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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey

Super Bowl XLII

Prediction: NYG 24, NE 41

Line: 12 Over/Under - 53.5

This is certainly a very interesting match-up for the Super Bowl. It pits the Patriots who have won every game this year and that has been a juggernaut since week one against a wildcard team that suddenly and almost inexplicably caught fire in just the last month as a testament to peaking at precisely the right time. Better yet - these teams just met in week 17 when the Patriots wrapped up their perfect regular season in New York when they squeaked out a 38-35 win. The Giants actually led 28-24 entering the fourth quarter and gave the Pats just about all they could handle in what normally would have been an entirely meaningless final game of the season.

The differences this time around are that the Giants will not be at home. That may not be much of a disadvantage for a team that has won their last 10 consecutive road games and even the lone loss went against the Cowboys to open the season that was more than made up for when the Giants beat Dallas in the Divisional round. Face it, the Giants do not blow teams out when they win, but they have won every road game since week one.

The game was also made a bit closer last time thanks to a kickoff return for a score by the Giants. But there may be no team that can provoke at least respect from the Pats if not concern like the Giants. Normally the NFL doesn't like to have Super Bowls played between teams that are only a couple of hundred miles apart - makes it seem slanted to a very small region of the country. But this game has the Pats going for the perfect season and the Giants playing in their fourth straight playoff game as the underdog. And they are 3-0 against the odds so far.

What will be different this game is that the weather is not going to be cold, windy or have rain. All the weather issues are no longer a concern or factor so both teams get to showcase what they can do in weather they have not seen in several months. That has to favor the Patriots passing game.

New York Giants (10-6)
Homefield: Giants Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @DAL 35-45 +5.5 44
2 GB 13-35 -2.5 38.5
3 @WAS 24-17 +3.5 40.5
4 PHI 16-3 +2.5 47
5 NYJ 35-24 -3 41
6 @ATL 31-10 -3 43.5
7 SF 33-15 -9.5 40
8 @MIA 13-10 -9.5 48
9 BYE - - -
10 DAL 20-31 +1.5 49
11 @DET 16-10 -2.5 49.5
12 MIN 17-41 -7 41
13 @CHI 21-16 -1.5 43
14 @PHI 16-13 +3 42.5
15 WAS 16-22 -4.5 40
16 @BUF 38-21 -3 34.5
17 NE 35-38 +14.5 44
P1 @TB 24-14 +3 39.5
P2 @DAL 21-17 +7.5 47
P3 @GB 23-20 +7 41
SB NE      
NYG Rush Catch Pass
QB Eli Manning     260,2
RB Brandon Jacobs 80,1 30,1  
RB Ahmad Bradshaw 50 10  
TE Kevin Boss   30  
WR Plaxico Burress   80,1  
WR Amani Toomer   60  
WR Steve Smith   40  
PK Lawrence Tynes 1 FG 3 XP  
Pregame Notes: 2007 has been a very memorable season for the Giants who could not be beaten on the road and yet struggled at home - they only won against the visiting Eagles and Jets there. But the typical late season slide that is always led by Eli Manning disappeared in week 17 when the G-Men decided to play the Patriots instead of mailing in a meaningless game. That effort may have fallen just short, but evidently sparked the entire team. After beating the Buccaneers in the Wild Card round, the Giants plowed through both the Packers and Cowboys who had beaten them earlier in the year. The Giants yet again enjoy only minimal pressure to win this game since they have defied both Vegas odds makers and common expectations. They come into this game more than a little dangerous because they should lose this game handily - just like the last three playoff games.

Quarterback: Eli Manning passed for 251 yards and four touchdowns in week 17 with only one interception against the Patriots and hasn't lost the ball in the three succeeding games. He has only passed for 185, 163 and 251 yards in this postseason games but had two scores against the Bucs and the Cowboys. Plus he is getting nice support by Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. His knock in recent years has been that as the weather became colder, his level of play declined. Not so this year. Sure, he went eight straight games with never more than one touchdown and 12 interceptions during that time, but he's been golden since the Giants decided not to give the Patriots anything in week 17.

Running Backs: Brandon Jacobs rushed for 67 yards on 15 carries against the Patriots in week 17. He added five catches for 44 yards and scored once. But what is different this time is that Ahmad Bradshaw has grown into a bigger role now. He rushed for 151 yards and a score in week 16 in Buffalo but then was not used against the Pats in week 17. But over the three playoff games, he has rushed for 163 yards on 39 carries and twice had over 15 carries in a game. He also scored against the Packers. Oddly enough, he has never caught more than one pass in any game this year.

