Super Bowl Sunday as a tradition goes back almost 17 years for me when I watched Super Bowl XXX with my dad. It was my first ‘big’ experience with the Super Bowl, mainly because the Steelers were playing in their first Super Bowl since the 1979 season when they beat the LA Rams for their 4th Super Bowl title. And, even though the Steelers lost to Dallas, I was hooked to that big stage and made it a tradition with my dad and anyone else who cared to join to watch the Super Bowl from our living room.
The Steelers fell short this season in making it to Indy. But, I will be on my own couch watching the game with my wife and some friends as just another NFL spectator. I will be giving my dad a phone call during halftime to see what he thinks of the game. I won’t really be rooting for one team to win – I prefer neither the Giants nor the Pats. But my hatred for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick supersedes my neutrality – so I will be rooting for the Pats to loose. I’d be a bit happier and more at ease today were Bettis selected to the Hall of Fame, but I’ll save that for another rant.
I’m really glad that neither Harbaugh made it into the Super Bowl this season. The media would have made it too much about brother playing brother and less and less about the players and the game itself. The talking heads have a way of being self indulgent that way – although there’s always Trent Dilfer to tell us how good of a quarterback Joe Flacco truly is. As a side note: I watched The Replacements on TV yesterday – a terrible football movie, but was better than the figure skating that was on at the time. What I find ironic about that movie these days is that the movie game footage was filmed in the then brand new stadium for the freshly moved and minted Baltimore Ravens. Keanu Reeves plays a hapless QB named Shane Falco (almost a Flacco) who must overcome his fears of inadequacy in order to become a real winner. Gene Hackman’s character, who plays the coach, tells him that he sees two men in Falco – the man his is now, and the man he ought to be. Someday those two will meet and it should make for a hell of a football player…. I wonder if Flacco will ever meet his other and better half? Now back to the Super Bowl.
The media has latched on to the eery similarities between this Super Bowl and when these two teams met in the same contest back in 2008 when the Patriot’s perfect season was on the line. The Giants were the hot team coming into the playoffs and rode that momentum all the way to a Super Bowl victory over the Patriots. The Pats were heavily favored last time and are favored again but not as much. Can the Giants beat the odds again and win this ‘rematch?’ In my opinion it all comes down to an ankle – and I’m not talking about Big Ben’s.
Rob Gronkowski has invariably been the X factor for the Patriots. Left alone over the middle of the field, this young man will make a secondary’s life a nightmare. The Steelers were fortunate enough to put pressure on Brady and keep him from continually connecting with Gronk. When he did, Gronk made the defense pay by gaining some big yards – carrying several guys on his back while doing so. The big man suffered a high ankle sprain during the AFC championship game against the Ravens. Steeler fans are all too familiar with what a high ankle sprain can do to a player who solely relies on his mobility. Chances are Gronkowski is not 100% today. Will it be enough for him to be no factor in today’s contest – well we’ll have to wait and see.
The keys for today’s game are Gronkowski’s health, the Giants defensive front and Eli’s composure. If the Giants front can keep pressure on Brady and get him scrambling, then it will be a rough day for the Pats offensively. If anything, the Giants should follow the Steelers’ defensive scheme from when they beat the Pats earlier this season. The Steelers shut down the receivers and put pressure on Brady – throwing off his timing and not allowing him the time to find the open receiver once a play broke down. Guys like J. Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck will need to find their ways past the tackles and put pressure on Brady from the outside.
Eli Manning needs to maintain his composure for the entire game and refrain from that whiny boyish look he gets when he and his team are down in the 3rd quarter. Eli’s strength is the 4th quarter, and I believe that he will need another 4th quarter comeback in his pocket. There will be no domination like there was against the Packers. He’s going to have a couple picks during the game, and you can bet that the running game will have its struggles. Eli needs to maintain composure and not let those things get to him. If he can do that, and use a little of that Manning magic for the 4th quarter, then I think the Giants have a strong chance in winning this game – for the second time.
My official prediction for the game will be:
Super Bowl Commercials: 3 truly funny, 4 sorta funny, 6 ‘groaners’ and the rest forgettable.
Patriots 24 Giants 26 - won late in the 4th quarter with a Manning come back drive (although he’ll have to find someone other than David Tyree to make a miracle catch this time around)
Enjoy the game everyone. Let’s hope it’s close and not a snoozer like Super Bowl XXXV or Super Bowl XXXVII.
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