Friday, February 3, 2012
Football Wrap: Deja Vu All Over Again (Preview and Storylines)
So we meet again. 4 years later, the Giants and Patriots will be doing battle in the Super Bowl. The QB's are the same. The Patriots are expected to win. Tom Brady has set a record (Passing Dan Marino after Drew Brees did - 4 yrs ago, the Pats scored the most points in an NFL season and he threw for the most TD's). And all I can think about is what could've been.
Four years ago, the Patriots could've been the greatest NFL champion in history. Tom Brady to Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth. They showing no mercy on a league and proving why Moss might be the greatest WR not named Jerry Rice. 18-0 and unstoppable. Sure they had to hold off the Giants in the regular season finale but they'd beat them again right?
The Giants didn't deserve to be there. My beloved Cowboys were 13-3 and home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Needless to say, plans didn't work out and instead of us repping the NFC East, it was the hated Midgets. They got to the game and all a sudden, they looked like they belonged.
Well when Randy Moss caught that TD, I figured the game was done. No way Eli Manning's wack arm could march down the field, right? Oh, but I was wrong. Somehow the Patriots couldn't tackle Eli to end the game and somehow he slung that ball down field and somehow David Tyree pinned it to his head. I still remembering losing my mind like OOOOOO WOW! Needless to say when Eli found Plaxico Burress wide open in the end zone later, the dream of watching perfection ended.
Nothing says 2nd best like being perfect all the way til the end and losing. Eli's success doubly hurt being a Chargers fan when I reveled in his failure for spurning the team that drafted him.
But 4 years later, things have changed or have they? Tom Brady has a new weapon in Rob Gronkowski. Eli has 2 top WR's in Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and an always dangerous 3rd in Mario Manningham. The Giants defense is intimidating. Oh yeah, the Giants beat the Pats earlier this year with Eli throwing a late TD to win it.
Here's some of my favorite storylines leading into the big game - ending with my predictions.
1. How will Rob Gronkowski hold up? His high ankle sprain is a stinger but there's no doubt that Big Gronk isn't playing. The reason this is a debate is because folks need something to talk about. He won't be 100% but he'll play just like Jack Youngblood and Terrell Owens before him. And I won't be surprised if he or Aaron Hernandez has a great game.
2. Will the Patriots D be abused? As good as the Pats are on offense, their defense is shaky and their secondary is downright ripe for abuse. This isn't Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi and those guys from 7 years ago. They've been lit up a few times and going against one of the best WR corps in the league, it could be Bubba Sparxxx Ugly.
3. Is Chad Ochocinco going to be a factor? I'm pretty happy that Chad has finally made it to a Super Bowl. This isn't the same happy-go-lucky Chad who's mouth dominated the season or was a heavy contributor. This is an older, near the end of the hill Chad. Yet you can bet he'll be happy as a jaybird when he gets on the field and if he scores, nobody should be upset. His mouth makes you forget that was a top WR for a while and the fact he's been quiet during Media Day speaks volumes about where his head's at.
4. I feel bad for Steve Smith. This is a soft spot for one of the best high school athletes California has produced in the last decade. Smith was a minor part of the Giants' Super Bowl team and was blossoming as one of the top young WR's in the league. He got hurt and the Giants traded him to the Eagles. He barely played this year and I could only imagine how much deadlier the G-Men would be. Instead of playing for his 2nd ring, he's watching at home.
5. Eli Manning's rep won't change with a win (dramatically at least). Eli is still little brother in the Manning household. Some people have said that 2 Super Bowl wins over the best QB of the last decade will make him better than Peyton. To those idiots, I'll suggest Terry Bradshaw is also better than Payton too. If Eli wins, you give him a lot of props and acknowledge his clutch gene. You acknowledge he's made the most of 2 wild card opportunities. But if this doesn't kill the more rings makes you better than (insert name), nothing will.
6. Peyton Manning will be mentioned as much as the game. Doctors cleared Manning to play Thursday to play and Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted Thursday night that he has NOT been cleared. Manning's future weighs in the balance as his rival and kid bro will duel and this could be the beginning of the end. Jim Irsay has planned a bloodless coup by getting a new GM and coach and the potential #1 pick has been spotted in Indy giving his opinion. So yes, Peyton will be as big a story as anyone and if the Colts are smart, they think long term no matter what. Andrew Luck will be a Colt for insurance at the worst and we see if #18 will ever suit up again.
The Virgo Prediction: I can't root for the Giants despite their WR's and that defense. I can't root for Eli Manning even though he may be the only QB I'd take against Brady who isn't intimidated. Tom Brady was rattled by the Ravens in the AFC Title game and the Giants could do the same. It'd be easy to pick the Giants as the underdog and the hot team who caught lightning twice.
But I'm seeing other factors. I see Tom Brady getting revenge because he knows what this could mean for him. I see Brady and Belicheck thinking they are almost a decade removed from their last ring and one more makes them elite. Because 10 years ago, Brady saw his career begin in the Super Bowl with a surprising win and nothing would make it sweeter than winning rings in two decades like his hero Joe Montana.
In a battle of wills, I see the Patriots haunted by four years ago and being driven to amend what happened. I see hunger, not cockiness that crept in last year. This is going to be a close game just like earlier this year and I predict the Patriots winning on a last drive. Much as I hate to celebrate Boston's success, I hate to see to see New York celebrate again and seeing Robert Kraft hoist the Super Bowl trophy while thinking of his late wife would move me to tears
Oh and I say take the under on both teams scoring 40 points combined, watch Gronkowski end up with 90 yards and a TD minimum, and expect a pop-heavy but disappointing halftime show. Madonna doesn't need two shuffling fools or Black Barbie Nicki to make a great show but I hope M.I.A. shines.
Served By Evan Barnes at 12:34 AM