Destiny riding on SB XLII

January 29, 2008 5:39 AM
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Experts are predicting a record handle for Sunday’s Super Bowl — Nevada sports books could for the first time surpass $100 million in betting action.

And, despite the double-digit point spread (Patriots are favored by 12 points after opening a 14-point pick last week), the game should be competitive with the Giants capable of pulling off the outright upset.

There’s no question the Patriots deserve to be favored. Their run has been phenomenal and you can’t discount their ability to win games as their record-setting 18-0 reflects.

But the Giants are on a run of their own: Winning an NFL record 10 straight on the road is truly remarkable, especially with the last three coming at Tampa, Dallas and Green Bay.

While New England deserves to be favored, its numbers aren’t worthy of an automatic coronation. In the first half of the season, the Patriots were a scoring machine, outscoring opponents by an average of 41.3-15.8.

But in the second half, games became more competitive as the Pat’s won by an average of 31-17.9, including escapes against Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Baltimore and their opponent Sunday, the Giants.

Keep in mind that most of the Patriots’ blowouts came against losing teams; their scoring margin against winning squads was only 29-20.

Beyond the numbers, the Giants appear to match up well with the Patriots, as their 3-point loss to New England in Week 17 seems to indicate.

In that game, New York was up by 12 in the third quarter, but a series of mistakes and conservative play-calling contributed to New England’s comeback.

The confidence New York gained from that game, as well as the experience of competing on a nearly equal level with the NFL’s best team, will fuel their play in the Super Bowl.

The Giants win games the "old school" way, through solid defense, an effective running game and efficient quarterback play. Here’s how they will compete toe-to-toe with the Patriots on Sunday:

”¡ The aging Patriots defense was pushed around several times this season, notably by Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Baltimore and the Giants. On Sunday, expect the Giants "thunder and lightning" running attack of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw to eat up chunks of yardage on the ground.

”¡ Eli Manning has improved dramatically since the season’s start and his top receivers, Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and Steve Smith, are capable of making big plays. Eli should be getting advice from big brother Peyton, who is intimately familiar with the Patriots defense.

”¡ New York is one of just a few teams that can pressure Tom Brady with its defensive line, which led the NFL in sacks this season. Pressuring Brady will be the key to slowing down the Patriots’ attack, although the maligned Giants secondary has improved vastly over the past view weeks.

”¡ The Giants secondary needs to stop Randy Moss, who is capable of the quick score, which so often demoralizes opposing defenses. It’s not an easy task, though teams like the Eagles, Ravens, Jaguars and Chargers proved it’s possible. New York defensive backs R.W. McQuarters, Corey Webster and Gibril Wilson are playing at their best right now, and they’ve never been healthier, so they should be up to the task.

Finally, a few intangibles point to New York. While New England is being touted as the Team of Destiny, the same could be said of the Giants, who overcame a horrendous start to the season to emerge as Super Bowl participant.

Moreover, as a double-digit road warrior (the Giants will be wearing road white on Sunday), New York has nothing to lose — they have everything to gain in the Super Bowl.

Conversely, New England could once again be cast in the unfamiliar role of coming from behind — which they’ve done masterfully when necessary — but certainly not conducive to covering a 12-point spread.

Give the Giants a shot for an outright victory in a game that should be decided by a touchdown or less.