Saturday, February 04, 2012

Super-Specific Predictions For Super Bowl XLVI


Anybody 35 like me?  If you are, or are around that age, and you remember watching Super Bowls in your youth, you remember them with disgust – if you even remember them.  Those Super Bowls sucked, especially the ones featuring the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos.

Richard Rothschild of SI.com graded all 45 Super Bowls.  SB XXV, where the Bills lost to the New York Giants (aka Scott Norwood – you remember now, don’t you?), was an A+.  Meanwhile, C+ was the next grade featuring either of those sorry AFC representatives from 15-20 years ago.  Thank God those dog games are over.

Meanwhile, only four of the past dozen SB’s (since 1999, aka Mike Jones stopping Kevin Dyson at the 1 – just one play and you remember it all, isn’t that something?) Rothschild ranked lower than a B.  Two of those, SB’s XL (Pittsburgh and the refs beat Seattle) and XLI (Peyton Manning finally wins the big one), were C’s, which is a little harsh.  They may not have been nail-biters, but they were mildly intriguing entering the fourth quarter, and that’s good enough for me.  Maybe I should raise my standards, but again, I was a child exposed to John Elway and Jim Kelly being down by four touchdowns at the half.

What I’m trying to say is that we may be spoiled into thinking that this Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI between the Giants and the New England Patriots will be a good one.  Since the turn of the millennium the National Football League has been able to mystically make sure every championship game played was exciting and at least tangentially close.  But the law of averages demands that we’re due for a clunker.  And why couldn’t it be one between two teams most of us think are evenly matched?

I hope that won’t be the case.  Logically, this should be a close game, if not another Super Bowl classic.  As for more details on what is going to happen, allow me to once again predict the future and be as careless as possible predicting player production and specific occurrences that will turn out to be as needlessly erroneous as last year, when I thought there would be three pass interference penalties and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin would pass up challenging an obvious blown call:

1.       The big storyline going into the game is tight end Rob Gronkowski’s ankle, which he apparently twisted in the Pats’ win over The Bastard Cleveland Browns in the AFC Championship Game two weeks ago.  He’s questionable, but since this is the most important game of his career, it’s obvious that he’ll play.

2.       Also obvious: Despite being coy about the true extent of the injury, Gronkmaster D (my nickname for him, and no, you don’t have to use it because, yes, it’s dumb) is hurt more than he or his team is letting on.  High ankle sprains like the one he probably suffered are very hard to play on.  I predict that Gronkowski’s contribution will be minimal (say, oh, 20 yards) and his appearance in the game will be cut back or even short.

3.       Passing will continue unabated in Super Bowl XLVI.  It really will look like a 7-on-7 passing drill, with hand-checking virtually gone the way of the Wing T.  I can totally see 700 yards of passing by both teams before it’s all over.  (The record in a SB, by the way, is 649 in XXXVIII, when the Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers).  It thus follows that the score will be huge.  The Over/Under in Vegas is 54; take the over.

4.       For Super Bowl XLII between these two teams four years ago, the headline on the cover of that week’s Sports Illustrated was: “Can the Giants Get to Brady?”  That’s also the question on Sunday.  And the answer will be the same: Yes.  Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck, in particular, will find their way past rookie right tackle Nate Solder and sack Brady at least three times between them.  And I say Tom Brady goes down five times in the Super Bowl.

5.       Not to say that Brady will be a complete flop.  He’ll get to around 350 yards when the New England line holds up and/or when he’s forced to scramble.  And he will throw exactly two touchdown passes – no more, no less.

6.       Advanced statistics show that the Giants are very vulnerable against two-tight end sets.  The Patriots won’t be able to use that formation with Gronkowski unable to play most of the Super Bowl.  But, as Bill Belichick has been able to do his whole tenure with the club, he’ll be able to compensate ... with Julian Edelman, the wideout converted by circumstance to defensive back.  He’ll be pressed back onto the offensive side of the ball and he’ll be a key weapon over the middle.  I predict that he gets at least 75 yards receiving and one TD.

7.       Wes Welker will be the most productive receiver in the game as he is moved in motion so many times he won’t be able to stop after the game for fear he’ll throw up from the sudden stop to his perpetual momentum.  The underrated Corey Webster will be the man sent to lock him down, and he’ll succeed in keeping him out of the end zone, but he will amass just under 100 yards as he’s able to find the seams to collect Brady’s passes.

