After conference championship Sunday’s three-point margin of victories were completed and the Super Bowl XLVI (46) matchup was decided, the headlines of NFL.com read: “Déjà Blue”. I couldn’t agree more. Not only have the Patriots and Giants met in the Super Bowl in recent years, but the two teams just recently met in the regular season as well. The Patriots are once again the favorites and coming off of a dominant regular season that saw them garner the AFC’s top position. On the other end, the Giants have had to claw their way into the playoffs and have been second guessed the entire way. This is 2007 all over again. Just as it was then, the Giants may not have looked pretty early but they are clicking on all cylinders when it matters most.
In my eyes, the results will be much more of the same as it was in 2007 and earlier this season. In Week Nine, the Giants visited Gillette Stadium in Foxborough and grinded out a 24-20 victory. With my prediction of a little more offense, I see the results being close to the same.
With all of the early talks of the ‘Dream Team’ Eagles winning it all and the surprising Cowboys, the Giants were overlooked and down on their luck after they opened the season with a loss to the lowly Washington Redskins. Meanwhile, the Patriots kicked off the season bulldozing through all of the competition with their red-hot 5-1 start. The Patriots would go on to only lose two games in the remainder of the season- one of which came against these very Giants.
New York wasn’t looking too thrilled as they were sitting at 7-7 after their Week 15 loss. They also went on a stretch of four consecutive losses that saw them fall in a close battle with the defending champion Packers. They were going to need a lot of help from the Cowboys over the course of the next couple of weeks to even think of the postseason. With that said, the Patriots won their final eight regular season games following their loss to the Giants. They followed that up by two more in the playoffs. The Pats have not lost a game since that Nov. 6 matchup with the “Blue Crew.” The last team to beat Tom Brady in both the regular season and in a Super Bowl has been Eli Manning, Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants. Brady is making his fifth appearance in a Super Bowl with his only loss coming by the hands of this squad. I’m sure a little bit of fear and anxiety entered the minds and hearts of all of the New England Patriot staff and players when Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes connected on the 31-yard overtime field goal to seal the deal against the 49ers.
While a Harbaugh-Harbaugh matchup would have been historical, no one could write the drama that is unfolding before our very eyes. Both brothers were eliminated in a four-hour span and a rematch of the 2007 Super Bowl is on the horizon. Both games on the night ended on a 31-yard field goal. The only difference was that the Giants’ Tynes was actual able to connect on his. Joe Flacco did all that he could to position his team before Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff “shanked” the chip shot attempt. My jaw, along with that of the rest of America, hit the floor and remained there as the Patriots celebrated their victory. The game was lined up for overtime before one of the worst misses in NFL history. To add to that mess, young wide receiver Lee Evans could not hold onto a pass from Joe Flacco on second down of the same drive that would have given Baltimore a 26-23 lead with under 30 seconds to go in the game. So what looked like a Baltimore victory or tie resulted in a Patriots victory in a matter of seconds.
Due to these recent occurrences, it is beginning to feel like it’s the Giants’ time again. Things are lining up all too perfectly for them. Tom Brady followed his six TD, zero turnover performance of the divisional round with a two interception, zero passing TD game. Meanwhile, Eli threw 2 TDs, beat the number one seed Packers in Lambeau, the number two seed 49ers at Candlestick and is possibly playing the best football of his career.
One thing is for sure: throw any defensive statistic out the door. The Patriots and Giants’ defenses are playing at a high level and they will continue to do so. On another note, Eli and Brady threw for a combined 94 passing attempts in Sunday’s conference games. Expect a lot of passing yards and for Brady to definitely tally a couple of TDs to his name. He has been here before and knows what it takes to perform well. With that said, neither team has a very strong running game working in their favor and have offensive weapons all over the field. With Brady’s options of Gronkowski, Hernandez and Welker and Eli’s pick of Manningham, Nicks and Cruz, look for points to be scored and for Victor Cruz to arise as this year’s David Tyree. Even against a stifling 49ers defense, Cruz tallied 10 catches for 142 yards. Look for him to be a big play factor.
On a final note, Brady seemed to lob a few passes in the game against Baltimore. Meanwhile, Eli made every throw necessary to lead his team to victory. I’m riding the hot hand over the experienced hand. I pick for Eli to surpass big brother Peyton with his second Super Bowl title in a 30-27 win over Brady’s Patriots.