Jobu’s Playoff Picks are back for the last time, as he tells you who he thinks will win Super Bowl XLVI this Sunday!
I’ve put this off for as long as I can, and now it’s time for me to step up to the plate and pick my 2011/2012 Super Bowl Champion.In previous weeks, you’ve seen me shamelessly pick the Giants to win every time, without any regard for opponent, completely based on my own homerism. You’ve also seen me be right every time (at least with the Giants). Will things be different for this Super Bowl? Will I cast aside my personal feelings and make a legitimately unbiased pick? Yes I will, but the results won’t be any different.
The New England Patriots
Let’s start with the Patriots. Shortly after the Patriots escaped the the Ravens in the AFC Championship, I read a statistic that completely shocked me. That was the first time all season that the Pats had beaten an opponent who finished the season above .500. Granted, they played teams who were above .500 at the time of the matchup (Chargers 1-0, Raiders 2-1, Jets 5-3, Broncos 8-5), but all of those teams finished 8-8. In fact, the Patriots have played 15 of their 18 games this season (including the playoffs) against teams that finished .500 or worse. I think any team playing 83.3% of their games against teams that finished at or below .500 should definitely have one of the better records in the NFL, which the Patriots do. The only teams that the Patriots faced this season who had a better than .500 record were the Giants, the Steelers and the Ravens. They are 1-2 in those games, and could arguably be 0-3.
That being said, the Patriots have won ten games in a row. No matter who you’re playing, that’s impressive. In fact, they haven’t lost since week 9, when they lost to the Giants. None of this will matter come Super Bowl Sunday. I’m not basing my prediction on who beat who during the regular season, who had the much easier schedule, or who has the quarterback who most resembles Justin Bieber… None of that matters.
For the Patriots, it all starts with the man behind center, Tom Brady. Although Eli has seemingly closed the gap a bit this season, Brady is the better and more established QB. He’s Tom frickin’ Brady! He threw for 5,2XX yards this season (2nd most all-time), and he’s got hair that flows like the Colorado River. Although Brady played pretty terribly against the Ravens (0 TDs, 2 INTs), he’s still Tom Brady. If he’s clicking, the Giants are in trouble. As the famous quote goes… “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.”
Brady is not a one man show on offense though. He has a lot of weapons at his disposal, including Rob Gronkowski (who broke all the TE records this year), Aaron Hernandez, Old Man Branch and Wes Welker, any of whom is capable of getting open and doing some damage if the Giants secondary relaxes even just a little bit. They also have a pretty solid running back in Benjarvus Green-Ellis, who always seems to find the end zone somehow in big games.
The big question for this offense right now is whether or not Gronkowski will be able to suit up and play. “Gronk,” as he is so affectionately known by the Patriots faithful, suffered a pretty nasty looking ankle injury against the Ravens and has been seen walking around in a boot ever since. My gut says he will play, but if he’s not at 100%, that would be a great relief to the Giants (and any other defense for that matter), because we all saw what Vernon Davis did in the NFC Championship game.
Everyone will tell you that the Achilles heel of this team is the defense, especially the pass coverage. The Pats finished 31st in the league in overall defense (a veritable sin for a Belichick-led team). That being said, this defense has definitely been playing much better in the last five weeks or so, although two of those games were against Tim Tebow, and the rest against the Bills, the Dolphins and the Ravens (not exactly juggernaut offenses). That being said, those types of games help a defense gel together and gain confidence, so I expect the Patriots to play some decent defense come Sunday. However, Belichick’s defense will have to prove that they can defend against an elite passing attack, which the Giants definitely boast.
Overall, the Pats are playing very well. They haven’t lost in almost three months, they have Tom Brady at the helm, and they didn’t come to Indianapolis to lose.
The New York Football Giants
The New York Giants. The New York Football Giants. In the Superbowl! OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business. If you’ve been reading my playoff picks all along, you’ve heard this before. Eli Manning is playing the best football of his life, and he’s peaking at the perfect time. While the 49ers contained him in the NFC Championship game, lesser defensive squads have looked almost powerless against this Giants offense since things started clicking in week fifteen against the Cowboys.
Since I was so critical of the Patriots seemingly easy road through the regular season and playoffs, let’s examine the Giants schedule this year. I can say that the Giants definitely had a rougher schedule than the Patriots did, which is kind of surprising when you consider they haven’t made the playoffs in two years (have mercy, NFL!). Including the Patriots, the Giants have payed seven games against opponents who finished the season better than .500, including twice against the #2 seed 49ers, once against the number 1 seeded Packers, soon to be 2 against the Patriots, one against the Falcons and throw in one in New Orleans against the Saints. That’s seven games against some of the best teams in the league. Although they struggled a bit against these teams in the regular season (only beating the Patriots), they have turned that around with their last three playoff wins.
All that being said, we’re still talking about a Giants team that lost to the Seahawks, Eagles and twice to the Redskins. I will point out that most of those losses were during times when the Giants weren’t at their healthiest, but come on… twice to the Redskins? Even I can’t gloss over that one.
The last five weeks, the Giants have caught fire because of a few reasons. You can trace a lot of it to the two lines. Their patchwork offensive line has finally begun playing well as a unit. This is key because the running game has been a lot better during this stretch. This not only takes a little pressure off of Eli Manning to move the offense, but it has opened up play action passes, which Eli has always been very good at. Eli obviously also benefits from having more time in the pocket, where he has looked more comfortable than ever this season.
The defensive line is, without a doubt, the key to the Giants defense. They might even be the key to the Giants successful turnaround from a .500 team in week 15 to the NFC’s representatives in the Super Bowl. It’s no coincidence that this team started rolling again when Osi Umenyora, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka all got healthy. This took a lot of pressure off guys like break-out star Jason Pierre-Paul and Chris Canty and put it back where it should be, on terrified opposing quarterbacks. The constant pressure from the Giants D-line (sometimes they line up with four defensive ends) has made it much easier for their weaker defensive backs to cover opposing receivers.
The Giants used relentless pressure to knock Tom Brady off his game in Super Bowl XLII, and it’s no secret they’ll be trying to do the same thing come Sunday. If they can successfully harass Brady and the Patriots offense, and the Patriots defense succumbs to the Giants passing game, it could get ugly in Indianapolis.
Ok For Realsies Now… Who’s Gonna Win?
Listen people, if you don’t know who I’m picking to win, you clearly haven’t been paying attention. The Patriots haven’t lost in three months, but they haven’t played against an arial attack like the Giants possess. The Giants have been knocking down and beating some of the better quarterbacks in the league over the last four weeks (except Alex Smith), and Osi and the boys will be looking to add Tom Brady as the next notch on a playoff belt that already includes Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers (sorry Alex Smith).
Let’s not get the wrong idea. I am not proposing that the Giants will simply roll over the Patriots. That rarely happens in the Super Bowl. The fact is you have the two hottest teams in the league playing each other. The players are all very confident on both sides and, when you add the Boston/New York rivalry to the mix, and the fact that those Patriots that were on the team in 2008 probably want a heaping helping of revenge, and you have for an interesting matchup. I predict a close game that will come down to the last couple of minutes… and that’s Eli time. Giants win.
Brady image courtesy of: REUTERS/Jim Young
Underwood image courtesy of: AP Photo/Eric Gay
Pierre-Paul image courtesy of: Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com
Cruz image courtesy of: Andrew Mills/US PRESSWIRE
Trophy image courtesy of: http://www.espn.com
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