Here it is America. Millions of people will be watching as the two surviving teams, quarterbacks, and head coaches clash for a shot at immortality. Sounds dramatic, right?
A co-worker of mine at Panini pointed out a very significant point that made me lead with that corny line: this is a legacy game. Imagine the boosts each side would get with another ring? Eli Manning would (I can’t believe I’m saying this…it hurts) a legit argument for Hall of Fame enshrinement with two Lombardi trophies. Tom Coughlin will probably retire if the Giants win, just a hunch but what else would he have to prove after a lifetime in the game? For New England, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would both move up a few notches on the GOAT list while another Patriots ring could put the team in the same phrase as the 70s Steelers, 80s Steelers, heck, even Lombardi’s Packers would arguably fall on the all-time dynasty list. Four Super Bowl rings and five appearances in a span of 11 seasons are more than unheard of in the Free Agency era. I’d be surprised if it happened again in the next 50 years.
That being said, I’m not a fan of either team. No, let me rephrase that. I despise the Patriots, strongly dislike the Giants and would cry with sadness if Eli had more rings than his more talented brother. However, as a wanna-be-journalist, I have to try and be neutral. Here is a detailed breakdown of both teams with a difficult prediction at the end of the rainbow.
New York Giants vs. New England Patriots (-2.5)
When the Giants pass…
Eli Manning is posting some unheralded numbers in this postseason, passing for 923 yards and eight TDs to just one pick, a 103.1 QB Rating. All of this has been done despite the fact that his offensive line has been nothing less than a train wreck, allowing 52 pressures in the postseason, just over 39% of all drop backs according to Pro Football Focus. The Patriots’ pass rush has improved in the postseason from 10.25 pressures per game to about 12.3, but that doesn’t mean nearly as much when you consider that Manning was among the league’s best when under pressure this season, leading the NFL with a 69.4 true completion percentage (minus throwaways, spikes etc.). Take into account the idea that either James Ihenacho or Julian Edelman will probably cover Victor Cruz in the slot and I have to give a sizable advantage to the G-Men.
…the Giants have the advantage.
When the Patriot’s pass…
Tom Brady has been protected like a Ming Dynasty vase covered in bubble wrap this postseason, facing pressure only 13 times and getting sacked once. His excellence has been overshadowed by Manning, but according to the QB ratings he is slightly ahead of the former Ole Miss standout. With that being said, the last time these two teams met Brady was sacked twice and pressured seven times. I don’t know how they will cover Wes Welker, probably with Antrel Rolle which could get scary. Also Gronkowski’s health is a concern. I give the Patriots an advantage here, but not as big as it would be with Gronk at 100%
…the Patriots have the advantage.
When the Giants run…
Big Blue’s run blocking hasn’t been as sad as their pass blocking, but it still ranks among the lower totals in the postseason, earning a -15.5 rating as compared to -25.1 against the pass according to Pro Football Focus. A combination of Bradshaw, Jacobs and Ware should be formidable against a solid run-stopping unit in New England, especially since they totaled 111 yards on the ground in their regular season matchup…with Ahmad Bradshaw sidelined with injury. Vince Wilfork and Gerard Warren have been the run-stuffing stars this postseason, but the linebackers and defensive backs haven’t done well once plays reach the second level. I see the Giants breaking off a couple of big runs combined with a number of three-yard-or-less trudges, giving New York a slight advantage.
…the Giants have the advantage
When the Patriots run…
Expect New England to use the run game as more of a changeup than an actual threat, since they frankly don’t have the personnel to dominate on the ground. All of their backs have certain roles that are rarely deviated from with none of them excelling too much. They have run best off-tackle in the postseason which could lead to some run-ins with the two best run-stoppers in the postseason for New York: Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck. One wild card is whether or not Aaron Hernandez carries the ball in this game, as he’s shown some explosiveness in earlier games. However, the Giants take this category hands down.
…the Giants have the advantage
To save myself a few words, I feel special teams is about even for both teams. Good kickers and punters, not great. Plus, there aren’t any glaring holes in kick coverage or explosive returners who could exploit the non-existent holes. The third factor shouldn’t be a big factor.
So, for the final selection. I feel that New York has a slight edge in this game, but let me emphasize that. SLIGHT. SLIGHT. SLIGHT. If I were a betting man, I’d pick the Giants to win in an offensive contest with Victor Cruz coming in as the MVP. If he has fewer than 100 yards receiving, I feel the Patriots will have a great shot.
Prediction: Giants win 34-31.