The Eli Manning led New York Giants will square off against Tom Brady’s New England Patriots in Super Bowl 46 in Indianapolis, Indiana on Sunday February 5th in what has the makings to be one of the most exciting Super Bowls of all time. The Patriots opened as a -3.5 favorite and the early bettors peeled away all of those half points by backing the Giants. Money continued to poor in on the Giants all last week pushing the number to -2.5 -115. Some books still have 3 but with a money line attached. The total is a firm 55 across the board.
Before I get to this Game, let me just say that defense still wins championships but the best defense in the NFL will be watching the Game on TV with the rest of us. The 49ers defense was a monster this year. If Ted Ginn Jr. played against the Giants, we wouldn’t be talking Giants vs. Pats, we’d be talking Pats vs. 49ers. The 49ers are a couple of receivers away from being unstoppable. Mark it down and remember that for your futures wagers when the 2012-2013 season rolls around.
Not to take away from the Giants. They got hot down the stretch and did what they had to do. They came out on top and earned their way to this Game. Turnovers, mistakes and injuries are all part of the Game, and here they are. No one could argue the fact that the Giants were the hottest team in football down the stretch. They have won 6 “must win” Games to get here, the have a QB with a hot hand, who has one Super Bowl ring already, to go along with wide receivers Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham and a resurgent Giants defense and pass rush that was absent much of the year.
But you have to be careful not to ignore the Giants opponent here. While the Giants are getting all of the press as a result of their resurgeNCe and their getting hot at the right time, the Patriots, if possible, have flown under the radar. They have done nothing but win since November 6th, winning 10 straight from that point on (a loss to the Giants). They have just 3 losses on the year, a 4 point loss to these Giants, an 8 point loss at Pittsburgh and a 3 point loss at Buffalo. You might say the Patriots have been “hot” just about all year. But, that’s expected of them. The Giants were written off, heNCe, all of the press.
Before we get to the numbers that matter, let’s address the Patriots defense. Discard any talk of the Patriots having the worst defense in the NFL. It’s just not so. Those stats are for the talking heads on TV and radio and go a long ways towards filling up time on pre Game shows, but that’s about it. Yes, the Patriots secondary is ranked 31st, but the Giants aren’t far behind at 25th. Giving up yardage and giving up points are two very different things. The Pats rank 11th in points allowed. Not too shabby considering there are 32 teams. The Giants ranked 22nd in points allowed. The Pats were 3rd in points scored and the Giants were 7th.
Now, you can handicap this Game taking into ACCount the entire season, or you can handicap this Game and take into ACCount the last 6 Games or so. Or, you can consider both, and weight them appropriately. Which path you take will determine which side you end up on here.
For example, if we look at the yards per point numbers for the entire season, the Giants would have a 15 on offense and a 16 on defense for a +1 differential. Not very good. Not “Super Bowl like”. The Patriots would be a 13 on offense and a 19 on defense for a +6 differential. Very good on both sides of the ball. since this is a road Game for both teams, if you look at just the road yards per point numbers, you’ll find that they don’t change at all. Just about the same as the season to date numbers. So if we take each teams body of work for an entire NFL season, the Pats get the edge by almost a touchdown.
But it gets interesting if you take a look at just the last 6 Games for the Patriots, and the last 6 Games that counted for the Giants. In other words, for the Giants, we are excluding the Redskins Game. When we do this, the Giants have a yards per point number of 14 offensively and 20 defensively for a +6 differential. The Patriots would have a 12 offensively and an 18 defensively, also a +6 differential. So, dead even, with the Pats a tad better offensively and the Giants a tad better defensively.
Our NFL model shows the same results. If we run the model with season to date stats, the predicted final score is 33-24 with the Patriots on top. However, if we run it using only those last 6 Games, the predicted final is 29-29. Dead even. (with both leaning towards the over 55)
The Patriots numbers stay the same no matter which subset of Games you look at all year. They have been consistent. Consistently good. The Giants only compare favorably if you look only at the last 6 Games. Otherwise, their numbers are very average. So, you pretty much know what you’ll get with the Pats. It’s the Giants that pose the question. If the Giants of the last 6 Games shows up, you have yourself a dead even Super Bowl. If the Giants revert back to form, you have an edge in favor of the Patriots.
Both of these offenses are going to move the ball and Score points. You have two fantastic, Super Bowl winning QB’s with plenty of targets. For Manning, he has a trio of receivers that have been making big plays for him and Brady has his tight ends and Welker as his favorite targets. The Patriots injury to Rob Gronkowski could be huge. It could even determine the outcome. It looks as though he will be much less than 100%. If that becomes evident as the Game progresses, it opens all kinds of coverage and blitz opportunities for the Giants as they wouldn’t need to double up on Gronkowski.
In fact, if you’re looking for any kind of nugget to sink your teeth into, that would be it. If Gronkowski is hobbled and ineffective, and that Giants pass rush lives up to the reputation that it has established over the last 6 Games, it could be the ball Game.
Revenge anyone? You could call this a double revenge Game for the Patriots, having lost the Super Bowl 4 years ago to the Giants and having lost this year at home in the final 15 seconds to the Giants, 24-20. Does it matter? Maybe. Bill Belichick is 9-2 against teams he lost to earlier in the year, over the last decade.
So what’s Our take? Well, to begin with, we don’t love the Game. If we did, we’d tell you and we’d release it as a key release. The last two weeks, we “loved” the 49ers. Worked out a couple of weeks ago, not so much against the Giants, although we feel we had the right side.
It’s hard not to like the Giants getting any points available after their 6 Game run here. But, it’s important to remember that the way the Giants have played over the last 6 Games, is the way the Patriots played for the entire season. Take any 6 Game stretch over the Patriots season and you’ll see good numbers. Not so for the Giants. We’re going to hang Our hat on consistency here. The Patriots have been consistently good from start to finish. It figures to be a Game very similar to their previous Super Bowl matchup. In a Game where it comes down to one team matching the other and then some, offensively, we’ll side with Brady and Belichick.
Patriots -2.5 and we’ll also lean towards over 55.