will win on Sunday? Well tomorrow I’m going to make like Benedict Arnold and switch sides and tell you why it’s the Giants who will be hosting the Lombardi Trophy.