Daily Blog • February 5, 2012

6:30 PM NBC



The more things change the more they stay the same for Super Bowl XLVI. Both teams return to the Super Bowl for the 1st time since 2007 looking to cement their status in NFL history. Tom Brady has been the starting QB for NE for 10 years and this will be his 5th Super Bowl. He's tied Joe Montana's 16 game postseason victory mark and with a win he'd be tied with Terry Bradshaw and Montana with 4 SB victories. Oddly enough Brady has flown under the radar in 2011 due to the success of other QB's. He also broke Dan Marino's yardage barrier this season and his 39 passing TD's was the 2nd best of his career. This game would redeem Brady's loss in SB XLII and firmly put him ahead of Peyton Manning in the best of this era conversation in Manning's own house. Winning SB XLII took Eli Manning out of his brother's shadow but with a win he'd be ahead of his ailing brother in Championships while giving himself and Tom Coughlin a legit shot at the Hall of Fame. Eli is the 1st NFL QB in history with five road playoff victories. He also has more playoff wins in Giants history than Phil Simms (6). This isn't much of a surprise as under Coughlin the Giants are 43-27 on the road vs 38-30 at home inc playoffs. The Giants survived a 4 game consecutive losing streak and after missing the playoffs LY despite 10 wins there was serious concerns about Coughlin's future. Much like 2007, the Giants 38-35 loss to an offensive juggernaut gave them a big confidence boost to fuel their playoff drive. They got healthier as the season went along and played their best ball of the season in the 4 games prior to SF. The Giants can be the 1st 9-7 team to win a Super Bowl. Without a doubt SB XLVI looks to be a great way to cap off what had been a very tenuous 2011 for players and owners over the CBA negotiations.


The dominant image of SB XLII is David Tyree making the leaping catch to end the Patriots run at perfection. Playoff experience is fairly equal here. The Giants returned to the playoffs in 2008 losing in the divisional Round to PHI and sat out in 2009 (8-8) and 2010 despite a 10 win season. NE missed 2008 due to Brady's knee injury but still logged a 11 win season. They then lost B2B home playoff games to BAL/NYJ before getting right in 2011. The Giants have 15 players who played in SB XLII still on the roster (Kiwanuka was IR bkn leg) with 6 offensive starters and 3 defensive starters. The Patriots have 7 players remaining from that game with 4 being offensive starters. Vince Wilfork is the only defensive starter from that game. Kevin Faulk was a big part of SB XLII but has been phased out of the 2011 offense at this point. While the Patriots have more overall playoff experience due to the L2Y (and Brady) this is mitigated by the Giants edge in players with actual Super Bowl experience here so this is essentially even. EDGE: NONE


Indianapolis was awarded SB XLVI in return for the city building the Colts a new venue and as a reward for being the "home field" for the NFL Scouting Combine which takes place 17 days later TY. Unlike DAL LY, Indianapolis is well suited to bad weather and has a series of tunnels that connect major venues to protect tourists. Lucas Oil Stadium is a retractable Dome that seats 67,000 fans with a FieldTurf surface that has been ranked as the best artificial surface in 2009-10. It is also home to the Big 10 football Championship and is regarded as a fan friendly venue with state of the art amenities. Both teams receive 17.5% of the tickets. One-third of that goes to each teams suite owners, another to season ticket holders in a lottery system with the rest divided amongst coaches, players and staff. The hosting team gets 5% of the tickets, 30% is shared by the other 30 NFL teams while the NFL gives the other 30% to big ticket sponsors for promotions and as a reward. Tickets to SB XLVI ranged from $2727 to $17048 on NFL.com which were steady with LY's. The Giants played here in 2010 while the Patriots were here in 2008 and 2009 so there is no site/crowd edge TY. EDGE: NONE


