This year's Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. features the undefeated New England Patriots against the New York Giants. The game will be a rematch of the regular-season finale for both teams, in which the Patriots overcame an 11-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Giants, 38-35, in New York. With the contest still fresh in the minds of both clubs, the game should be a tough match-up for both sides.
The single biggest advantage for the New England Patriots is, of course, their offense, which set an NFL record for points in a single season. Tom Brady would need to be on crutches to miss this game (and even that's doubtful), so you know he'll be prepared. With Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Ben Watson, Laurence Maroney and Donte Stallworth all on the field, the Giants will have to pick their poison while defending against New England's offensive juggernaut
Although the Patriots' defense has been suspect of late, anyone who has consistently followed the team through the season knows the unit operates under a "bend-but-don't-break" principle. They give up yards and field goals, but limit the opponents' touchdowns. Also, players like Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi have a knack for making huge plays when the game is on the line.
What also works to the Patriots' advantage is past history. Since Brady became a full-time starter in 2001, the Patriots are 18-2 when they have more than a week to get ready for their next opponent. The last of those two losses was on Sept. 7, 2003. Bill Belichick, widely considered the top strategist in the game, is simply too prepared when he has that extra week to draw up his game plan.
The Giants' offense, while not as high-powered as New England's, is very efficient. New York likes to run the ball with bruiser Brandon Jacobs, which in turn sets up quarterback Eli Manning for the play-action pass. The Giants also have their share of big-play options as well, particularly with receiver Plaxico Burress, who led the team with 12 touchdown receptions this season.
On defense, the Giants were able to put up a good fight against the Patriots during the regular season with their pass rush, led by ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. If the New York defense is able to get to Brady, they may be able to exploit his injured ankle and force the Patriots' quarterback into some errant throws.
New York's coaching staff also deserves a lot of credit for turning the franchise into a Super Bowl representative after a tough finish in the 2006 season. Coach Tom Coughlin, often cited as one of the toughest coaches in the game to play for, has done an excellent job in getting his players to rally around him in their push to the brink of a championship.
Ultimately, the Patriots have more to gain in the game than New York . For the Giants, a win would mean vindication for the perpetually inconsistent Manning and a title for the aging Strahan. The Patriots, however, have a chance to make history. A 19-0 season would put them among the greatest teams ever, joining the likes of the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 1985 Chicago Bears. Still, for whatever reason, the Patriots always seem to cut it close during playoff games. They'll prevail, but just barely.
New England 31
New York 27