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Weekly Game Breakdowns - Super Bowl
Bob Cunningham
January 29, 2008

Just one victory away. 

The New England Patriots can stamp themselves as the greatest team ever… or at the very least, the team enjoying the greatest single-season of all-time… if they can defeat the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII and finish the 2007 season at 19-0.

To be honest, it’s not the matchup I wanted or thought we’d have.  I was convinced Brett Favre would direct Green Bay past the Giants in the NFC Championship Game, and I consider a Pats-Pack clash as a lot more fascinating.  But Favre was outplayed by much-maligned Eli Manning, and the G-Men are the newest wild-card team to make it to Super Sunday.

For me, the historical significance of what the Patriots are trying to achieve is about the only thing holding my interest.  On a personal level, I don’t particularly care for either team.  I respect both, especially New England, and what each has accomplished to this point.  But I don’t pull for either one.  Bill Belichick is a little too smug for me, Tom Coughlin a bit too rough around the edges.

Oh well, at least I can try to win a pool or two.  Enjoy the commercials!

2007 Picks Record Straight-up:  175-91 (66 percent)
2007 Picks Record Against-The-Spread:  135-122-9 (52 percent)
Last Week:  1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS

Here’s how I see Super Bowl XLII: 

Sunday, Feb. 3, 3:30 p.m. PT at Glendale, Ariz.

Line:  Patriots favored by 12

Strongest Trends:  The Giants have won their last 10 road games, including three in the postseason, and are 7-1 ATS overall in their last eight games.  The Patriots have won 18 straight overall, but have failed to cover ATS in six of their last seven.

Last Meeting:  The Patriots edged the host Giants, 38-35, in the regular season finale.

Giants Status Report:  New York defeated the host Green Bay Packers in OT, 23-20, to capture the NFC title Sunday.

Patriots Status Report:  The Patriots held off a game but injury-plagued San Diego Chargers club, 21-12, at home to win their fourth AFC crown in the last seven years.

Super Bowl History:  This will be the Giants’ fourth appearance in a Super Bowl.  They defeated Denver, 39-20, in Super Bowl XXI; edged Buffalo, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV; and was routed by Baltimore, 34-7, in Super Bowl XXXV.  For New England, this is its sixth Super Bowl appearance.  After losing to Chicago, 46-10, in Super Bowl XX and 35-21 to Green Bay and Brett Favre in Super Bowl XXXI, the Patriots have won in each of their last three appearances – beating the St. Louis Rams, 20-17, in Super Bowl XXXVI; Carolina, 32-29, in Super Bowl XXXVIII and Philadelphia, 24-21, in Super Bowl XXXIX.

Game Summary:  Based on history, the logical choice would be to pick the Patriots to win by a field goal.  After all, the winning margin in each of their three Super Bowl triumphs – all accomplished this decade – has been three points.  But this New England team is different.  This New England team is literally immune to defeat so far.  Those other clubs were obviously very good but they did lose on occasion in those days. And while the Giants are obviously a worthy adversary for reeling off 10 straight road victories including an unlikely three in a row in the playoffs over division-winners Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay, I just don’t see Eli Manning outplaying Tom Brady – which is what it will take for the Giants to pull off the upset.  Granted, I didn’t envision Manning playing smarter and protecting the ball better than Brett Favre, either, and I was obviously wrong on that score as were most pundits.  But Brady has been on this stage three times before and came up golden every time.  Some might reason that he’s due for a stumble… but you know what?  I think that probably came last week, when the Chargers picked him off three times.  Ah, but the Pats still came away victorious.  Admittedly, it’s not much of a reach in terms of forecasting, but I envision Brady coming up huge. The guy is simply too smart, too poised, too experienced in the spotlight, he has too many quality receivers to choose from, and his offensive line is too good – even against a top-notch Giants pass rush.  Manning won’t embarrass himself, but he’s not ready for this level of Prime Time just yet.  Beating Brady and the Pats with single-season immortality on the line for New England is asking too much.  But with that said, I’m no longer willing to buck the recent trend that opponents are playing the vaunted Patriots tough. A shaky pick for the Giants to cover the number.

Prediction:  PATRIOTS 35, GIANTS 24

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