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Super Bowl Bet: Stack ‘Em Up
We break down the Patriots and Giants as Super Bowl XLII draws near
For the 2007 NFL season, Mike Halford and Jason Brough broke down weekly trends, picks and betting advice for games each and every Sunday. Now, with just two teams and one game left, they’ve changed focus to Super Bowl XLII, with a comprehensive breakdown of the key facets to the game: running, passing, defense and coaching.
Let’s get to it.
New England: It appears as though limiting Laurence Maroney’s carries during the regular season has paid off for the Patriots. In back-to-back playoff games, Maroney has rumbled for 122 yards and a score, impressive numbers given that he only broke the 100-yard plateau three times in 13 regular season games.
But Maroney isn’t the only concern coming out of the New England backfield. Kevin “Mr. Consistency” Faulk continues to be a versatile option for Tom Brady, especially in the passing game. He caught eight balls for 82 yards in the AFC Championship game, eerily similar numbers to the ones he put up against New York in Week 17 of the regular season. That day, Faulk caught eight passes for 64 yards. – MH
Regular Season Leaders Player, Team Carries Yards TDs Brandon Jacobs, NY 202 1,009 4 Laurence Maroney, NE 185 835 6
New York: The G-men have a very effective one-two running punch going at the moment. First, there’s big Brandon Jacobs. The 6-foot-4-inch, 260-pounder from Southern Illinois has rumbled for a touchdown in each of New York’s three postseason wins and finished third in rushing yards per game (91.7) during the regular season behind Adrian Peterson (95.8) and LaDainian Tomlinson (92.1). Complementing the bruising Jacobs is rookie Ahmad Bradshaw, all 5 feet 9 inches and 198 pounds of him.
Bradshaw was injured for the Giants-Pats game in Week 17, so the juker and jiver could provide a new wrinkle for the offense. “Ahmad is a great changeup to what I do and a lot of teams aren’t ready to see that,” Jacobs told the Daily News. “He’s a little guy and he’s hard to bring down. He’s a little jittery in there and he gave us the spark that we needed to have. I get in there and wear them down and we alternate in the fourth quarter and let ’em have it.” – JB
Advantage: New York
New England: Given the pile of accolades Brady and the New England passing game have received this season, it’s hard to find an original take on where its strengths lie. But here’s one: When Brady’s favorite targets, Randy Moss and Wes Welker, are ineffective, other guys step up and the unit doesn’t miss a beat.
Against Jacksonville, Donte Stallworth led the team with three catches for 68 yards. Against San Diego, Faulk led the team with eight catches for 82 yards. In those two games combined, Moss hauled in two balls for 32 yards. Welker never broke the 60 yard plateau. Brady has developed a remarkable amount of faith in the likes of Ben Watson, Jabar Gaffney and Kyle Brady, and they’ve responded with sure-handed moments in the clutch. – MH
Regular Season Leaders – Passing Player, Team QB Rating Yards TDs Eli Manning, NY 73.9 3,336 23 Tom Brady, NE 117.2 4,806 50
New York: Here’s a neat little stat about Eli Manning: In his first seven games of the season, he threw nine interceptions and only once registered a passer rating over 100. In his last four games, including three playoff wins on the road, he’s thrown just one pick and hit the century mark in passer rating thrice.
Whether Manning has finally turned the corner or is just enjoying a hot streak, the Giants are finally getting some consistency at the quarterback position. Unlike at frigid Lambeau Field during the NFC title game, the conditions in University of Phoenix Stadium will be ideal, so Manning won’t have any bad-weather worries prior to the biggest game of his life. – JB
Regular Season Leaders – Receiving Player, Team Receptions Yards TDs Plaxico Burress, NY 70 1,025 12 Randy Moss, NE 98 1,493 23
Advantage: New England
New England: The lone knock on the Pats is that an older, aged linebacking crew can be exposed with a punishing running game. With the thunder-and-lightning combo of Jacobs and Bradshaw on the horizon, the New England LBs will probably have their stiffest test of the season on Super Bowl Sunday.
Still, it’s hard not to like the overall unit. The defense compensates for the run by bringing safety Rodney Harrison into the box, providing another hard hitter to work over Jacobs (who is prone to running with a high pad level and is prone to taking huge shots). In the secondary, Asante Samuel will likely draw the task of covering Burress, who absolutely ate Al Harris alive in the NFC Championship. Samuel is a better cover guy than Harris and seems to intercept at least one pass per playoff game, so this could be a dangerous matchup for Manning’s go-to receiver. – MH
Regular Season Statistics (NFL ranking in parentheses) Team Points Allowed Per Game Interceptions Sacks New York 21.9 (17th) 15 (t-20th) 53 (1st) New England 17.1 (4th) 19 (t-6th) 47 (2nd)
New York: The Giants’ D is probably best known for the pressure it puts on opposing quarterbacks. New York led the league in sacks during the regular season with 53. (It was followed closely by, you guessed it, the New England Patriots, who had 47.)
Of course, while Osi Umenyiora (13 sacks in the regular season), Justin Tuck (10) and Michael Strahan (9) are the famous faces of the squad, don’t forget it was the secondary that came up big against the Packers when Corey Webster picked off Brett Favre in overtime to set up the winning field goal. – JB
Advantage: New England
New England: Bill Belichick heads to his fourth Super Bowl having already proven to be a master strategist when given two weeks to game plan. In fact, the game tape from Week 17 has probably been worn out by now.
His goal is to find what Manning did right during his four-touchdown, 251-yard passing day and make it all wrong. Considering that Belichick-coached defenses have recorded five interceptions and 11 sacks in three Super Bowl victories, things could get very ugly for Eli in two weeks’ time. – MH
Career Statistics Coach Regular Season Record Playoff Record Super Bowls Tom Coughlin, NY 103-89-0 7-6 None Bill Belichick, NE 127-81-0 15-3 Three
New York: Tom Coughlin is a tough guy to play for. Last year, he nearly lost his job when the Giants lost six of their last eight games and speculation grew that his authoritarian style and questionable play calling was a contributing factor to Tiki Barber’s retirement. But management gave him a one-year contract extension – which wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence – though that’s all he needed, apparently.
Coughlin is the decided underdog in the coaching matchup, seeing as this is his first Super Bowl and the other guy’s already won three, but he’s certainly proven his doubters wrong so far. – JB
Advantage: New England
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