Evolution is key to the NFL and the Giants are a different offense compared to what took the field in 2007. Eli Manning was still a developing QB then with an offense centered around the run game. In 2011, Manning is the centerpiece of an offense that only had 3 starters play all 16 games due to injuries. He's had to cope with 5 different OL combo's but unlike 2010 when he pressed and threw 25 Int's he took more sacks to keep the team out of game changing plays. In his L4 games he's avg'd 298 ypg (64%) with a 11-1 ratio. Along with the return to health of Bradshaw this has opened up the #32 run game which as avg'd 115 ypg (4.0) in the L4W which would be 17th vs a full season. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are the Giants first 1,000 yd duo in franchise history. Cruz was a local tryout for the Giants in training camp and has been the 2nd best slot WR in the NFL only to Welker. Nicks is playing with a sprained shoulder but is expected to be okay and the Giants have a good possession option with Mario Manningham as well. The one weakness with the Giants passing attack is that they lack a dependable receiving TE. Jake Ballard has potential but has been unable to stay healthy enough for Manning to get fully comfortable with. The Giants have compensated by including the RB's in the passing game as Bradshaw, Jacobs and Ware have combined for 76 rec's (7.4) in the reg ssn which is a good line for a TE. NE has the worst defense in terms of total yardage for a SB team allowing 411 ypg but are giving up 21.4 ppg avg. In their L4 games they are allowing 356 ypg/18.8 ppg showing they are improving. In the 24 drives by DEN/BAL, NE forced 11 punts, 2 TO's and 2 SOD to advance. NE's defense lacks a consistent pass rush as Belichick is having to scheme and blitz to create pressure. Inc playoffs they have 48 sks which is what NYG had in 16 games so they aren't that far off though the loss of DE Andre Carter still lingers. The secondary is a massive concern as injuries have taken a big toll on the depth. This has forced Belichick to convert Julian Edelman from WR to DB and Sterling Moore who was waived from the OAK practice squad at one point is seeing lots of time. This is where the Giants have the biggest edge in the game as they have the depth and talent to cause problems in sub-packages against the Patriots provided their OL doesn't give up 6 sacks like they did to SF. EDGE: GIANTS


In 2007 the Patriots had their record breaking season with an offense that relied on deep vertical routes to stretch the field and open up the underneath routes for Wes Welker (112 rec's 10.5 in 2007). However, in SB XLII it forced the OL to pass protect for far too long and the Giants elite DL tallied 5 sks and 9 QBH's in the game keeping Brady out of rhythm. The Ravens took advantage of this in 2009 when NE was forced to play from behind and beat them in a Wildcard match by getting all over Brady. By drafting Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in 2010, Belichick shifted the NE strategy to setting up matchups and making the offense more versatile with the pass and in the run game. It also allowed NE to capitalize on the shift to smaller S/CB hybrids on defense by using the TE's bigger size to set up yds after contact. Welker has had a better statistical season TY (112 rec 12.9) than in 2007 as he gets favorable matchups in the slot. Gronkowski's ankle sprain is expected to be okay and NE hasn't been afraid to use Hernandez in situations as a runner. In 2010 NE finished 9th in rushing thanks to BenJarvis Green-Ellis and while NE is only 20th TY they are only 209 yds off the previous year. RB's are used according to down and distance and by the foes they face week to week. The success of the TE's TY has the RB's with just 37 rec's (9.8) which is a big drop off as LY Danny Woodhead alone had 34 rec's (11.1). The shift has taken a lot of pressure off the OL which has had its share of problems TY as it was down to its 4th string Ctr vs IND/WAS. NE uses a no huddle almost a quarter of the time and is in the shotgun about 50% of the time to Brady to read and wear out defenses. The Giants aren't intimidated by big play offenses having dealt with PHI, DAL and GB twice as well as then healthy BUF and NO. Since the GB loss the Giants are allowing 334 ypg/17.7 ppg vs 387 ypg/26.3 prior to it as DE Umenyiora, DE Tuck, CB Amukamara and LB Boley all got healthier. DL injuries forced Jason Pierre-Paul onto the field and he dominated with 16.5 sks despite working all over the line. The Giants LB's aren't ideal vs upper tier TE's like NE's and the Giants attack first style leaves them vulnerable to teams that are patient running the ball. While NE's pass defense is criticized for giving up yards the fact that the Giants #29 pass defense has a -11 TD/int ratio is a concern. Plays can be had by savvy QB's that aren't flustered by the pass rush by using their hot routes and matchups. Brady's experience and the fact the offense has seen this style with extra time to gameplan gives them a small edge here. SLIGHT EDGE: PATRIOTS


