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It’s Elior 19-0!

Jan 29, 2008 1:35 AM

So last year Peyton Manning got his first ring. Does little brother Eli get one now? Or do Tom Brady and Bill Belichick cap off a historic 19-0 season?

Back in August New England was a clear 3-1 favorite to win the Super Bowl. The Giants were 28-1, with six NFC teams (Saints, Bears, Seahawks, Panthers, Cowboys and Eagles) ahead of them.

For the first time in four years the NFC’s No. 1 seed didn’t make it. And, it’s the first time in five years the top AFC seed did. We are in a golden age for the AFC, which continues to have the best teams. It’s almost as if the pendulum has swung. During the 1980s and much of the ’90s, the NFC won 15-of-16 Super Bowls, including 13 in a row! That changed in 1998 when Denver upset Green Bay, 31-24. Since then, the AFC has won 8 of the last 10.

The Giants are a Cinderella story, rising from the No. 5 seed to upset the Bucs, Cowboys and Packers — all on the road. It’s been a great story, as most thought coach Tom Coughlin would be let go a year ago. New York is on an NFL record 10-0 SU, 9-1 ATS run the last 10 road games. While the Giants set a record for road wins, the Patriots set their own marks with a high-flying passing offense.

QB Tom Brady established a league record with 50 TD passes and WR Randy Moss set one with 23 TD catches. They also are the first team to start a season 18-0 and can join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only team to run the table.

The Pats have won three of the last six Super Bowls by exactly three points, despite being a TD favorite twice and a 14-point dog once. The Giants hope to continue a Super Bowl trend: The underdog is 4-2 ATS the last six Super Bowls, winning twice.

Here’s a look at what to expect this weekend as America’s unofficial national holiday kicks off.

What the Giants want to do: Old school football right out of the Allie Sherman playbook: Run, control the football and play tough defense. The Giants had the No. 4 rushing attack during the season, have rushed for 100, 90 and 134 yards in three playoff wins, and held a whopping 40-22 edge in time of possession in the NFC title game. Ball control means keeping the football out of Brady’s hands.

The NY offense is No. 17 in the NFL with a nice one-two running tandem of speedy rookie Ahman Bradshaw and power back Brandon Jacobs. They have averaged the same amount of points in the postseason as during the regular season (22 per game).

But will 22 be enough? Only if the defense leads the way, one with their ferocious defensive front putting pressure on Brady. They led the NFL in sacks, but sacked Brady only once in Week 17, a 38-35 Pats’ win at the Meadowlands. In that game, Brady finished 32-for-42 for 356 yards. Manning was 22-for-32 for 251 yards and one interception. The Giants are 5-3 SU, 6-2 ATS as a dog.

What the Patriots want to do: Pass or run? This record-setting passing attack was No. 1 in the NFL and averaged 36.8 points. In the playoffs, though, they’ve become more of a running team, scoring just 21 points in the AFC title game. Have they shifted to a more balanced offense? Yes, out of necessity, but don’t pay too much attention. That was more because of the weather.

It was cold and windy for New England’s two playoff games. Now the Pats head to Arizona, so you’ll likely see them spread the field with four wideouts and chuck it downfield early and often.

That Pats also set a record for most points scored in a season, so you’re looking at offensive history with Brady (50 TDs, 8 INTs), Moss, WRs Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney and Dante Stallworth, TE Ben Watson and RB Laurence Maroney. The veteran defense is balanced, ranking fourth in the NFL. They were second in sacks behind the Giants. Defense led the way in the AFC Championship game, holding the Chargers to four field goals.

The Patriots have won 11-of -8 games by at least 17 points and are 12-6 over the total. During the last 32 years, the over has gone 19-13 in Super Bowl play. However, the under has ruled the last three years.