As a Jets fan, I’m in a no-win situation today. Our cross town rivals the Giants play the hated division rivals the Patriots. I’ll be rooting for the Giants naturally. I was their studio producer for a year or so at WOR so they hold a small place in my heart. My friend Bob Papa is their radio voice and one of my close friends Al Swingle finally received Super Bowl tickets after his family held season tickets with the Giants for more than 50 years in the Giants’ 4th trip to the big game. It’s about time for Big Al who inherited these tickets from his father, who smiles at him and his brother as they attend in Indy today.
But the question as always is who’s gonna win. I’ll take a shot at handicapping this game as best I can. Giving you a look at what I think the keys to just about any football game is.
1) Whoever Controls the Line Usually Wins:
When the Giants have the ball: They have a huge opportunity to expose a mismatch on the left side of the line. Will Beatty their left tackle and their Tight End Jake Ballard could give Eli Manning long periods of time to throw–but more importantly, they’ll give Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs huge holes on the left side to run all afternoon and control the offensive line of scrimmage and the time of possession. I’d look for Jacobs, especially to break at least 3 big runs and if he does New England will have to answer offensively. Look for some quick passes on that same left side to also be in the mix early to Jake Ballard and Victor Cruz. Beware of Hakeem Nicks on the other side of the field as he could catch them napping. Quick passes to them over the middle on the slant will be key as well as a ball control offensive running game. Do that and the Giants can win, perhaps even dominate. Big Edge: Giants.
1b) When the Patriots have the ball: The Giants were able to stop big hulking TE Rob Gronkowski and I think they can do that again. The key this time will be stopping Wes Welker and perhaps Deion Branch and even Chad Ochocinco could play a huge role in this game as they have something to prove in perhaps their last chance at a final championship. The Giants secondary is suspect at times–so if the linebackers spend most of their time paying attention to Gronkowski and Hernandez the two big TEs, the secondary has to contain the receivers on the outside. I’d give up the middle to the receivers slightly–forcing Brady into a slant option for the receivers and hoping Wes Welker won’t cause too much damage. If the Patriots win it’ll be because the Giants couldn’t cover their receivers on the sidelines, not over the middle. This also means that Tom Brady will need time to pass and RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis who could make a big difference with a big game will need to pound the line of scrimmage early to set an early ball controlling pace. I think Giants DT Chris Canty may have a big game both stopping Green-Ellis and putting a lot of pressure on Brady. If he can be a factor, he’ll cause turnovers and perhaps even grab the Giants an extra score. Edge: Patriots
2) Special Teams: Both kickers are clutch and awesome. Gostkowski for the Pats has been solid and Tynes was so clutch against the niners and has been for some time. I think neither will be chokers, but for the Giants the key for them might actually be making sure that Tynes doesn’t get to kick as many field goals, converting touchdowns in the red zone instead of the 3 points. Weirdly enough, the key to this game might be punting. If your defense can control the line throughout the game then consistently pinning the other team back in their end of the field could keep them red zone starved as long as a receiver doesn’t break free for a big score (Welker, Ochocinco). I think Steve Weatherford will have a great game on the turf and pin the Pats back deep consistently. Edge: Giants.
3) Turnovers: Obviously the team that makes the least mistakes usually wins. A step further: the team that makes the least critical mistakes will win. The Giants capitalize on those often and the Patriots often take a cool calm and collected approach–never getting too high nor too low. For the Giants to win, Brady will need to make a mistake or two. Control the line of scrimmage on defense and the Giants could force him to do that. I don’t see Manning beating himself in this one. If they can control the time of possession by playing typical Giants football, Manning will need not do anything spectacular to win. If the Pats win, it’ll be because the Green-Ellis ran all day long and/or Brady had enough time to find open receivers for big plays and they simply outshoot the Giants. Edge: Giants.
Coaching: Both Coaches are disciples of Bill Parcells. While Belichick is thought of as a football genius, Tom Coughlin has been his equal, if not better. I find Coughlin to be a more meticulous preparer for big games and given two weeks to prepare for his former colleague, Coughlin will have a few tricks up his sleeve that Belichick won’t be ready for. He’ll find the missing link.
Intangibles: I always find one player that nobody talks about all week long. While we’ve heard about the Patriots TEs all week long, Jake Ballard has gone relatively unnoticed at that position for the Giants. I’d expect Coughlin to not only control Belichick’s Tight ends and receivers but then to also beat his former colleague at his own game. I’ll predict an MVP game for TE Jake Ballard.
A score you ask: Low scoring: Giants 28, Patriots 20.