The Super Bowl is once again upon us, when the collective attention of the nation will be directed towards their TV screens watching the Packers and the Steelers take one another on in Dallas. Who will win? The Tech’s Sports staff weigh in, with bragging rights on the line …
New York Giants
Conventional wisdom has it that the New England Patriots are the slight favorites going into Super Bowl Sunday. On most betting sites, they are being given a 55–60 percent chance of winning. In the median outcome, they are expected to win by three points. Both in this specific case and as a loose rule of sports betting in general, my advice is the same: bet the under.
The bettors are correct in saying that the game will be tight. But they are incorrect in saying that New England will win it.
The Giants offense should perform relatively well against the New England defense. The Giants, already favorites to take first possession due to New England’s penchant for choosing to kick over receive, will find a quick reward if the Pats are foolish enough to lead out with man coverage — both Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks will outmatch anyone the Pats can conceivably pair them with. And against zone coverage, Eli Manning will likely have enough time to pick and choose his opportunities, and enough skill to capitalize on the opportunities that present themselves.
On the flip side, the Giants defense has weaknesses, but their defensive strengths are well matched to counter the Patriots. In the first quarter, expect the Patriots to try to establish the usual sort of big passing offense that typifies their play. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Jason Pierre-Paul will shut down that attempt. In the second quarter and on, we’ll see a lot more runs by BenJarvus Green-Ellis (even though the Ravens held him to about 3 yards per carry in the AFC Championship), and three-step drops, particularly to Rob Gronkowski (the best tight end this season has seen). In fact, if you want to know whether New England will win the game, look to see if the Giants show an answer to Gronk after the half. If they come up with no answer, expect a tired New York D to make mistakes in the fourth and Brady to capitalize. But otherwise, New York’s offense should outpace New England’s and carry them to a close win.
Giants take it 27-23.
When the Giants beat the Patriots 24-20 back in November, they seemed well on their way to a great regular season, and a deep run in the playoffs. Then they lost four games in a row, and by week 15, after a pathetic performance against the Redskins, they found themselves 7-7 with playoff dreams slipping away. Now, against all odds, they’re playing for their fourth Super Bowl title in franchise history, after beating two of the best teams in the league, the Packers and the 49ers, both of which had beaten them in the regular season. Meanwhile, the Patriots haven’t lost since that game against the Giants back in November, and they are poised for a rematch, and a chance to redeem themselves of their heartbreaking, perfect-season-killing, 17-14 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Both teams are very pass-heavy (the Patriots have the second most and the Giants have the fifth most passing yards in the NFL), while both teams’ pass defenses tend to give up a great deal of yards. Though that alone does not access the quality of a team’s defense, one thing we can expect is a game with very quick drives, lots of passes, and most likely, a relatively high score. Assuming Welker plays through his knee injury — which it seems he will — Brady will be connecting with him and Gronkoswki all night and there won’t be much the Giants can do to stop them. The key for the Giants will be whether Eli Manning can connect with his “lesser” receivers like Nicks and Manningham, since Cruz will be heavily covered by the Patriots. I predict that Manningham and Nicks will combine for over 200 yards, Cruz will not catch a TD, but the Giants will win it in the end.
Giants take it 31-24.
—Carlos Greaves, Sports Staff
New England Patriots
Four years ago, the New York Giants defeated a seemingly unbeatable New England Patriots team hyped with talk of an undefeated season and a threatening quarterback-receiver duo of Tom Brady and Randy Moss. This year, the Patriots do not have Moss, and they did not even have the best record this regular season. However, they will still win the Super Bowl.
Winning the final game will not be easy for the Patriots, who will have to accomplish a lot on Sunday if they hope to beat the surging Giants, who have won the last five must-win games to keep their season alive. On their journey here, the Giants had to beat some of the best teams in the NFC, including the Green Bay Packers, who boasted the best regular season record in the NFL at 15-1. The Giants have harassed opposing quarterbacks with their quick front four on the defensive line: Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, and Chris Canty. These four hope to do the same to Patriot quarterback Tom Brady, but expect Patriots coach Bill Belichick to have a plan. The quick, short passing game Brady is well known for will prove to be an effective solution to the Giants’ pass rushing excellence. If the Patriots establish the running game early with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Giants will be slightly disoriented and cannot be as effective with the pass rush. Combine the running attack with the passing attack that features the quickness of Wes Welker and the physical nature of tight-end Rob Gronkowski, and the result is a recipe for offensive success.
On defense, the Patriots will need to focus on maintaining a tight cover on the triple threat posed by the Giants’ star receivers: Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham. As long as Giants quarterback Eli Manning is prevented from burning the Patriot secondary with deep passes, the Patriots should be able to hold off the Giants just enough to win.
Pats take it 27-24.
—Nidharshan Anandisavim, Sports Staff
This game is a very common matchup seen in recent Super Bowls; pitting a team with a late season surge against a team that was dominant all season. Last year the Green Bay Packers streaked late and won it all, while in 2009 the dominant Pittsburgh Steelers overcame the streaking Arizona Cardinals. This year will be similar to 2009, even though the Giants have the more balanced team. They have an excellent pass rush and strong offense with Victor Cruz and Eli Manning. The Patriots on the other hand have Tom Brady. No team with a defense lower than 25th in the league has ever won a Super Bowl, and the Patriots are ranked 31st. Lately they have looked like a much more cohesive group. On top of a revamped defense, the Patriots have the revenge factor. Looking to redeem their only loss of their 2007 season the Patriots will win. In a perfect revenge of 2008 the Patriots will win 17-14.
Pats take it 17-14.
—Nick Myers, Sports Staff