8.       You know who else will suddenly rise up for the Pats?  Chad Ochocinco.  The Giants linebackers and secondary will be so busy checking Welker, Edelman and Aaron Hernandez that ol’ 8-5 will dance his way into the end zone and catch a touchdown.  It may be his only catch of the game, and it might be for only, oh, five yards.  But it’d be a nice way to retire, you know?

9.       The Patriots running game will be muted but manned on the fly as the passing game will be.  It’ll gain no more than 75 yards total, and no one will run for more than 25 yards.  But New England will rely on it near the goal line.  Who scores on the ground?  Hernandez (who’ll generate close to 65 all-purpose yards) and, some time in the fourth quarter, Brady.

10.   Do you know that BenJarvus Green-Ellis has never fumbled ever in his NFL career?  Wouldn’t it be ironic if he did in the Super Bowl?  But he won’t.

11.   The Giants running game was the team’s Achilles’ heel until the postseason began.  While they’re still not world-beaters, they’ll be able to gain yards on the ground enough to give viewers a break from all the throws they’ll see in the game.  New York will also get to 75 yards rushing, and they’ll get a touchdown run from … oh, just because I had him on my fantasy team, Ahmad Bradshaw.

12.   When the story of Super Bowl XLVI is told, it’ll be the way Eli Manning and the Giants wide receivers were able to shred the Patriots secondary at will.  It’ll be so bad that one guy, Victor Cruz, will singlehandedly cause trouble for New England, who will throw every conceivable (and legal) scheme at him and still will not be able to stop him.  He gains 200 yards and gets loose deep on a thrilling touchdown of at least 40 yards.

13.   Manning needs space and time to work.  The New York offensive line will be so good at keeping the Patriots pass rush at bay that not only will Manning get sacked only once (and that’ll be when he runs out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage), he will rarely need to scramble like he did on that … well, that pass.

14.   The other three New York TD’s go to Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and Kevin Boss.  One of those will be on a screen pass.

15.   John Parry is the lead referee for this game.  It is the second time he has officiated at the Super Bowl.  However, the first time he was merely the side judge in the Colts-Bears SB.  No known tendencies, according to those sharps feverishly looking for an angle on which to go all-in in order to save their annual bankroll.  But he was on the field for two plays during the season that stand out.  One was a good no-call in the playoffs three weeks ago: San Francisco safety Donte Whitner’s stone-cold stop-and-fumble of New Orleans running back Pierre Thomas where Parry, correctly, ruled that Whitner could not be called on a helmet-to-helmet penalty because Thomas took enough steps to be engaged as a runner, not a defenseless receiver.  The other was a bad no-call in the regular season: He was the lead ref when Minnesota played at Detroit.  On the last play of the game, Vikings quarterback Joe Webb lost the ball when Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy grabbed his facemask.  The main responsibility for hits on the QB rests with the ref.  However, Parry did not call it and Detroit won the game.  What has this got to do with anything?  Nothing – I think he’ll call a game so clean no will remember he was there.

16.   No pass interference calls either.  No holding calls, either.  I think this’ll be a “boys, have at it” kind of game.  But it won’t be a dirty one, either.

17.   Midway through the fourth, the Patriots will score a TD and be down by four.  They’ll go for two and fail to convert.

18.   Then, after forcing the Giants to punt, they’ll start their drive from their 30 with 90 seconds to go.  After getting past midfield, Brady will throw his second interception of the game.  And despite having two timeouts left, Belichick sees the writing on the wall.  Tom Coughlin, a man I predicted would leave after a disappointing season, becomes a Hall of Fame candidate after beating the preeminent franchise in recent NFL history.

19.   Although Manning won’t throw a pick all game, the controlled Cruz is the Super Bowl MVP.

I will say this.  As much as I want to hate the Patriots, I can’t.  Why?  Robert Kraft, an owner who is still grieving over the passing of his wife, Myra, who is liked by the players whom he employs and, at least according to this article, is a gentle man of true honor and integrity.

Unfortunately, he also graces the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated.  And who was on the cover last week?  Brady.  It’ll be tough for the Giants to beat the Patriots after beating them in Week 9 of the regular season.  But I can’t see how the Pats beat a double SI jinx.

Super Bowl XLVI Prediction: New York Giants 37, New England 33

Posted by WilliamSou at 11:52 PM

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