Is there doubt the Pats win Super Bowl XLII?

point/counterpoint

Mike Woods
Mike Woods
Andrew Bucholtz
Andrew Bucholtz

Super Bowl XLII, between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants, will be the most compelling in years. It will feature either the completion of the greatest season in NFL history, or its most staggering upset.

More than two months ago, when the Patriots were 10-0, I wrote in this paper they would go undefeated the rest of the way and capture their fourth Super Bowl in seven years.

Eight games later, the Patriots are poised to do just that.

They haven’t offensively dominated their opposition like those first 10 games, and have even had a couple of close calls. But with the god-like play of Tom Brady and genius of coach Bill Belicheck, it’s ridiculous to think the Giants even stand a chance of toppling the Patriots.

The Giants, who have carried a wave of momentum to the big game, have had two weeks to realize that second place is an achievement in itself. Eli Manning, who hasn’t been his usual blundering self these playoffs, has had two weeks to realize that he isn’t his older brother – a scary thought for Giants fans. And New York’s second-string secondary has never had to deal with a receiving corps like Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker (apologies to Greg Jennings and company).

What makes New England the best football team ever assembled isn’t just their unprecedented 18-0 run. It’s their ability to excel at every possible aspect of the game. They can run up the score, play catch-up, play run-and-gun offence or shut-down defence, depending on what the other team’s strategy is.

While Belicheck is a genius, the Patriots’ less-heralded offensive co-ordinator, 31-year- old Josh McDaniels, represents a new wave of NFL coaches whose creativity can overcome even the most stringent defences. McDaniels has had two weeks to analyze the Giants’ less-than-stellar defence, which should show on the field come Sunday.

The deciding factor on Sunday will be experience. The Patriots come in with a clear understanding of what it takes to win a Super Bowl, while the Giants—with due respect to Amani Toomer and Michael Strahan—do not. Tom Brady is the best Super Bowl quarterback of his generation, and the Patriots’ veteran defence will make Manning’s life tougher than it’s ever been.

Giants fans like to harken back to Week 17, when the Giants took a sizeable fourth-quarter lead over the Patriots in both teams’ last game of the regular season. But the key detail in that game was the ferocity and determination with which the Patriots stormed back to win 38-35. Although it didn’t affect their playoff position at all, New England was playing for the pride of a perfect season. With the Vince Lombardi Trophy at stake, that desire will be even stronger.

The New York Giants, even at their best, won’t be able to stop the Patriots. The obvious on-field superiority of the Patriots, combined with the swagger and aura that comes with their 18-0 record, will be too much for the Giants to overcome. New York should be proud they’ve made it this far, and should be glad they will be part of the final chapter of the Patriots’ incredible season.

--Mike Woods

At first glance, Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants is a foregone conclusion. In one corner, you have the heavyweight champion of the world, a team that has gone an incredible 18-0 in a parity-filled league and is just looking for one last win to complete one of the most astonishing seasons ever. In the other, you have Charles Atlas’s 97-pound weakling before the body-building regime. The Giants snuck into a wild-card playoff slot with a 10-6 record and promptly pulled off three road wins to earn themselves a ticket to the ball. The clock may not strike midnight on them yet.

Despite the Patriots’ overwhelming statistical advantages and superior roster on paper, the Giants still have a shot. Quarterback Eli Manning has come into his own in these playoffs, proving that brother Peyton didn’t take all the good family genes. Wide receivers Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer give Manning quality passing options, while Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw provide the team with a solid running game. The defence has also stepped up in these playoffs, allowing the Giants to hold the high-scoring offences of Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay to an average of just 17 points per game. Moreover, they came extremely close to New England in a meaningless Week 17 game, only losing by three points. Imagine how much their play will improve with the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the line.

Burress’ guarantee this week that the Giants will win adds another interesting dimension to the mix. At first glance, it seems incredibly ill-advised. The Patriots have enough motivation without Burress adding fuel to the fire. There is some pretty good historical precedent, though. A long time ago, there was an underdog New York team up against a powerful opponent favoured by even more than the Patriots are this weekend—an 18 point spread instead of 14. When that team’s quarterback boldly predicted a win, he was treated with the same derision Burress got this week, but when the game rolled around, Joe Namath lived up to his word and led the New York Jets to a shocking 16-7 win over the heavyweight Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl III. It will be interesting to see if Burress and the Giants can do the same. On the other hand, the Boston Globe apparently already has a book for pre-order on the Patriots’ perfect season, so there’s a chance of “Dewey Defeats Truman” syndrome kicking in.

This matchup demonstrates why we still play games out, rather than deciding everything by stats and computers. Sure, the Patriots are far better on paper. Despite all the arguments above, they’ll still probably win this game nine times out of 10, and it will be just the final paragraph in the story of their perfect season. But that 10th time, something amazing will happen. That time represents the world in which a team of college hockey players can beat a superpower, where Appalachian State can knock off Michigan and where Greece can win soccer’s European Championship, and it’s those moments that truly define sports. This Sunday, it falls to the Giants to play David to the Patriots’ Goliath. If they can do so, this will truly be a game for the ages.

--Andrew Bucholtz

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