Pigskin Picks by Andy Iskoe
For most of this season it was expected that the quarterback matchup of Brady vs. Manning would take place in the AFC Championship game. But in what may be the final chapter in a historic NFL season that matchup will take place in Super Bowl XLII.
Only instead of New England’s Tom Brady matching spirals with Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning, the league’s MVP will duel against Eli Manning of the upstart New York Giants.
After New England methodically defeated San Diego 21-12 to win the AFC Title for their 18th straight win, the Giants totally outplayed the Green Bay Packers in a 23-20 overtime win to grab the NFC Title.
Regardless of the result, Super Bowl XLII will be historic.
Clearly the greatest history will be made if New England attains perfection with a win to conclude a 19-0 season. But if the Giants pull the stunning upset, it will mark the first time that a pair of brothers led their teams to Super Bowl wins in back to back seasons.
The odds makers do not like the chances of the Giants as New England has been installed a two-touchdown favorite at most sports books. Early money has come in on the Giants to move the line down to 13 in most sports books, likely due to the Giants’ impressive effort in their 38-35 loss to the Patriots in the final week of the regular season.
It was that effort that bolstered the Giants’ confidence and led to three straight road wins in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl. In winning at Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay the Giants became the second team in three seasons to reach the NFL’s ultimate game by winning three straight road games. Two seasons ago Pittsburgh took the same route to Super Bowl XL and completed their travels with a win over Seattle.
New York is in its fourth Super Bowl overall and first since their lopsided 34-7 loss to Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV.
New England is in their sixth Super Bowl in franchise history and fourth in seven seasons. They are seeking a fourth win in the big game following three straight wins (each by a field goal) over St Louis, Carolina and Philadelphia earlier this decade.
The two weeks leading up to the game will be filled with plenty of hype but will also be entertaining from a fan standpoint with the winter version of Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry.
All the pressure is clearly on New England. The record-setting 16-0 regular season will be rendered virtually meaningless if unable to complete the run with a Super Bowl win. The Giants are playing with house money.
The Over/Under season win total for the G-men was 8 with the under the favorite. Much like a player in his contract season, Coach Tom Coughlin did a magnificent job in coaxing the maximum from the Giants, a job made even tougher following an 0-2 start.
Ultimately the Giants set an NFL record with 10 straight road wins to end the season, including three in the playoffs. Their only road loss occurred in the opening game of the season at Dallas, where they knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs two weeks ago.
In winning three of the past six Super Bowls the Patriots covered only the first one, as 14-point dogs against St Louis.
New England is the 14th double- digit favorite in the Super Bowl. In the first four Super Bowls, the NFL/NFC teams were each favored by at least 13 points. After Green Bay won and covered the first two Super Bowls, the AFL/AFC teams won Super Bowls III and IV outright as the New York Jets upset Baltimore and Kansas City did likewise a year later against Minnesota.
Beginning with Denver’s upset win in Super Bowl XXXII, the AFC has now won 8 of the last 10 Vince Lombardi trophies. Favorites have won and covered the past two Super Bowls (Pittsburgh and Indianapolis) and have won the last four games straight up.
With the results of this past weekend’s conference championships factored in, double-digit favorites in the postseason are now 18-17 ATS since the current 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990.
The last three Super Bowls have gone under the total, the longest such streak since the mid-1990’s when there were three straight overs. Since 1990, the over holds a slight 9-8 edge.
In the first 26 Super Bowls the point spread mattered only twice, when Pittsburgh defeated Dallas 21-17 as 6˝ point favorites in Super Bowl X and again on "Black Sunday" three years later. In the rematch, the Steelers defeated the Cowboys 35-31 as mostly 4˝ point favorites.
In the 15 Super Bowls since there have been two point spread pushes and three instances of a winning favorite that did not cover. New England was involved in three of these games with their push against Green Bay and their FG wins over Carolina and Philly.
Next week we’ll assess the chances of the New York Giants, who finished the regular season 10-6 and outscored their foes by just 22 points.