Aaron Rodgers didn't make the Super Bowl. Drew Brees didn't make it. Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis, Arian Foster and Tim Tebow didn't make it. But guess who did? You. This is it, the last game, the last bet of the year, the last time to talk football in the office and second-guess bad calls and poor officiating.
So go get a bunch of chicken wings and a football-shaped cake, settle in and enjoy the last NFL game for a long time. This isn't their Super Bowl. It's our Super Bowl.
To determine a pick for the biggest game of the year, I consulted a bevy of sources. Responses were split, understandably, in a game Vegas expects to be tight. Before we get any further, remember that I've been on fire in these NFL Playoffs, going 7-3 to this point. (Sorry, had to dap myself). Proceed with caution, but bet with confidence.
Lines from SB Nation NFL Odds.
New York Giants vs. New England Patriots (-2.5): It's been almost two weeks of incessant Super Bowl hype, so I will spare the details of this Super Bowl rematch four years ago. The stars from both teams remain, Eli Manning and Tom Brady, as do the coaches, Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick. Beyond that, drawing many similarities to the first game is a stretch.
The differences far outweigh similarities in this one, regardless of what regurgitated radio hosts may be telling you. Yes, the Giants come into the game with a poor regular season record and on a hot streak, but this Giants team won the NFC East and hosted a playoff game.
More importantly, though, is how the Patriots come into this game. Four years ago, the Patriots were villians, bullies who posted preposterous offensive numbers and had a opportunistic defense capable of making big plays. Tom Brady went deep relentlessly to Randy Moss, the two combining for one of the most dominant offensive seasons in NFL history.
This Patriots team has little, if any, vertical presence. Brady will beat you in chunks of yardage, hitting Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in stride on underneath routes. Hernandez, Gronkowski and Welker then have the opportunity to gain yards after the catch, but the passes are fast and pinpoint accurate.
If you need a strategic advantage for the Pats, that's it. Four years ago, a dominant Giants' defensive line pounded Brady because the Golden Boy quarterback continued to take deep dropbacks to allow Moss to get far downfield. The vertical attack allowed the Giants' defensive line to attack, and in the end it cost the Patriots the game. That will not be the case this year.
Brady will fire most of his passes from three- or five-step drops, quick enough that Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul will not be able to get to the quarterback. The occasional draw play to running backs Danny Woodhead and BenJarvis Green-Ellis will keep the Giants linebackers on their toes.
Eli Manning and the Giants will score too. The Giants' recieveing corps offers too many options for a bad New England secondary. Manning is an elite quarterback, there is no debate, and he will keep his team in the game. Strong running from Ahmad Bradshaw will gash the Pats defensive line for yardage too.
But the biggest tells for this game do not come from studying film or crunching the numbers. Four years ago, the Giants embarrassed the Patriots. Revenge consistently proves to be one of the strongest motivators in sports, and on Sunday in Indianapolis, we will see that unfold one more time. At times during the 2011 season, many suggested the Patriots were "done." Brady was too old, Belichick lost his mastery of opposing offenses and the Patriots would never win another Super Bowl. Soon, that logic will look foolish.
If you need one more reason to go with the Patriots, think about general betting trends. When the public loves one team, it usually pays to go with the other. In the past 21 Super Bowls, the public betting side has been wrong 18 times. Guess who the public likes on Sunday? If you said Big Blue, you nailed it.
Remember, if David Tyree doesn't make a miraculous catch on top of his helmet in 2008, that New England team would widely be regarded as the best ever. The video shows just how improbable, ridiculous and downright outrageous that catch was.
I'll end this thing with a local twist. First, remember that Rex Grossman and the Washington Redskins beat the Giants twice this season. Second, in their history, the Redskins twice squared off with the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl. The first time, the Redskins' offense could not move the ball and their quarterback got beat up. In the second, through grit and focus, the Redskins won the Super Bowl.
Pick: New England Patriots 30, New York Giants 17.
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