The 2011/12 NFL season started on September 8, 2011 at Lambeau Field with the then defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers hosting the New Orleans Saints, with the Packers winning. The season officially kicked off on September 11, 2011 with 9/11 Tributes going around all the NFL Stadiums. At this point, the proverbial starting gates were open and the 32 NFL teams made the mad stampede towards the first turn in the proverbial race for the Lombardi Trophy which ends this Sunday, February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The “horses” are going past the proverbial eight pole, and it is down to two teams: The AFC’s New England Patriots, and the NFC’s New York Giants. Which team will hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the night? Which “horse” so to speak will be wearing the proverbial garland of Roses? There has been a lot of hype already in the past ten days over this match up, so once 6:29pm kickoff time rolls around, we will see who will be the NEEEWWWWWWWWWWWW Super Bowl Champion, to quote WWE announcer , Howard Finkel.
In this blog, I plan to discuss a lot of the media craze, and preview the game, and, of course, make my Super Bowl prediction. After all, a lot of people have their predictions, so I will take a crack at it. I mean, I have a 50% chance of getting it right, just like everyone else, including the “experts.” I hope you will enjoy this blog, so here it goes.
I will start with the media craze. I am a bit of an old school fan in that I can understand why there is that bye week between the Championship games and the Super Bowl. The teams may have had guys hurt or whatever, and that extra week gives those injured a chance to heal and possibly be ready for the game. However, I think that the NFL should just have the Super Bowl the week after the Championship games, and no bye week. The reason being is that it is too long between the games. Both teams’ momentum is interrupted. The one big reason for me is that fans are bombarded with all this Super Bowl hype from the media. The media from the teams’ hometowns bicker back and forth. ESPN, and their so called experts put their two cents in. NFL Network and their experts run their yaps. Two weeks of that is too much. Today, as I write this column, is Wednesday, and I am tired of all the hype and press and stuff. Just play the game. Sunday is four days away. Well, with all this endless prattle, I have shut the television, and Sunday feels like it is four months away.
I just want the game to be played already at this point. Besides, the constant coverage of Peyton Manning and his predicament does not help matter either. I thought it was his brother who was supposed to be in the spotlight. Hasn’t the media given Peyton Manning enough attention already? I am also annoyed by the constant bashing of Tom Brady. The national media questioning whether he is a great QB, and saying he is overrated. The media’s handing the Lombardi Trophy to the Giants. How on earth did they think the Patriots got to the Super Bowl, by osmosis? They are 15-3 (including the playoff wins). I have never seen a team this disrespected in my entire life. Can we play the game already?
Now, to my preview of the two teams:
AFC: The New England Patriots: Head Coach: Bill Belichick QB: Tom Brady Record: (15-3)
The Achilles Heel for the Patriots was their much maligned defense which finished with a ranking of 31st in the NFL. However, what was not reported much was that the Pats’ defense did give up a lot of yards, but not a lot of points. The defense also was very good in situational football which is one thing that Coach Belichick emphasizes.
How the Patriots got to the Super Bowl: The Patriots by virtue of their record, and tie breakers were the #1 Seed in the AFC, and thus got a First Round Bye. Their first opponent was the vaunted Denver Broncos who were lead by their QB Tim Tebow who ESPN and NFLN had gone gaga over for the past 8 weeks of the season (as if there weren’t any other NFL related stories). The Broncos had just got by a banged up Steeler team in overtime. The Broncos were lucky that the Steelers for whatever reason, put 8 or 9 in a box, and left their CB Ike Taylor out on an island with NO SAFETY HELP, and Tebow threw the ball, and that Thomas dude took off like Secretariat in the Belmont, and the game was over.
Anyway, the media built up the Denver defense as if they were the Steel Curtain (hardly), and that Tebow was going to give the Patriots problems, and they kept banging on the fact that the Patriots were in a playoff slump. Well, lo and behold, Tom Brady taught Tim Tebow how to play QB and threw six TDs in the game. 45-10 Patriots.
The next opponent for the Patriots in the AFC Championship game was the vaunted Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens just barely got by the Houston Texans who were playing with a back up QB. The Ravens looked horrible, especially QB Joe Flacco, and I am not sure if they would have won had the Texans’ punt returner not dropped the ball a couple of times, and had Matt Schaub , the Texans’ regular QB had been able to play. Anyway, the media hopped on Ravens’ star safety Ed Reed’ radio comments about Flacco’s sub par play, and such. Of course, the media, especially ESPN is in love with the Ravens. They are in love with LB Ray Lewis in particular. Why the media is in love with Lewis and the Ravens, I have no idea.
