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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Kramer and Kunal predict a Giant Super Bowl

By Kunal Bansal & Kramer McLuckie 

bansalku@grinnell.edu mcluckie@grinnell.edu

Kramer’s Knook:

 

I want to begin our discussion of the Super Bowl by first getting on a soapbox about the halftime show. As we all know, it retreated from any edginess in its performers following Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction,” but starting last year the Super Bowl seems to be leaning towards more contemporary bands. To woo youth and baby boomers alike, this year brings us Cirque de Soleil, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., LMFAO and Cee Lo Green joining star performer Madonna. Madonna made an interesting comment for those who might tremble at that set of wild whipper-snappers in the Indianapolis Star on Thursday. She said her father was excited about her doing a big Super Bowl spectacular because “He’s the personification of Midwestern values.”

Ugh. I hate when people act like my region is another country or something. People on the coasts get offended for no reason, too. Madge seems so defensive, as though her edgy persona from literally thirty years ago might still be enough to offend an imagined prudish Midwestern audience. Allow me, as a Midwesterner, to say that I am not afraid that 53 year-old Madonna is going to offend me. For one thing, she has a financial interest in avoiding shenanigans like she pulled at the 2003 VMAs when she kissed Britney Spears (and Dirrty-era Christina Aguilera, who never gets any credit for also being kissed). She’s using the half-time show as a mass-market shill for her probably terrible movie, W.E. It’s supposed to be better than Swept Away, but worse than Die Another Day. Occupy halftime!

As for the actual game, which seems to occupy about a quarter of the total Super Bowl broadcast time, I’m not particularly excited. I know I’m supposed to catch rematch fever and get all excited about David Tyree’s helmet catch and Plaxico Burress catching the game winner, but I don’t care about the rematch. Perhaps the only superlative for this year’s game is that it features the two most laconic coaches in the league. In last year’s game we had a classic battle between the elite offense of the Green Bay Packers and the overwhelming stopping power of the Pittsburgh Steelers. This year however, the New York Giants and New England Patriots aren’t the best at any one thing. The Patriots rank second in passing yards and total offense, while the Giants rank eighth and fifth respectively in those categories. The Giants were third in total sacks, and the Patriots were second in passes intercepted. In stats guru Jeff Sagarin’s computer ratings, the Patriots rate as the best team in the NFL. Sagarin has the Giants at number five, behind New England, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Green Bay. The Patriots have a statistical edge.

However, in their regular season meeting, the Giants shocked the Patriots at Gillette Stadium 24-20 thanks to an Eli Manning touchdown pass to TE Jake Ballard with 15 seconds left. In that game the Patriots out-gained the Giants 438 yards to 361 but Tom Brady had three turnovers (two interceptions and one fumble). Surprisingly, the Giants’ ballyhooed defensive front was only able to get to Brady once, with DE Jason Pierre-Paul recording the sack (linebacker Michael Boley also had a sack). If the Giants are to have any chance of winning, they need to disrupt what Tom Brady wants to do and force him into bad throws and turnovers. Pierre-Paul’s colleagues on the line will need to give him a hand in creating some chaos in the backfield. Fellow DEs Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are quite capable of pressuring from the edges. They will need to play exceptionally well to cover for their mediocre secondary, which ranked 29th in the league in passing yards allowed per game.

It would appear from the yardage totals in their previous meeting and the Patriots’ edge in many statistical categories that the smart money is on New England. In fact, Vegas favors the Pats, but only with a -3 spread. But after watching New England struggle against the Baltimore Ravens, I’m far from sold. Brady was far from Brady-esque, throwing two picks, while the Pats defense gave up 306 yards to Joe “Pretty” Flacco (A$AP!). The Patriots looked very beatable against Baltimore. Brady and his receiving corps are dangerous, but with Brady and lethal TE Rob Gronkowski both nursing injuries, they are not at full strength. Perhaps, to borrow a sportscaster cliche, they are not playing their best football right now.

On the other hand, Eli Manning and his triumvirate of receivers are totally synced up after torching Green Bay and San Francisco for over 300 yards through the air. Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham will carry that momentum into the Super Bowl and torch New England’s secondary, too. Eli Manning’s arm and his receivers’ ability to break tackles in the open field will overwhelm the mediocre Patriots defense and the Giants won’t be penalized for their anemic rushing attack. I think the game will be close and probably a shootout, which ought to make it fun to watch even if there’s not any particularly interesting contrast in styles. The Giants d-line forces Brady into a red zone interception with less than a minute to go and that’s the difference:

 

New York Giants 35, New England Patriots 31.

