As late as July 2011, the current NFL season was not going to happen. Due to last minute agreements and understandings, every regular season game was saved and fans were treated to an exciting year of football. And Ray Lewis was right —crime did stay down!
Teams like the Packers and Patriots performed as expected and had stellar seasons, while the “dream team” Eagles and renewed Jets sunk to the bottom, along with every prediction for Rex Ryan. On the flip side, a select few clawed back from the depths of irrelevance and became title contenders. Detroit? San Francisco? Denver? The reason I love football so much is that there is enough parity, allowing teams to turn themselves around relatively quickly.
And no turnaround story can compare with that of the New York Giants. After week 15, the Giants were holders of a mediocre 7-7 record, a clear disappointment after starting out 6-2, but then, something happened.
The defense stepped up and have not allowed more than 20 points per game during their current winning streak. The offense, led by Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, has been a difficult force to contain. The Giants steamrolled through Atlanta without letting the offense score any points, decisively defeating the rarely turnover-prone Packers at Lambeau Field, and passed the 49ers after an overtime field goal by Lawrence Tynes. Eli Manning now holds the record for most road victories ever during the playoffs with five victories. This team is good, and the Patriots should be concerned with stopping their potent offense.
The Patriots are one of the few in a select club that have been Super Bowl contenders for over a decade. Tom Brady already has three rings to his name and is returning for his fifth Super Bowl appearance under Bill Belichick. Having weapons like record-setting Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker will give the defensive unit of the Giants trouble throughout the entire game.
If the Patriots did not have one of the worst defenses in the league, the team could have had the chance to repeat their stellar and almost-undefeated 2007-2008 season. It’s fitting that their opponent is the same team that took the distinction of being the second NFL team ever to go undefeated in the modern era. And so we tackle the biggest aspect of the game – revenge. This is the chance for Brady and the Patriots to correct what “should have happened” in early 2008.
This is also the chance for Eli to cement his legacy and to show the world that he is ready to sidestep his older brother Peyton’s shadow and claim a stake as one of the great quarterbacks of this generation. And naturally, if the Giants win, the analysts will begin to ponder a few questions. Peyton or Eli? Do MVP awards or rings mean more? Is there some sort of exchange rate?
Now, on to my predictions. The Patriots are currently favored to win by three points, and the total points over/under is set at 55. Considering Belichick’s and Brady’s experience in Super Bowl games and the fact that at some point the red-hot Giants will have to cool off, I am picking the Patriots to defeat the Giants 27-17. And as for the first commercial after kickoff, look for an Anheuser-Busch branded product.
And through all of the news over the next two weeks, you may just be wanting the answer to one question: “What does this have to do with Tim Tebow?” Just kidding, but for a few refreshing weeks all we will hear about is how funny or awful the commercials were, the seemingly endless Manning/Brady comparisons, and which team has what it takes to win this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.