This game means more than that trophy. (Photo credit: patriots.com)
Our loyal readers may have noticed that all this week this blog has been dedicated to why the Giants are going to win the Super Bowl this Sunday and to slamming the Patriots left and right with exclusively anti-New England trash talk. These readers may have been thinking; Where is that guy that writes about the Patriots? Why is he taking this lying down? Has this just become a blog about New York sports?
There is a perfectly good explanation for why the Patriots boasting and trash talking has been mute from this site. As much as it pains me to say the New England Patriots do not have anything to stand when it comes to verbal volleys with the Giants and their fans. In the last two games these teams have met the Giants have won including the excruciating loss in Super Bowl 42. It doesn’t matter if the Patriots won three rings earlier in the decade or that they have the better record this season. The Giants have the wins and the Patriots don’t. If the Patriots were playing the 49ers or the Packers or any other team I’d have no problem spouting out profanity laced insults against the the other team and claiming the game for New England. But not in this one. It sucks but that’s how it is. No matter how many jabs any New England fan takes at Eli, Coughlin or any other member of Big Blue it doesn’t mean anything unless the Patriots win on Sunday.
Make no mistake this could quite possibly be the biggest sporting even in Boston sports since the Red Sox took the World Series in 2004. (Okay not exactly the longest stretch ever but you get my point). There is so much hanging in the balance in this game. Eradicating the ghosts of the 18-1 debacle is the first part. (Granted this game will not make up for that Super Bowl loss but it will certainly make it less painful to remember). Then there is the legacy of Tom Brady. Brady is a lock for Canton and will go down as one of the top five QBs of all time regardless of the outcome. However Brady has not played well in the playoffs (except for the evisceration
It's all on Brady in this one. (Photo Credit: patriots.com)
against that JV squad from Denver) since that Super Bowl I’m tired of mentioning. A loss here won’t destroy his reputation by any means but it won’t help it either. On the other side if Brady wins he becomes only the third quarterback in NFL history to win four Super Bowls and essentially takes the mantle as best quarterback in the last decade, if not all-time. Then there is the legacy for coach Bill Belichick, who is already hands down the best coach of the last decade. However a win here brings the Hooded One into the discussion of the all-time great coaches, not just in football but in American sports history. Auerbach, Wooden, Jackson, Lombardi, Connie Mack, Casey Stengel, La Russa you know those kind of names.
With all that said it has been a week of hell for me. I have tried as best I could to avoid all coverage of this game because ever ytime I think about it I get that heart in my throat feeling that should be reserved for a game ending drive or the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the World Series. I didn’t want to hear about predictions or stats that favor one team or another or what matchups are most important. I just wanted to ignore the game until 6:29 p.m. Sunday.
A major reason for this is, as much as it shames me to say this, I don’t have any confidence entering this game. I said similar things against Denver but I hand more of an inkling of dread in that one that went away in the first quarter. Not in this one. The Patriots are 13-3 this season but didn’t beat any team over .500 until scraping by the Ravens in the AFC Championship game in which Brady played horrendously. The defense has looked better but is still allowing too many yards and that was against Tim Tebow and Joe Flacco not Eli and the three headed receiving monster in New York. On top of that the Patriots already lost to the Giants this season, at home, when New York was not riding the momentum of three straight playoff wins. Now they’ll be playing the G-Men in a stadium that according to most reports will be filled with Giants fans and venomous Colts fans who hate New England. That doesn’t exactly spell favorable circumstances. So its not a matter of why the Patriots will win its what do they need to do to win.
This is paramount. Jason Pierre-Paul called out Brady this week for being affected by pressure that wasn’t there in the regular season matchup this season. The Patriots have a stellar offensive line and its needs to keep the suddenly hot Giants pass rush at bay because, and correct me if I’m wrong, the last time these teams met in the Super Bowl the defensive line ran wild and kept the then perfect Patriots offense to just 14 points.
Gronkowski has to be healthy
A few Gronk spikes this weekend would be nice. (Photo credit: patriots.com)
I realize this isn’t something that can be controlled but Gronk has got to play, or at least be on the field. The Patriots offense is significantly worse if Gronk doesn’t play. He is so vital in the passing game and the running game. He is dangerous in the red zone and with the Giants not exactly stacked at linebackers will be able to get open to help ease the pressure on Brady. Yo Soy Fiesta? Si but yo quiero healthy ankle. (My spanish is a little rusty).
The defense has to force some turnovers
The Patriots defense has been better recently and that’s encouraging but it is still built on a bend don’t break philosophy and without creating some mishaps by the Giants there may be a lot more break than bend. Whether it’s a fumble or an interception at some point the Patriots will need to force the Giants to make a mistake.
Wilfork must continue to plug up the middle and the D-line has to get pressure
This includes wrapping up players at the line of scrimmage and giving no extra yards. The Patriots really need to make the Giants one dimensional by taking away the already weak running game, and then must hobble that one dimension by getting after Eli. With the receivers the Giants have and the porous secondary of the Patriots if he has time they will get open.
The Patriots can’t settle for field goals
I’m not saying if its fourth and seven on the 28 that New England should be going for it but New England can’t win this game unless the offense is clicking and lighting up the scoreboard. The Patriots defense isn’t strong enough (or at least it hasn’t been yet) to hold three point leads.
All these things pale in comparison to the No. 1 one thing the Patriots need in this game.
Tom Brady has to kick the awfulness of the game against Baltimore. He has to come out and stand up in the pocket and make every throw. He has to hit every open receiver and make the definitive statement that Brees might have gotten the record, and Rodgers might be the MVP but I am the best quarterback in football. He must be the Tom Brady that throws five touchdown passes in a half and looks as if he is toying with the defense. Not whatever version we saw against Baltimore and last time against the Giants.
So now to the picks. I say picks because I am making two.
The impartial pick- Giants 28 Patriots 20.
The-I-Can’t-Pick-Against-My-Team-In-The-Super-Bowl-Because-I-Still-Somehow-Believe-Pick- Patriots 23 Giants 20.
May the Hooded One strike me down for my lack of faith but that is how I’m feeling.
By the way I’m watching this game in New Jersey with a room full of Giants, and Eagles fans still sore about the 2004 Super Bowl. Win or lose I may not be alive on Sunday.
Who’s winning the Super Bowl? Is my lack of faith disturbing? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.