Surprise Super Bowl MVP: Victor Cruz.

Length of half-time show: six hours, forty-three minutes

 

 

Kunal’s Korner:

 

Super Bowl Sunday, one of the classic moments of every year. Honestly, the Super Bowl makes me prouder to be an American than any other holiday. Everything America is about: football, consumerism, gluttony, celebrity worship, all on full display during the Big Game. There’s no spectacle quite like it, and whether the game ends in dramatic fashion or in a full-fledged blowout, the Super Bowl is bound to leave lasting impressions on all viewers.

The obvious question is, “Who do you like?” Predicting the winner of the Super Bowl is a crucial part of the whole process. Only two fan bases actually get to experience the joy of having their team play for a championship, so predicting the winner is how most people build somewhat of an emotional attachment to either team and become emotionally invested in the game. This matchup, the New York Football Giants vs. the New England Patriots, is a real dandy. I’ve gone back and forth a lot over the last 10 days in deciding which team I think will win this game, and in the end … I like the Giants. As a Redskins fan, it really hurts me to say that a team that the REDSKINS BEAT TWICE in the regular season is going to win the Super Bowl. However, the fact remains that the NFL Playoffs are just like any postseason tournament, and the Giants come into the Super Bowl with seemingly all of the momentum. The fact that the Giants have been playing at a higher level recently than have the Patriots, combined with the fact that the Giants do more things well than the Patriots, combined with the fact that everybody has a sneaking suspicion that Eli Manning has Tom Brady’s number (in the same kind of strange way that Paris had Achilles’), combined with the fact that Peyton’s last memory of Indianapolis could be seeing his little brother walk off the field with one more Super Bowl Championship than he has, is too much to ignore – G-Men are going to win!

The key to this game is going to be time of possession. Both offenses can get down the field, and put up points in a hurry. In my opinion, the team that puts its defense in the best possession to be successful will win this game, and that means sustaining lengthy drives to keep the other offense off the field. The Giants were dead last in the NFL in running the football during the regular season, but they have run the football pretty effectively during the postseason. I think that the change of pace in the backfield they possess with Bradshaw and Jacobs gives them a leg-up on the Patriots in that category, but quite frankly, I do not think any running back is going to steal the show at Super Bowl XLVI.

Both teams possess fairly average run defenses, but their inability to stop the pass is what has really haunted them all season. In the case of the Patriots, it is understandable; New England has been playing with a patchwork secondary all season long. The Giants’ pass-defense struggles are a little bit harder to diagnose. Sure, they were dealing with injuries on the defensive line all season, but they still got after the quarterback plenty. Some may argue that the Giants were forced to blitz more when they were not getting as much pressure from their front four, leaving them much more exposed on the back end, but I’m not sure how much I buy into that. It seems to me that the Giants’ secondary, while extremely athletic, is just young and inexperienced, and too often its poor-decision making leads to big plays down the field. This situation sounds ripe for a Tom Brady masterpiece, but the Giants’ pass-rush is firing on all cylinders right now, and who can forget how much Justin Tuck and co. neutralized Brady back in 2008. The Giants, if they can keep Vince Wilfork from getting pressure on Manning up the middle, should be able to exploit the size, speed and overall skill advantage of their receivers on the Patriots’ defensive backs. I know that the Patriots possess some matchup nightmares of their own with the trio of Welker, Gronkowski, and Hernandez, but Gronkowski looks like he might not be 100%, and quite frankly, neither does Brady. Golden Boy suffered a slight shoulder separation in the AFC Championship Game, and while it is tough to say how much the injury impacted his mediocre performance against the Ravens, we can certainly speculate about how much it will affect him in the Super Bowl, especially if the Giants are able to get some hits on him early.

Whichever team is able to keep their quarterback upright the longest will win this game, and I suppose that I have more faith in New York’s offensive line to neutralize the opposing pass rush than New England’s. If Eli can step up in the pocket, I see no way in which the Patriot’s ragtag secondary can stay with the Giants’ elite receivers. I foresee Eli, Hakeem Nicks, and Jason Pierre-Paul all having outstanding games.

 

Score — New York Giants:  27  New England Patriots:  21

MVP —  Eli “2X Super Bowl MVP” Manning.

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