I know I haven't really been commenting much on football ever since the wildcard round. I actually have a few posts drafted but by the time I remembered to publish it was already too late. Suffice to say I did not expect to see the Giants in the Superbowl, nor did I expect them to be facing the 49ers. Everything else has fallen into place as expected.
In this rematch of one of the most electrifying Superbowls I've ever seen, it's a less talented Pats team against a much more talented Giants team, and yet I can't help but think the Patriots will win this one. Throughout this years' playoffs I've taken note of the difference in coaching, and this is one where I think Pats have a significant advantage. Despite my continual mocking of his name and what he's done in the past, I have a lot of respect for Bill Belicheat. I think he's the best situational coach because of the preparation he puts his players through. He's certainly smarter and craftier than Tom Coughlin. So on the coaching side, it will come down to whether or not Belicheat can make use of his versatile players to outsmart the talented Giants.
Defense always wins championships, and on the outset it seems like the Giants should win because of this. The Pats defense was terrible during much of the regular season, but since about week 14 or 15, Belicheat has gotten his defense to play, I want to say -- better, or perhaps to their potential. They started out the year with a lot of young guys who have matured throughout the year and now understand the system. I think the Giants have a better defense overall, but I don't think the Pats are that far behind compared to what most people think. I think you give the same group of guys one more year and when you redo the odds in Vegas, the Pats will be favored by more than a touchdown.
Offensively, the Pats are just better, hands down.
For the Pats to win, all they need to do is protect Tom Brady, which they've usually been able to do for most of his career. Let's face it, giving an average quarterback 5-6 seconds of unhurried protection will allow you to execute your offense 65-75% of the time. Giving a laser-eye/laser-arm (Tom Brady) 5-6 seconds of that protection will allow him to execute almost all the time, especially when you factor in guys who always find ways to get open like Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Aaron Hernandez. Then you factor in Rob Gronkowski who isn't always open but might as well be because he's taller and stronger than everyone else around him.
For the Giants to win, they need to get to Tom Brady. I keep reading about how tough Tom Brady is, but anyone watching games where teams get to Brady know that he's not tough on the field, at all. He's got a laser arm, and one of the best on-the-spot vision in football. He is able to look at 5-6 options downfield very quickly, a skill very few have the ability to do. However, when someone is bearing down on him, he's not able to scramble away and for the most part usually ends up on the ground without anyone even hitting him. He's not a tough guy. If the Giants can reduce that normal 5-6 second window to 1-2, and actually hit him a few times, Tom Brady goes from top QB in the league to an average guy who makes all kinds of mistakes and lies down or takes a knee when he sees someone about to deck him. He's no Eli Manning, in that regard.
Peyton Manning's next team
By no means am I insisting Peyton will end up on a new team, but if I managed the Colts, I'd let him go.
I love Peyton Manning, likely more that a heterosexual man should care to admit. I plan to name at least one of my kids after him. But for the Colts to have any kind of future, they need to allow Peyton Manning to become a free agent. The Colts, despite a pretty solid record over the past 8-10 years are a team that is bereft of talented positional players. Yes there's a few standouts like Reggie Wayne, and we had Marshall Faulk for awhile, but everyone else is just average. The Colts have benefited from having the best quarterback, quite possibly in the history of the sport, and have pretended for a near decade to be a great team.
Bill Polian has squandered pick after pick on draft busts, that the average fan don't notice because you see Peyton turning these below average guys into superstars. On the defensive end, not being on the field for long helps. We all saw what happened to them this year when the Colts' time-of-possession was worst in the league.
The Colts, if possible should try to re-sign Peyton Manning to a more management contract, and then trade him away and acquire as many quality prospects and draft picks as they can possibly get. Here is a list of teams that will be looking to acquire him either as a free agent or via trade: Washington Redskins (no thanks), New York Jets (pass!), Miami Dolphins (okay), Tennessee Titans (yes please), Arizona Cardinal (umm..).
Houston Texans are not a possibility, but I'd love to see Manning playing in the same division as the Colts with a far superior team. Strong defense, great offensive line, several key talented positions.