OPINION: Sam's Say on Sports

Super Bowl XLVI preview

By Sam Shain | Feb 01, 2012

I don’t remember a more evenly matched Super Bowl in my lifetime as a football fan.

When I was a little shaver in the 90s it seemed like every game was a blowout. It seemed like the only thing I could count on was a lopsided score and my dad's famous hotwings. Finally, the new millennium brought some decent contests. This particular game seems like one of the most anticipated and even matched games in recent memory.

As I write this on Monday, the Patriots are a three-point favorite. That hasn’t stopped many writers and analysts from picking the Giants though.

That G-Men defense is peaking at the right time. Eli Manning has cemented himself as a top five quarterback in the NFL, in my humble opinion, and Coach Tom Coughlin has proven he can get a team motivated.

The thing is, the Patriots defense is peaking at the right time as well. I really don’t anticipate Tom Brady playing another bad game, and Bill Belichick is a mastermind.

The teams did square off in week 9. Manning displayed late game heroics after both teams shut each other out in the first half.

These teams are changed ball clubs since then, the Pats in particular.

The defense has gotten better. Players like Brandon Spikes and Patrick Chung, who were hurt late in the game in week 9, will be healthy this Sunday. Everyone has spoken poorly of this defense because they give up so many yards, second worst in the NFL. However, they do know how to get take-a-ways. As a matter of fact, they were third in the league in forcing turnovers. Also, they give up fewer points than the Giants.

If the Patriots defense wants to win this game, they are going to need to pressure Manning. If he has time to run around and allow receivers like Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz to make plays, they are going to get torched and lose the game, bottom line. The front seven need to get in there and rush Manning to win, the Giants run game alone won’t be able to carry them.

Another important aspect to consider: the Patriots just won a defensive battle against the Ravens. Brady was terrible, throwing two picks and contributing little offensively. This speaks volumes for their defense, and gave them confidence as well, I would imagine. That type of game may have been one of the best things that could have happened to them.

It can be argued that the Pats have a better and more versatile run attack as well. They don’t have names like Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, but their overall run unit is more solid. Although known for his receiving prowess this season, Rob Gronkowski contributes immensely to the run game, as do guards Logan Mankins and Brian Waters.

Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are the most talented tight ends in the league. Hernandez darts around like a running back and Gronkowski is a man among boys. We will see how his ankle holds up on Sunday.

Another variable to keep in mind is the Patriots did not utilize their notorious no-huddle offense in the regular season bout with the Giants. It would only make sense for the Pats not to allow the Giants to make substitutions, wearing them down considerably as the game wears on. Look for the no-huddle to be a huge factor.

And then of course, there is the Brady and Belichick combination. They have been to five Super Bowls together now, the most among any player and coach. As their time together inevitably will dwindle down as Brady turns 35 and Belichick turns 60, I can’t help but think they will rise to the occasion.

Plus, it is always tough to beat a good team twice. The Patriots know that old adage all too well. Remember when they scraped out a week 17 win against the New York Giants a few weeks before the Super Bowl in 2007?

As I said in my previous column, I get torn emotionally when these teams play, deciding who to root for. This time, I can’t figure out who will win. Despite the points I have made in favor of the Patriots, the Giants are red hot right now. It is eerily reminiscent of their Super Bowl winning season years ago, a mediocre regular season and a dazzling playoff. The pieces could fall into place for either team on Sunday.

Whatever the outcome, I foresee this game being a close battle from beginning to end, much like their first meeting. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this game comes down to late drive heroics.

 

My final pick- Patriots 30 Giants 28.

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