By Cameron Blair
This is it. This has to be one of the easiest weeks of the year for a sports columnist.
Super Bowl Weekend is here.
I believe statistics show that something like 99.934 percent of sports columnist use this week to write about the Super Bowl in one way or another.
And you know what?
I am proud to be in the majority for a couple reasons.
First, I’m not good enough at what I do yet to stray too far from the norm.
Writing about something other than the Super Bowl this week as an inexperienced columnist would be like a band experimenting too much with their sound and alienating their fans.
See: U2’s 1997 album Pop.
There’s my first obscure reference that 12 people may understand.
Second reason, I freakin’ love the Super Bowl so I’m going to write about it.
There, I said it. I don’t care to be selfish every now and then.
Super Bowl Sunday is the only day of the year I can eat nachos (with cheese, chili and/or guacamole dip), chicken wings, pizza and wash it all down with beer without being seen as some Homer Simpson-esque glutton.
With this column, I will also make my first major sports prediction in print so I put quite a bit of work into my research methods. This means I spent an inordinate amount of time on nfl.com looking at stats and news on the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.
Here is my breakdown of each of the facets of the game followed by my prediction for the winner of Super Bowl 42 (I have an aversion to Roman Numerals).
The 2007 New England Patriots set records for most yards in a season, most points scored by a team in a season, most touchdown passes thrown by a quarterback in a season, most touchdown receptions by a wide receiver in a season and the most records set in a single season by one team (I made the last one up).
Regardless, this Patriots offense is a juggernaut akin to the monster in Cloverfield. New England’s passing game should be able to move the ball well against the Giants’ suspect secondary.
The Patriots’ Wes Welker will have another big game if the Giants decide to focus their attention on Randy Moss.
New England’s running game has also stepped up when it had to in the playoffs. Running back Laurence Maroney gashed the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Championship game with 122 yards on the ground.
New England’s offensive line is perhaps the best in the league as well. If they can (and I think they will) give Brady enough time in the pocket, he will be able to find holes in the Giants’ defense.
While the Giants have been very efficient on offense in the playoffs (New York has a +5 turnover differential in the postseason), their solid attack cannot match up to New England’s offense.
Advantage: New England
One of the Patriots’ most glaring weaknesses is the inability of their linebackers to cover passes over the middle.
The tandem of Teddy Bruschi and Junior Seau are a few years away from getting discounts on McDonalds’ coffee while Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel are primarily pass rushers.
The Giants, on the other hand, have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora combined for 22 sacks and New York led the league in sacks with 53.
While the talent level in the Giants secondary does not match the level of the New England wide receivers, New York’s cornerbacks have been playing better in the playoffs. Corey Webster and R.W. McQuarters have combined for five interceptions thus far in the postseason.
Advantage: New York
There you have it. One team has a superior offense while the other has the edge on the defensive side of the ball.
So what’s going to happen come Sunday in Arizona?
For the Giants to have a chance of winning, they must get pressure on Tom Brady with their defensive line. If New York is forced to blitz, Brady and his exceptionally talented receivers will have a field day with the one-on-one match-ups blitzing creates.
Will they do it?
I don’t think so.
New England’s offensive line is extremely well-coached and has few breakdowns. In 18 games, the Patriots’ offensive line has allowed only 22 sacks.
Also, the Giants’ Strahan and Umenyiora have totaled only one sack in the playoffs.
However, the Giants’ Eli Manning has been solid if not spectacular in the playoffs and should continue his strong play against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. New York will keep the game close (they will easily cover the spread, which has been hovering in the 12-14 point range).
Prediction: The Giants will give the Pats all they can handle as they did in week 17 when they lost by three to New England, but the Patriots will find a way to win for the 19th consecutive time.
Final Score: New England 24 New York 20
P.S. I’m an idiot and I’ve been known to be wrong a time or two so don’t be surprised if the Giants pull off the upset.