Well, as for the game, Tom didn’t have the greatest statistical game, but stats don’t win games. TEAMS win games. The much maligned Patriots defense did what many in the media said they could not do, and that was get the offense out of a jam. Nose Tackle Vince Wilfork was a beast in that game. He just terrorized Joe Flacco all day long. The much maligned secondary stepped up also. With the game at 23-20 Patriots, Defensive Back Sterling Moore forced what would have been a game winning TD ball for the Ravens out of Ravens’ Wide Receiver Lee Evans’ hand. Moore also stop another attempt at a TD as well. Everyone knows what happened with Billy Cundiff’s kick. 23-20 Patriots, and a trip to the Super Bowl
NFC: The New York Giants Head Coach: Tom Coughlin QB: Eli Manning Record: (11-7)
This team is famous for it’s tough defenses, and tough defensive players throughout its history such as Harry Carson, Carl Banks, Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, etc. The team is owned by John Mara and Steve Tisch. However, even though the team is famous for producing defensive stars, they have had awesome QBs such as Phil Simms, Kurt Warner (even though he wasn’t at his best then, he did go on to regain his former greatest with the Cardinals after leaving the Giants), and have another one in Eli Manning who is trying for his second ring. Eli Manning threw for 4933 yards with 29 TDs and 16 INTs for the 2011/12 season.
The team in the preseason started out as a MASH Unit. All through the season, stars such as Defensive Ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, and RB Ahmad Bradshaw were battling injuries throughout the season. The Giants started 6-2, and then started their yearly swan dive, and the media started banging their “Fire Coach Tom Coughlin” drum like they do every year. The Giants defense, usually their strong suit wound up ranked 27th in the NFL. The team gave Green Bay a run for their money in a 38-35 loss, and that seemed to give the team some sort of spark, much like the same 38-35 loss to the Patriots in 2007. Well, looking at a record of 7-7, and a game against the Jets, the Giants decided to get their rear ends in gear and beat the Jets (the Jets’ self destruction also helped) by a score of 29-14.
The G-Men were not out of the woods yet as they had to go to Dallas in Jerry Jones’ multimillion dollar stadium, and beat the Cowboys. Fortunately, the Philadelphia Eagles were eliminated from playoff contention, so all the Giants had to do was to beat the other Ryan brother (Rob Ryan is the twin brother of Jets Head Coach, Rex, and is the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive coordinator), and those Cowboys, and they won the division and the fourth seed in the playoffs. If Dallas won, they would win the division. Well, Jerry Jones was going to have to wait another year because the Giants defeated his Cowboys by a score of 31-14.
How the Giants got to the Super Bowl:
As the Giants were the NFC East Division winners, they hosted the Wild Card playoff game. The visiting team, the high powered Atlanta Falcons were favored by Vegas, and by the media. The media harped on the fact that the Giants don’t play well at home, and that the Falcons were going to run on the Giants all day with Michael Turner , and that the Giatns had no running game, and Eli was not elite enough to beat Atlanta’s defense.
Well, I never seen an offense shut down like I saw the Falcons’ offense shut down. QB Matt Ryan could not do a thing against the Giants’ swarming defense. All of the Giants’ defenders were in beast mode. They shut down the Falcons’ receivers, and the vaunted Michael Turner. The Giants were just devastating. Eli and the offense were slow out of the gate, but once they hit their stride, they got rolling too. 24-2 Giants
In the Divisional Round, all the media were pumping up Green Bay. After all, Green Bay had the “best QB ever” in Aaron Rodgers (NOT), and all of his weapons, and the Packers defense (which was ranked last in defense, but the media ignored that while banging on the Patriots’ defense) had that Clay Matthews , and that BJ Raji who were going to stop the Giants’ running attack. Of course, the Giants were coming to the intimidating Lambeau Field, and even though they had won there before, they were facing the supposed “best team in football,” and had no shot.
As the saying goes, “even a blind squirrel finds a nut.” Despite some very bad calls by the referees, the Giants just destroyed Green Bay. The Giants’ defense took awhile to come alive, but they were ferocious. Rodgers did not look quite right. I am guessing it is due to the rust as he had not played since Christmas. However, that was not an excuse for his vaunted receiver corp to drop the ball, and I mean that literally and figuratively. I never saw so many drops in my life. Nonetheless, the Giants just obliterated Green Bay. 37-20 Giants
On to the NFC Championship Game against the San Fransisco 49ers. These two teams have a history together in the playoffs. I admit, I USED to be a HUGE 49er fan back in the day with Montana, Rice, Lott, Craig, etc, and there is a tiny part of me that has a slight soft spot for them even though I am NOT a fan any longer, but I digress. One favorite moment for me was when Giants kicker Matt Barr kicked the winning field goal against the 49ers and the Giants won 15-13. On the replay when they show the reaction of Bill Parcells, you can see this one Giant player running out with this huge , cheesy grin with his hands up. Cracks me up.