The Patriots have a sizeable special teams edge with my #5 special teams unit vs the Giants and their #25 special teams. It's not unusual for high octane offenses to ignore their special teams but the Patriots put a premium on the 3rd phase of the game. It really shines in their coverage units where they had the 13th best PR avg (8.5) and 6th best KR avg (21.6) in the regular season. Stephen Gostkowski had 50 of 117 KO's end in TB's and NE's foe avg start was the 19.9 yd line. He hit 10 of 13 from 40+ TY but wasn't needed from that range vs DEN or BAL. Zoltan Mesko finished 3rd with an excellent 41.5 net avg with 24 punts landing inside the 20. NE is only avg on KR's but they have been excellent on PR's with a 10.3 reg ssn avg TY. The Giants finished 29th in my special teams rankings in 2010 which played a big role in keeping them out of the playoffs. They shook up the coverage units and made a switch at P for 2011. Steve Weatherford has been an upgrade at the spot for the Giants but their coverage units are avg at best coming in 17th on PR's (9.9) and 11th on KR's. The return units have simply been bad as their 6.1 PR is 29th and their 23.3 KR avg is 22nd. Lawrence Tynes clutch kicking got NYG to the SB for the 2nd time in 5 years vs SF but he's only 4 of 9 from 40+ with just 37 TB's on 95 KO's for an avg drive start of 22.6. Steve Weatherford had a decent regular season but was solid in the playoffs with a 40.6 net avg. Yes the Giants special teams came up huge vs SF but the Patriots have been more consistent all season long and get the nod here. EDGE: PATRIOTS


Both coaches are from the Bill Parcells coaching tree and spent the 1988-1990 seasons with the Giants. Coughlin was the WR's coach and Belichick was the DC on the staff of the Giants team that won SB XXV. Belichick was also the DC of the 1986 Giants team that won SB XXI vs DEN and has had 6 assistants end up as NFL HC's. OC Bill O'Brien has accepted the Penn St HC job but is remaining with the team here. NE brought back Josh McDaniels who was the OC prior to O'Brien to help ease the transition here. Brady had his 50 TD season with McDaniels as his OC. Belichick is his own DC calling plays and setting up the weekly game planning for the Patriots. Coughlin has had 7 former assistants go on to be NFL HC's and has been to the playoffs in 9 of his 16 years as an NFL HC. OC Kevin Gilbride has been with Eli Manning since his rookie season starting off as his QB coach and is widely respected. While DC Perry Fewell is in his 2nd season with the team, he was the Bills DC from 2006-10 so he knows how the Patriots operate. He also runs the same basic system as what beat the 2007 Patriots but with his own twist. Neither team has a significant edge due to familiarity despite being non-conference foes. EDGE: NONE


Just like 2007, this is actually the 3rd time these teams face off this season. The Giants and Patriots traditionally wrap up the preseason against each other with the Giants winning 18-17. The Giants are also the last team to beat the Patriots this season as they pulled a 24-20 upset. The Giants led 10-3 after 3 Qtrs but Brady led NE on a 80/7pl drive for a TD then helped setup a 45 yd FG for the lead. The Giants countered with a 85/8pl drive for a 17-13 lead with 3:03 left. The Patriots followed with a TD drive that took just 90 seconds with a 14 yd TD to Rob Gronkowski. Manning led the Giants on an 80/8pl drive helped out by a 20 yd DPI to set up 1&gl on the 1 for the go ahead score with 15 sec left. NE had a 438-361 yd edge as Welker and Rob Gronkowski combined for 237 yds receiving. The Giants didn't have 3 offensive starters with RB Bradshaw, Ctr Baas and WR Hicks all sitting out due to injuries as well as current nickel DB Prince Amukamara either. The Giants then went on a 4 game losing streak before getting back on track. There are numerous similarities between this game and the 2007 Super Bowl and the pressure is on NE to redeem themselves after losing SB XVII. However, the Giants can't play the same disrespect card as before since the entire NFL knows how they are built and how they've used followed the 2007 path. EDGE: NONE


This year I am going for the rare feat of not only picking the College Football National Champ correctly from my pre-season magazine (Alabama) but also way back in early August I picked the Patriots to win Super Bowl 46 while many others were picking the Packers, Falcons and Eagles. Naturally I will stick to my preseason pick but I also think the Patriots ST's could be the deciding difference since the teams are so close. I also think the Super Bowl 42 loss still weighs heavily on the minds of Belichick and Brady and they get their revenge here adding to two of the greatest careers in NFL history.

PHIL’S FORECAST: new england 31 ny giants 27