Two weeks always seems to be too long of a timeframe between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl. There needs to be appropriate media build up, but do I really need to watch player interviews on three consecutive morning SportsCenters? Matt Light only has so much to say by Thursday. The problem is that one week doesn’t seem to be enough, so we’re stuck with two. Thankfully the storylines didn’t get too ridiculous this year, but you know it’s time for the game when Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning become the big stories of Thursday.
Two weeks seems short when comparing it to four years. We all know that four years is the time since these Patriots and Giants faced each other in their last Super Bowl encounter. While the argument can go back and forth between whether it’s a true rematch of four years ago (the head coaches and quarterbacks are still the same) or two completely different teams (less than 25% of both rosters were in the game four years ago), the fans of both sides both remember four years ago very well. That’s led to plenty of smack talk among friends in the Northeast over the last two weeks. Patriots fans aren’t talking as much as they did four years ago, because at this point they know better.
Knowing better comes at a price. Four years ago, the Patriots and their fans were full of bravado. They were undefeated coming into the Super Bowl and figured the game would be child’s play. Four quarters and a David Tyree later, that turned out not to be the case. No moment of that Super Bowl rings more true to my family than what we saw from my friend’s boyfriend, an extremely confident Patriots fan, after the game at the Super Bowl party I host every year. He sat there against the wall while crying on the phone to his Dad about what could’ve been. The memory is so etched into my own Dad’s memory that the first thing he asked me when we learned the Giants would be facing the Patriots again was, “I know they broke up a year ago, but do you think we could invite that kid back this year? I loved watching him cry.” Game on, fellas!
Before we get to the game, here’s a list of the Super Bowl prop bets with the greatest potential for success:
What will be the largest lead of the game by either team? (Under 13.5 points +140)
If you, like me, believe this is going to be a close game, then this seems like a rather safe bet. With both teams being able to put up offensive numbers, it doesn’t seem as if one team will get that far behind the other. The largest lead of their game earlier this season was 10 points.
Will either team score in the first 5.5 minutes of the game? (No -125)
The Patriots haven’t decided to receive when winning the coin toss since Tom Brady’s knee injury. With the Giants likely to start with the ball (they have more confidence in choosing their offense to start then going against Brady), you can expect the Giants to try a well-balanced attacked that keeps the Patriots off the field for a while. Even if they punt, the Patriots won’t score within the five-and-a-half minute window.
How many different Giants will score? (Under 3.5 +120)
This includes field goals from kickers, so Lawrence Tynes already contributes one to the total. From there, are there three giants that will score? Remember, Eli needs a rushing touchdown, which never happens, in order to qualify. I see one receiver going off for a couple touchdowns with Bradshaw grabbing the one from the backfield if the Giants do put together three touchdowns.
How many carries will BenJarvus Green-Ellis have? (Under 13.0 -135)
The Patriots usually use a large dose of BGE when they have a healthy lead. That’s not expected to happen this weekend. With the Law Firm averaging 12.1 carries per game in Patriot wins this season, it’s weird to see the number as high as it is. The Patriots will likely focus on spreading the Giants out with quick passes because they’re not good at the ground and pound. BGE sits on the sideline in the spread, so this under seems very reasonable.
How many field goals will Stephen Gostkowski make? (Over 1.5 EVEN)
With Gronk at less than 100%, the Patriots' red zone offense won't be nearly as effective. That means Gostkowski should at least get a couple shots to bang home some field goals.
How many kickoff returns will the two teams combine for? (Under 6.5 -165)
Put the game indoors and both kickers should be more effective. Man, this year’s new kickoff rule blows.
Will Kelly Clarkson's bare belly be showing when she sings the national anthem? (No -500)
Unless Chris Berman pulls up alongside Clarkson with a Toyota Camry, there’s no way Clarkson is showing anything during the national anthem. She’s a conservative girl to begin with and you know the NFL is cracking down on outfits since the Janet Jackson debacle.
Will Madonna wear an NFL jersey or shirt at any point during the Super Bowl halftime show? (No -400)
If this was Sheryl Crow then maybe the answer would be yes. But this is f*cking Madonna. You know she’s been working on her outfit for weeks and the NFL had to approve it. There’s no way she is committing to wearing anything with an NFL logo on it. Besides, it wouldn’t fit well with her fake British accent.
Tom Brady – Longest Completion (Under 41.5 yards -115)
Who exactly is the Patriots’ deep threat again? With Gronkowski limited and unable to stretch the field, the Giants will just need to keep Welker and Hernandez in front of them to win this. That should be easy to do.
Tom Brady – Passing Attempts (Over 39.5 -115)
In his last three games against the Giants, Brady hasn’t thrown less than 42 passes. Why stop now when the game’s indoors for a change?
Wes Welker – Total Receptions (Over 6.5 -155)
The Giants struggle mightily with slot receivers. Look for Welker to tic-tac-toe his way down the field and pick up plenty of catches.
What will the first score of the game be? (Any other score other than a TD +155)
A field goal or safety has been the initial score in eight of the last 13 Super Bowls. People expect the touchdowns, but the cautious nature of feeling out your opponent in the big game leads to something else.
Who will have more on February 5, 2012? (Wayne Rooney Goals +200)
For the curious ones, the other side of this prop is Brandon Jacobs (Touchdowns -300). Chelsea’s defense has been in shambles all year and I have no faith that Jacobs will score a touchdown, so I’m taking Rooney, the Red Devil.
New England -3 over N.Y. Giants (27-23)
While everyone will be talking about the offenses in this game, it’s the defenses that have vastly improved in recent weeks. The Patriots have given up 21 or less points in the last three games, which, to them, is a nice improvement. The numbers appear better when you take into account how much of a hole they put themselves in against the Bills in Week 17. We’ve talked plenty about the Giants' simplified defensive schemes and they were evident again last week as the Giants limited the 49ers outside of two big plays to Vernon Davis.
Are these improved defenses enough to limit the two explosive offenses? The dome effect probably will help the offenses more than the defenses, so only time will tell. Ironically when these two teams played earlier in the season with weaker defenses, neither team scored in the first half before both waking up in the second half. The injury to Rob Gronkowski should limit his effectiveness, but two weeks of rest, a hyperbaric chamber, and good drugs can make him somewhat useful. Without Gronkowski at 100%, other guys like Branch and Hernandez will have to be even more effective. I’m still not convinced anyone outside of Corey Webster can play good coverage in the Giants’ secondary, so Brady should be able to move the ball, even if it’s all underneath stuff.
What’s weird is that the Patriots don’t seem like favorites. I thought this line was too high at the beginning given that the Giants are the hottest team in football right now and they beat the Patriots in Foxboro earlier this season. Maybe that’s why Vegas is smarter than us and the line is set where it is. If they weren’t getting enough money on the Patriots, they never would’ve set the line as high as this. Is it possible that the two-week period has slowed the Giants down? Will all the broadcasters predicting a Giants win put them in an overconfident position that historically has led to bad results? The theory is well placed, but this writer only has one possibility with his pick. If you’ve been following along, we’re on a no-Giants-jersey-during-games and no-picking-the-Giants-to-win policy. I’ll sacrifice my column record for the good of mankind. We’ll see who’s crying this year…
Last Week: 1-1
Playoff Record: 5-5