Jacobs has been gaining the tough yards and bowling over defensive backs. His yardage hasn't been that high in the playoffs with never more than 67 yards but he has rushed in one touchdown in every game. And he caught a score against the Buccaneers as well. Jacobs and Bradshaw have become a true "thunder and lightning" and playing a warm game could end up letting Bradshaw showcase some of his speed that the Pats never saw in week 17.

Wide Receivers: Plaxico Burress caught four passes for 84 yards and two scores against the Pats last month while Amani Toomer was held to only 41 yards on four receptions. But Toomer already has three scores in the postseason which equaled what he did during the entire regular season. It may be his swan song but he was a major factor in the wins over the Buccaneers and Cowboys.

Burress had a great game against the Pats but was held to only five catches for 43 yards over the first two playoffs games. And just when he seemed to be removed from being a factor, he turned in 11 catches for 151 yards against the solid secondary of the Packers - perhaps even better than the Cowboys or Buccaneers that held him to minimal gains while allowing others to beat them.

Steve Smith figures in but only for around three catches per game during the postseason and he still has yet to catch a touchdown in the NFL. Whatever happens here goes first to Burress and then to Toomer.

Tight Ends: Kevin Boss caught four passes for 50 yards and one score against the Patriots this year. He hasn't done much in the three games since with never more than two catches or 19 yards in any of them but he's been a solid surprise since Jeremy Shockey went down injured in week 15. Enough so that there has been rumors that Shockey may not be retained. Boss isn't going to turn in any long gainers but he has the confidence of Manning when needed.

Match Against the Defense: So what is different now than just four weeks ago? The Giants will be on the road but that is not exactly a liability for this team. The weather will be warmer but in week 17 it was only 44 degrees in New York and wind was only 8 mph and not an issue so there should be no climatic limits imposed on either team.

What could be new would be using Bradshaw this time to add a much different style of runner for the Pats to defend against though he has hardly ever been used as a receiver. The question is how quickly the Pats can score and force the Giants to limit or abandon their rushing game. There have been only three runners who had 20 or more carries against the Pats this year and each had very nice games (Willie Parker, Joseph Addai and Willis McGahee). There is no doubt that the Giants will want to avoid an aerial war against the Pats and no doubt the Pats will do everything to force exactly that. To be considered here as well is that the Pats are going to be playing in their first great weather game since perhaps mid-season or so. That should drive up the score and with that cause Manning to pass no less than he had to in week 17.

Offense alone probably cannot get a win here by the Giants and that means their defense and special teams have to come up big. Eli has proven himself over the last four games as a born again Manning and will rely on the usual as he did in week 17. It will have some success but alone probably not enough. His error-free ways of the last month must continue but the lack of pressure that the Giants should feel here will help him to just play the game and not force passes.

The Giants are battle-tested and ready to play this game. That should allow more success rushing the ball early and help give Jacobs and Bradshaw better numbers.

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New England Patriots (16-0)
Homefield: Gillette Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @NYJ 38-14 -6.5 40.5
2 SD 38-14 -3 47
3 BUF 38-7 -16.5 41
4 @CIN 34-13 -7.5 54
5 CLE 34-17 -15.5 48
6 @DAL 48-27 -5 52.5
7 @MIA 49-28 -17 51
8 WAS 52-7 -16 48
9 @IND 24-20 -5.5 56.5
10 BYE - - -
11 @BUF 56-10 -15.5 46.5
12 PHI 31-28 -22.5 50.5
13 @BAL 27-24 -20.5 51.5
14 PIT 34-13 -10.5 51
15 NYJ 20-10 -24.5 50.5
16 MIA 28-7 -22.5 43.5
17 @NYG 38-35 -14.5 44.5
P2 JAX 31-20 -13 49
P3 SD 21-12 -14 47.5
SB NYG      
NEP Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady     340,4
RB Laurence Maroney 60,1 20  
TE Ben Watson   30  
WR Randy Moss   100,2  
WR Donte Stallworth   40  
WR Jabar Gaffney   30,1  
WR Wes Welker   100,1  
PK Stephen Gostkowski 2 FG 5 XP  

Pregame Notes: The time has come for the Patriots to put their final stamp on the most successful single season in NFL history. It's all there for them - great weather and facing a team they have already defeated. Tom Brady was limping around after the Chargers game with an injury that was barely acknowledged by the notoriously secretive Patriots and that has been conjectured to be a slight high ankle sprain. Both teams did not hold anything back in week 17 so there's not likely to be much in the way of new wrinkles offensively by the Patriots but then again it has been a historically prolific unit anyway so trick plays have hardly been needed to get this far.

