Super Bowl XLVI, a rematch of SB XLII between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots 4 years ago, is 5 days away.
I am not a Giants fan, for reasons that are not important at this time. But being a Yankee Fan has led me to despise all the New England teams. Yes, even the women's basketball team at the University of Connecticut. The only thing they arouse in me is anger.
I didn't always hate the Patriots. In fact, I supported them in their first 2 Super Bowl wins, XXXVI over the St. Louis Rams (the Pats weren't arrogant yet, and the Rams were) and XXXVIII over the Carolina Panthers. Then the Red Sox won the World Series and all those New Englanders (okay, not ALL of them) started acting more arrogant than New Yorkers ever did, and with far less justification. Eventually, we found out that Patriot coach Bill Belichick was cheating -- hence "Cheatriots." And, unlike the other cheating New England teams, Belichick actually admitted it. He basically said, "Yeah, I did it. So the hell what? I can do whatever I want, because I'm Bill Belichick. Try to stop me."
All the New England teams cheat: The Pats with "Spygate," the Red Sox with steroids, the Boston Bruins with their easily melting ice, the New England Revolution (soccer) with their diving, the Connecticut men's basketball team with their recruiting violations. I don't yet know how the Boston Celtics or the UConn women have cheated, but they have, we just have to figure out how.
So, yes, I hate the Patriots. But have you noticed... Since we found out about Spygate, they haven't won the Super Bowl.
2007-08 NFL Playoffs: Were a minute away from completing the first-ever 19-0 NFL season, but lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
2008: Didn't make the Playoffs.
2009-10: Lost in the Wild Card round, to the Baltimore Ravens.
2010-11: Lost in the Divisional round. At home. To the New York Jets. For shame.
So if the Patriots lose this one, it will, for all practical purposes, prove, "You can't win without cheating."
No, there's no direct evidence that the Patriots cheated in ANY of their 3 Super Bowl wins. As that great New Englander, Jed Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen on The West Wing), would say, you don't want your tombstone to read, "Post hoc, ergo propter hoc." That's Latin for "After it, therefore because of it." Or, as President Bartlet explains, "One thing follows the other, therefore it was caused by the other. But it's not always true. In fact it's hardly ever true."
I don't know about "hardly ever," but it is a tricky analogy. Last season, I did just this kind of an analysis for the aforementioned Jets-Patriots Playoff: 5 reasons why the Jets could win it, and 3 why they might not. And the Jets won. A is followed by B, therefore A caused B. Not in that case: The Jets would have won whether I wrote that blog post or not.
Are there 5 reasons why the Giants can win this Super Bowl against the Patriots? Certainly. Are there 3 reasons why they might not? Definitely.
Let me get the reasons why the Giants might not beat the Patriots out of the way first.
The Top 3 Reasons Why the Giants Might Not Beat the Patriots
1. The Belichick Legacy. Belichick knows that if he goes 0-for-5 in post-Spygate seasons -- 0-for-2 in Super Bowls -- his legacy as a coach that led a team that had never won a title to 3 Super Bowl wins vanishes. There will always be doubt on those 3 titles. He'll be remembered, certainly, as the right-hand-man that helped Bill Parcells win 2 Super Bowls with the Giants, reach 1 with the Patriots, and nearly reach one with the Jets.
But as far as being a head coach is concerned, he'll be remembered as a failed coach with the Cleveland Browns, and as a corrupt coach with the Patriots, who won 3 Super Bowls but did so under a cloud. So Belichick knows that, more than his team, he HAS to win. We've seen it before: He will do anything to win. What will he do? Cheat? Have his players cheat? Have his players play dirty? Who knows. But the Giants will have to be on guard for that.
2. Tom Brady. If Belichick cheated, and his achievements are questionable, then so are those of the quarterback he picked off the scrap heap. Once, Brady seemed a contender to get into the conversation of "the greatest quarterback who ever lived," along with Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana. But now, he's a quarterback who, without his coach to cheat for him, lost a Super Bowl to "the other Manning brother."
Of course, if Brady loses a second Super Bowl to Eli, it doesn't hurt him as much as it helps Eli. But it would suggest that Brady can't win unless Belichick cheats.
3. They're Still the Patriots. Despite the Pittsburgh Steelers having won 2 Super Bowls since Pats won their last, and despite Super Bowls also having been won by the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, and of course the Giants, the Pats are still the defining team of pro football excellence the last 10 years or so. They still find ways to win, and they may again.
The Top 5 Reasons Why the Giants Can Beat the Patriots
1. They've Done It Before. They know how to do it: Get in Brady's face and knock him on his ass.
2. The Giants Are As Good As They Were 4 Years Ago -- the Patriots Are Not. The Pats are not coming in at 18-0, and nobody is afraid of them. True, the Giants don't have Michael Strahan, but Osi Umenyiora is as good as he was then, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul have come into their own, Ahmad Bradshaw is running very well, and, it should be noted, the quarterback is better now than he was then. Which brings us to said quarterback...
3. Eli Manning. He's on fire. He'll never be as good as his brother Peyton was at his best, but, right now, he's playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL did this season, and that includes Brady, the Packers' Aaron Rodgers and the Saints' Drew Brees.
4. The Giants' Legacy. No, winning an 8th NFL Championship isn't appreciably more prestigious than winning a 7th. But Eli, Justin and Osi could well be playing the game that will mean the difference between being a contender for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and getting into it for sure. The same could be said of coach Tom Coughlin.
5. Pressure. In spite of having to build on their legacy, the Giants need that a lot less than the Pats do. True, the Pats won 3 Super Bowls that were close, but the first time they were the underdogs (to the St. Louis Rams), the second time they were playing a team that had never been there before and was nervous (the Carolina Panthers), and the third time they were playing a team that had a history of choking (the Philadelphia Eagles).
The Patriots have more to prove. Can they? Sure. But they've never been under so much pressure before. Even in their 2 pre-Belichick Super Bowls, they weren't under this much pressure, because they were underdogs (XX to the Chicago Bears, XXXI to the Packers). Had they won either of those, it would have been great for the people of New England. But now, they HAVE to win to preserve their championship reputation. If they lose, they go down in history as "You only win when you're cheating."
The Giants are under a lot less pressure. I'm not saying they can relax, but they'll go into Lucas Oil Stadium a lot less stressed. A lot less.
Presuming no additional injuries, here's my prediction:
Giants 31, Patriots 21. Both teams making history -- but only the Giants doing so in a good way.