We are just about 48 hours away from Super Bowl Sunday, ladies and gentlemen. After taking some time to consider everything going on with the game to this point, it has come time for us to put the official SB Nation Minnesota prediction out there on the table for everyone to see.
As you no doubt saw earlier on the site here, the New England Patriots sit as a three-point favorite over the New York Football Giants. It has been a while since either of these teams lost a football game, so there really isn't any "momentum" advantage on either side. The Giants haven't lost since December 18, when they fell to the Washington Redskins. Since then, they've won five straight. The Patriots' streak is longer still. . .the last time Bill Belichick's team lost was November 6. In that game, they fell at home, 24-20, to. . .the New York Giants.
Many people are going to be focused on the quarterbacks in this match-up, and with good reason. Both of them put up ridiculous numbers during the 2011 NFL season, with Tom Brady throwing for over 5,000 yards and Eli Manning proving that, indeed, you can't spell "elite" without "Eli." They both have a multitude of weapons to throw to as well. The Giants' receiving trio of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham has created nightmares for defenses all season long. On the New England side, the most famous ankle in Indianapolis this week belongs to tight end Ron Gronkowski, who will play on Sunday (like he's going to sit out the Super Bowl), but might not be full speed. With the Patriots' offense, however, you never know who Brady's favorite target is going to be. It might be Gronkowski. . .it might be Aaron Hernandez. . .it might be Wes Welker. . .it might be Deion Branch. . .it might even be Danny Woodhead.
Where this game will be won or lost, however, is on the defensive side of the ball. We all know about the Giants' pass rush, led by Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Osi Umenyiora. What's lost in this is that, in their playoff run, the Giants' secondary has been outstanding as well, particularly Corey Webster, who made Michael Crabtree a complete non-factor in the NFC Championship Game. The Patriots' defense was historically bad during the regular season, allowing the second-most most passing yards of any team in NFL history. (The only team worse was this year's Green Bay Packers, who were dispatched by the Giants earlier this post-season.) However, in the post-season, the defense has been markedly better, allowing nearly 100 fewer yards/game than their regular season pace. Vince Wilfork has looked like a man on a mission these past couple of weeks, and the match-up between him and the Giants' interior linemen will be one of the more intriguing ones of the evening. If the Giants can keep Wilfork and company away from Eli Manning, it could be a tough night for the Patriots secondary.
There's really no advantage on the coaching front, either. Yes, Bill Belichick is a genius and all of that, but Tom Coughlin has proven that he's one heck of a coach, too. Considering that the man seems to find himself on the proverbial "hot seat" about half a dozen times every year. . .this season included, prior to the Giants' late-season run. . .all the guy does is get his players motivated, and all they do is win for him. It's going to be a real chess match between these two sideline titans.
So, who do I feel is going to win this one?
The Patriots are the favorites for a reason. While Eli Manning has been great this season, the guy on the other sideline is still Tom Brady. He didn't have his greatest afternoon in the AFC Championship Game against the Baltimore Ravens, and he knows that. It's rare for Brady to have two bad games in a row, and the combination of his performance two weeks ago, his team's loss to the Giants in Week 9, and the loss in Super Bowl XLII. . .you didn't think I was going to go the whole article without mentioning that, did you. . .will lead to a supremely motivated Brady on Sunday night in Indy.
Both teams will have their moments in this one on both sides of the ball, and we could be in for a classic contest. But when the confetti is released, I see Bill Belichick handing the Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft, and Tom Brady cementing his legacy as one of the NFL's all-time great quarterbacks.
The Pick: New England Patriots 31, New York Giants 27