Okay, after completely blowing it (albeit by just a total of six points!) in the conference championships two weeks ago, you might think your Fearless Forecaster won’t go on the record with his prediction for the Super Bowl.
Well, you’d be wrong. Fearless as always (though some might say feckless), I am going with…
The New York football Giants. (As is Washington Post columnist Tracee Hamilton, which usually portends doom…but press on I must.)
I’m from the old school, which usually says “Defense wins championships” — but not that old school, as in “Three yards and a cloud of dust” (even though I DO admire the work of one Wayne Woodrow Hayes). Which means I believe that the Giants’ defensive unit will be able to contain the Patriots’ offensive unit, while the Giants’ offense puts up just enough points to get the job done.
In taking a look at the numbers, the Giants were just 29th in the league in pass defense, but I believe this is misleading. The Giants’ defense was fourth in the league in sacks, and they are keeping up the defensive pressure in the postseason; meanwhile, the Patriots were tied for ninth (with Philadelphia) in the league in sacks allowed, and 12th in quarterback hits allowed (just one spot ahead of the Giants). Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will be a name to watch out for; he collected 16.5 sacks in the regular season, good enough for fourth in the NFL. Linemate Osi Umenyiora added nine sacks, tied for 21st in the league.
In the defensive backfield, the G-men will count on cornerback Corey Webster to lead the way in keeping the Pats’ top receivers quiet; Webster tied for fourth in the league with three other players, with six INTs, none however for touchdowns. Webster was also a top-ten entry in passes defensed. The Giants’ other corner man, Aaron Ross, added 16 passes defensed and 4 interceptions.
Of course, we all know about the Patriots’ vaunted, high-flying aerial attack, featuring receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch, and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. This is a unit who was second overall in the league in passing offense; however, both Gronkowski (high ankle sprain) and Welker (shoulder) have been dealing with injuries, and both are listed as questionable for the game.
The key for the Giants will be whether or not they can get some ground support for their own passing game. The Giants were dead last in the league in rushing yards per game, and will need a big contribution from either Ahmad Bradshaw, who did not practice Friday but is listed as probable in the team’s injury report; or Brandon Jacobs. If not, the Giants will really be putting all their eggs in Eli Manning’s hands, no longer just “Peyton’s little brother”; the G-men’s passing game was fifth in the league overall in passing yardage.
Last but not least, I dislike the Patriots much more than I dislike the Giants, even though the Giants are in the same division as my woefully underachieving Washington Redskins. Defense will win the day, and the Giants’ defense overall is better than the Pats’ defense; even though the Patriots are slightly better on offense, I believe the Giants will win a thriller.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a pot of chili to brew up…