Patriots by three

Patrick Newell

The past week, I have been asked countless times, “who do you like in the Super Bowl?” I like – and prefer – the Giants, but my head tells me New England settles the score from its 2008 loss to the G-Men. The talking heads have analyzed the matchup to death. Will the Giants’ defensive line pressure Tom Brady? Will Rob Gronkowski’s gimpy ankle hold up? Is Bill Belichick masterminding another fool-proof game plan? I have nothing much new to add. Both teams will throw – and complete – a lot of passes. My feeling is that the team that better establishes its running game will have the advantage. New England has had a sneaky running game. Brady will hit a bunch of passes, and then running backs Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley or Danny Woodhead pop a couple of nice gains. I have seen it dozens of times, especially with my Buffalo Bills taking beating after beating from the Patriots over the past decade. With a strong offensive line and complementary backs – Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw – one would think the Giants have the ability to run effectively. Not so at all. The Giants ran for just under 90 yards per game this season, and averaged only 3.5 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the seemingly pass-centric Patriots averaged more than 20 yards rushing per game than New York, and a respectable 4.0 yards per carry. Statistics aside, I have my own statistical theory on who will win, and why. The Patriots won all three of their Super Bowls under Belichick by three points. They also lost their only Super Bowl (with Belichick) by three points to the Giants. In 2008, the year the Giants won the big one, 17-14, New England defeated the Giants in the regular season, 38-35 – three points again. Fast forward four years, and the AFC East is again playing the NFC East in its interconference games. Earlier this year, the Patriots and Giants met with New York emerging with a four-point win, 24-20. That was New England’s last loss, and the Patriots are in the midst of a 10-game winning streak. Some interesting parallels between the last Super Bowl meeting between these two clubs: In 2007, the Giants lost their 14th game of the season to the Redskins, 22-10, and in the process looked anything but Super Bowl ready. In 2011, the Giants looked listless in game 14, again losing to the Redskins by a near identical score, 23-10. Too, in 2007, the Giants had to win three NFC playoff games to reach the Super Bowl, the last of which – each time – an overtime victory (Green Bay in 2007-2008 and San Francisco two weeks ago). New England’s game results are not as similar other than the fact that it has had a double-digit winning streak entering the Super Bowl. Remember those 1972-1973 Dolphins, they of the only perfect season, wishing for New England’s unbeaten season to come to an end? New England had an unblemished season incur a large pimple in the form of a Giants upset victory. I say New England finds the Clearasil to erase that pimple, and wins Sunday’s game by…three points.

* One quick edition, during the Giants’ current five-game winning streak, they have picked up their rushing attack averaging 114.6 yards per game, up about 25 yards from their regular season average. The Patriots, too, have elevated their running game picking up 128 yards per game over their last five. Of course, big days against the Denver defense helped the Pats.