Anyway, back to the present, both defenses came to play. Poor Eli Manning was being hit by the 49er defense like a pinata, but he stood in there. Alex Smith, despite the great game he had against the high flying Saints the week prior, just looked lost. There were open receivers. Anyway, I can see why people have a lot of doubts about him, even after the success he has had this year. Back to the game, it was a defensive struggle as there were a few balls that Eli threw that could have been picked off. There was that controversial forward progress call involving RB Bradshaw when after the call , he fumbled. Poor Kyle Williams had that ball bounce off his knee, and the Giants recovered. It was such a defensive struggle that the game went into overtime, and everyone knows what happened to poor Williams, and here comes Lawrence Tynes making the game winning field goal, and the Giants are headed to Super Bowl 46. 20-17 New York Giants
Now, my predictions for Super Bowl 46:
What the Patriots must do to win:
1. Tom Brady must have a good game.
This is obvious. Too much has been made of Brady’s performance in the AFC Championship game. I also thought he was being too hard on himself , even though I admire his perfectionism. He had the misses to Gronkowski, and Hernandez, but when a LB was covering WRs, he did play well. Overall, he played well enough to win. People should keep in mind he was playing against the Ravens defense, and he also made a touchdown by leaping over the pile.
Brady rarely has two bad games back to back. Despite the Brady bashing in the national media, I expect Tom to have an excellent game.
2. The Offensive Line must protect Brady.
The Giants pass rushers are healthy, and at this point , are playing well. If Sebastian Vollmer is able to play, this would be a big help. Perhaps Nate Solder could substitute with the injured Rob Gronkowski. The O line has to protect Brady. There is no doubt about it.
3. Gronkowski must be able to function, and other play makers should try to exploit Giants’ somewhat vulnerable secondary.
The big, big story is the condition of Rob Gronkowski who was injured in the AFC Championship game by a tackle by Bernard Pollard of all people. How effective can he be? I love all the “experts” trying to play doctor. Anyway, I am hopeful that he will be able to function. He could act as a decoy, or block. Other play makers, such as Welker, and Deion Branch need to try to exploit that secondary of the Giants which can be vulnerable. DB Antrel Rolle can talk, but he is not all that good of a defensive back. Aaron Ross is their best CB, but even he can be exploited.
4. The defense has to find a way to contain Eli Manning and that offense.
Well, once again, the Patriots defense has to step up. Julian Edelman has to show he can handle either Victor Cruz, or Mario Manningham as defensive back. If Vince Wilfork can lead that front four of the Patriots, and somehow get in Eli Manning’s face and sack him, the defense will be in business.
What the New York Giants must do to win:
1. Eli Manning must continue to play well.
Eli Manning has shown that he is an elite QB. While I am not going to be like Trent Dilfer, who was a guest on Colin Cowherd’s show today, and say that Eli is a Hall of Famer if he wins the Super Bowl on Sunday, but I do think he is an awesome QB. He has to continue to play well.
2. Like the Patriots, the Offensive line has to protect Manning.
Back in 2007, was made that team go offensively, was their offensive line. This year, and it looks like it may be due to injuries, and loss of talent, the offensive line does not look as good. As I said in that 49er game, Eli got hit a ton. Vince Wilfork is huge, so if he has a big day, Eli is not going to play well.
3. Defense must get to Brady
4. Eli’s play makers : Nicks, Manningham, Bradshaw, Jacobs must step up
The vaunted offensive weapons at Manning’s disposal have to step up. Brandon Jacobs especially has to run like he is a mack truck, and not do that tippy toe nonsense that he has been doing. Nicks, Manningham, and Cruz all have to be participants and exploit the Patriots’ secondary.
As for who will win, well, even though I have been listening to and watching the media experts pretty much giving the game to the Giants, and pretty much dismissing the Patriots of having any kind of chance, and hearing nonsense that Brady is overrated, and all, I am going to stick with the team that I predicted in a 2011 Preview blog that not only would get TO the Super Bowl, but would WIN the Super Bowl.
Yup, I am picking the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl 46 Score: 35-27
Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/missedgehead