In advance of Super Bowl XLII, I put together my thoughts in a preview post and in the end, just couldn't bring myself to be a homer and pick the Giants. And who could blame me? The Pats had overcome absolutely everything that year. They looked pretty much invincible. Sure, looking back, there were signs that they were wearing down, but we kept thinking that all year and yet they had done what literally no team had yet done -- go 18-0. Then the Super Bowl happened, the Giants played a nearly perfect game, and the rest is history.
I look back at my recap the night the Giants won the Super Bowl in Feb 2008 and I am barely coherent, but that's understandable given my lifelong Giants fandom and the magnitude of that night.
This year, things are so much different. As much as the media loves to talk about the "rematch," it's definitely a different feel. The Patriots got to the Super Bowl after going 13-3 in the regular season (as opposed to 16-0) and having the 31st ranked defense in the league. They've also only beaten one team with a winning record at the time this year (the Ravens). Even their first playoff game was against the 8-8 Broncos, which was essentially a second consecutive bye.
Now, understand, I'm not suggesting the Pats don't deserve to be here -- they absolutely do. You can only play who is on your schedule and the Pats have won 11 straight games. The last loss? Back in November versus the New York Giants. So I'm not suggesting the Pats shouldn't be here -- all I would say is that their path has been beyond easy. Almost no resistance this year, plus a fairly easy path in the playoffs. They're not the juggernaut they were four years ago.
That said, they could easily still win.
I think the Gronk injury is huge for the Pats. The guy caught 17 TDs and is the one guy the Giants would have a real hard time covering. Even if he does play, he won't be himself, so that bodes well for New York. If Brady plays poorly, as he did against Baltimore, I would say that's the only way this game could be a blowout, and it would obviously be in the Giants favor.
However, I think Brady will be as focused as ever and that concerns me. Also, how many times can this Giants brain trust beat Belichick? They've already won a Super Bowl against them and won in Foxboro this season. Can they win a third time? Sure, but it doesn't sound easy, does it?
The Giants were 7-7 at one point and looked listless. I even said on Facebook that being swept by the Washington Redskins and losing at home to Seattle should automatically disqualify you from the playoffs. And then the Giants simply flipped the switch and remembered how to play. They are here because they have used the formula that teams use in all sports to win titles: Play well, don't give games away with turnovers or mental mistakes, and get fortunate bounces. Hey, I'm realistic -- to win a championship, you don't only need to be good, you need to get lucky, too. It's all part of the formula.
Here's what I think: If both teams play to their potential, the Giants should win. The NY defense is better than New England's and the NY offense is comparable to NE's. Brady can of course be the variable, because he's so good he can alter games and bend time and space all by himself. But I know many Pats fans who quietly admit the only team they really "worried" about was the Giants.
If either team's QB plays poorly or the team turns the ball over, that's the team that loses. But hey, that's common sense, right?
I think both these teams and both these guys (Brady and Eli) will be locked in. I don't think it's the shootout that it could be and some expect. But I do think it goes the Giants way.
Giants 27, Patriots 24