What is different this time is that the Pats have really taken the wraps off of Laurence Maroney with excellent results so Brady passing is hardly the only concern of the Giants defense. There will also be far more pressure on the Patriot players to win this final 20-0 game but the team is mostly stocked with veterans that should handle that without a problem. More concern would come from playing a physical and young defense like the Giants that are playing as well as at any time this year.

What cannot be dismissed or devalued is that the Patriots are going to be playing in great weather for their showcase passing attack. If they can manage to get more than a seven point lead in the game, it will likely change the Giants game plan in ways that will lead to their demise. And that will be exactly what Brady and company will be aiming to do early and often in this game.

Quarterback: Tom Brady passed for 356 yards and two scores against the Giants this year with no turnovers and one sack. But he struggled a bit against the Chargers with three interceptions and he was banged up in the game to a degree that even the Patriots team doctor will not admit to himself. This is a showcase game for Brady and the only way that the Giants are going to get in the way of potentially gaudy numbers is if they can reach him with the pass rush. But Brady has never been sacked more than three times in any game this year. His health - which by most accounts will not be any issue here - is the only limiting factor along with limiting how many hits he has to take during the game.

Running Backs: Laurence Maroney only rushed for 46 yards on 19 carries but scored two touchdowns in New York against the Giants this year. In his two playoff appearances, he has turned in bookend 122 rushing yard efforts over the Chargers and Jaguars and scored once in each. His last five games have been over 100 rushing yards except for that one game against the Giants. Facing an aggressive defense and opportunistic special teams, the last thing the Pats want is for this game to end up a battle of the running backs in a close game. That should limit Maroney more this week though he could make it up if the Pats get a significant lead early enough to get him over 20 carries.

Wide Receivers: Randy Moss turned six receptions into 100 yards and two scores in the previous meeting with the Giants while Welker led the team with 11 catches for122 yards. No other receiver had more than 38 yards for the Patriots and no other wideout scored. Amazingly, Randy Moss is coming off his two worst games of the year with only a single catch against the Chargers and Jaguars and no scores. His previous success against the Giants will play into this game but it wasn't as if he was a secret weapon in week 17 and the Giants biggest weakness is against big receivers.

Welker has been less of a factor during the two postseason games with only 56 and 54 yards but he scored once in each and was open on almost every play in the previous meeting with the Giants. Enough so that the Giants simply cannot afford to focus too heavily on Moss or Welker will set a Super Bowl record for receptions.

Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth will figure in and Gaffney had a score against the Chargers but the offense has turned to heavy use of Moss and Welker and the Giants could not stop them last time.

Tight Ends: Ben Watson had four catches for 38 yards against the Giants this year. His role has been largely curtailed since week five when he had 107 yards and two scores against the Browns. Since then, he has never had more than 43 yards in any game nor more than four catches. He had not scored since week 11 until the Jaguars playoff game when he had two short receptions - both for touchdowns. He's there when Brady needs him but mostly Brady doesn't really need him.

Match Against the Defense: So what is different now than just a month ago? For one, Laurence Maroney has been running very well and taken over in some games thanks in part to poor weather for passing. Otherwise... not really anything so long as Tom Brady is 100% healthy.

The Giants have been very good against running backs this year though they have allowed several to turn in big yardage via receptions. But Maroney never had more than one or two catches in any game this year so he'll be relied on as just a runner. He had nice success scoring twice in the previous meeting but was held to almost two yards per carry and the Pats are not going to be getting into any close, hard fought game with lots of rushing if at all possible. Expect Maroney to have slightly better total yardage than last time but it'll take a big second half lead for the Pats to settle for letting him run more than 16 or 18 times.

Brady already had much success passing against the Giants with 356 yards while completing 76% of his passes to his two main receivers. Expect no less this week as the Patriots look to win as big as they can and claim a title that has been sullied by Cheatgate but that will have been won so decisively that there can be no question that they are worthy. Brady may branch out to Watson, Gaffney or Stallworth, but only if the Giants manage to stop both Welker and Moss - and they could stop neither in week 17. This will be a game where the Pats will roll up the score if they can - what else would be more fitting or descriptive of this season?

As with every other game this year, it really all depends on Brady avoiding the pass rush and remaining healthy. The Giants will look to reach him before the damage is done but so far, no one has been up to that task this year.

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