In Pro Football on February 3, 2012 at 4:54 am

When I predicted the championship games two weeks ago I did pretty well. In the AFC game I picked the Patriots over the Ravens in a close one. It was a good game and the final result played out just like I thought it would. Little did I know that the Ravens would miss a chip shot to keep from tying it and sending the game to overtime. In the NFC game it was as close as I thought it would be and played out like I thought, except I picked the wrong team to win. In both cases I’m not sure that the two teams didn’t lose the games rather than the winning teams win the games. The Ravens and the 49ers both could’ve very well won those games and for the first time in some time Tom Brady looked human. Brady missed on several balls and threw rare interceptions. For the Giants, they hung close and the 49ers committed turnovers that cost them the game. However it happened we’re down to the New England Patriots versus the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, a repeat of Super Bowl XLII.

Let’s break it down. For New England to win they’ll have to do a couple things on offense that they haven’t done much this season The first thing is to run the ball to keep the Giants pass rush honest. Their leading rusher is Benjarvus Green-Ellis with 667 yards and 3.8 yards per carry average. His long run of the season is 18 yards. That won’t be good enough in this game. The Patriots may try to offset their lack of a running game with a screen pass game utilizing both Tight Ends, Rob Gronkowski, ( 90 catches – 1327 yards – 17 TD’s)  if he’s healthy enough to go, and Aaron Hernandez ( 79-910-7TD’s) and also use Wes Welker (122-1569-9TD’s) in this situation. The second thing the Patriots must do is stretch the field by throwing the ball deep. I think a surprise in this game could be Chad Ochocinco, only 15 catches on the season, or Deon Branch (51-702-5TD’s). This may be Ochos coming out party. Of course the most important thing is for the offensive line to keep Brady clean. If he has time to throw the ball he’s unstoppable and rarely makes mistakes. His 2011 stats are pretty amazing, 65.6% completions for 5235 yards and 39 TD’s with 12 INT’s and a 105.6 QB Rating. That’s a pretty good year!!! On defense the Patriots finished 15th in the league in points allowed and will have to play a closer game than that. They’ve only given up 10 and 20 points in the playoffs but Denver and Baltimore wouldn’t be considered offensive powerhouses. The other concern is the kicking game. Stephen Gostkowski has made 28 of 33 FG’s but he’s capable of missing from anywhere. He’s missed once from inside the 30, inside the 40 and twice from inside the 50. Gostkowski is a good kicker but I wouldn’t consider anything automatic.

For the Giants nothing really changes. The will attempt to play smash mouth football and run first with Ahmad Bradshaw (659-9TD’s) and Brandon Jacobs (571-7TD’s). A strong running game will keep Brady off the field and strengthen the Giants defense. They’ll try to minimize putting the entire game in Eli Manning’s hands. Manning has had his best season throwing for 4933 yards, 29TD’s, 16 INT’s while completing 61% of his passes. His top receivers have been Victor Cruz (82-1536-9TD’s) and Hakeem Nicks (76-1192-7TD’s). Both of these guys have had great seasons.  As always the Giants will rely on their defense and getting pressure on Brady. Although they finished 25th in the league in points allowed in the regular season they have stepped up their game in the playoffs. They have faced Atlanta, Green Bay and San Francisco, three good offensive teams, and have only given up 39 points.  They will need to be that good again to win this game. As we discussed with the Patriots kicking game the Giants can be as erratic. Lawrence Tynes has made only 19 of 24 FG attempts. Like with Gostkowski, nothing can be considered automatic.

As far as the coaches, both have been to and won the Super Bowl. Bill Belichick (175-97) is considered a coaching genius of his time and winning his 4th title in 5 visits would surely put him very close to the top of the list. Tom Coughlin (142-114) is a very interesting coach. About three quarters through every season Coughlin is being fired and his teams, when they get to the playoffs, step up their game and always play well. If Coughlin were able to win a 2nd Super Bowl and beat Belichick for a 2nd time his place in history will be set. I’m going with an even match as far as the coaches in this game.

It’s time for my fearless Super Bowl XLVI prediction. I’m going to take Tom Brady and the Patriots in a very close game. The Patriots are favored by 3 and might not cover that. Turnovers could very well swing this game as it has other playoff games. Watch out for the kicking games and an Eli interception to swing the game.

Patriots 23- Giants 21.


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