Archive for February, 2008

Super Bowl XLII Pick

February 2nd, 2008 Comments off

NY Giants (+12) vs. NY Giants, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

Here’s the deal: I’ve been straight out for the last two weeks. I’ve had a ton of time to think Super Bowl XLII, but next to none to write about it. And it’s looking like that’s not gonna change soon enough. So this I’m thinking let’s split the difference on this thing. I’ll pose some of the questions that have been rolling around in my head. You come up with your own answers.

Which offensive line do you trust most to protect their QB? And which QB you trust to perform well under heavy pressure? This game pits what are probably the two best pass rushing defensive fronts in football. Or at the very least, it features the two Ds that led the league in sacks during the regular season. The Giants recorded 53 sacks; the Pats made 47. But the Pats gave up only 21 sacks in the regular season while the Giants gave up 28. And wait, there’s this: Tom Brady attempted 578 passes in 2007. Eli Manning attempted 529. By my math, that means Brady was sacked roughly every 27.5 times he dropped back. Manning took a sack roughly every 18 times he attempted to pass. Oh, and there’s this, too: Brady was the most blitzed quarterback in football this season. Opponents sent extra pass rushers on 37 percent of Pats’ pass plays. And, finally, the Pats are sending three O linemen to the Pro Bowl this season. The entire left side of their line, plus their center. The Giants have … um, wait, I’ve gotta check … oh, right, it’s none. No Pro Bowlers protecting Manning. None. So go ahead and answer that first question. Now, as you consider the second, keep the first in mind, and add to it the fact that Brady’s passer rating on the season was 117.2 while Manning’s was 73.9. Brady completed 70 percent of his passes. Manning completed 56 percent of his. Brady threw eight interceptions vs. 50 touchdowns. Manning threw 20 picks to 23 TDs. And, hell, not only was Brady blitzed more than a third of the time, but every defense the Pats faced knew he was gonna be throwing the ball on most downs. So if there was doubt in your mind about that second question before, I hope there’s none left now.

Moving on (this one will be simpler, I promise) do you like the receiving corps that caught 403 passes for 4,859 yards and (here comes that number again) 50 touchdowns while losing four fumbles against the secondary that allowed 306 catches for 3,666 yards and 24 TDs, made 15 interceptions and recovered eight fumbles? Or do you like the receiving corps that caught 302 balls for 3,376 yards and 23 TDs while fumbling away 13 balls against the secondary that allowed 314 catches for 3,381 yards and 23 TDs, made 19 interceptions and recovered 10 fumbles? Easy, right?

OK, I’m gonna quit it with the matchup stuff and all the stats presently (because I’m running out of time), but just one more: Do you feel better about the team with the +16 giveaway/takeaway differential, or the team with the -9 giveaway/takeaway differential? Go ahead and take your pick.

Now a few that are maybe more subjective.

Do you think Laurence Maroney’s late-season surge was really all about defenses feeling like they had to shut down the pass? Or do you think there’s some possibility that it had something to do with the fact that the Pats installed new blocking schemes to suit Maroney’s style in the pre-season (Maroney is a slashing type runner, whereas the guy the Pats line had been run blocking for primarily over the previous three seasons was a straight-ahead runner) and maybe, when you’re talking about something as complicated as zone blocking, it takes even the best O linemen time to adjust? I don’t know the answer to that one, but I do know that Maroney didn’t really seem to change his approach much late in the season and he still started looking better and better. If you want to think it was just about defenses concentrating on the pass, that’s fine with me. And maybe you’re right. Or maybe it’s got to the point where you could even bring an extra guy up to the line and Maroney’s still gonna get some decent yardage. And if that’s the case, the big question becomes, how scary is that?

The long-term trend (like, for the last seven years or so) has been that the Patriots typically play better the second time they face a team in a given season. Do you think there’s a reason for that or is it pure happenstance? And if there’s a reason, do you think the trend is likely to reverse here in a big game on the big stage against an overmatched team?

Bill Belichick has shown an amazing knack for getting inside an opposing quarterback’s head. He figures out what a QB does best and what a QB likes to do most, then creates schemes that force the QB to play against his habits and his preferences, which creates mistakes. Do you think Eli Manning is somehow likely to prove immune to that particular talent?

And while we’re on the topic of mistakes, do you believe the Patriots need to play mistake-free football to beat the Giants? Do you believe the Giants need to play mistake-free football to beat the Patriots? OK, now which team do you believe is more likely to play mistake-free ball?

I’m running out of time. You ponder those questions (and whatever else you might come up with) and figure out how the game’s gonna go.

Just for the record, I’m thinking the Pats win 38-20.

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