Syracuse Fans Should Thank Heavens For Carmelo Anthony!

The table below should illustrate to any fan of Syracuse basketball just how bad the program has been outside of one magical year with Carmelo Anthony and two exciting runs through the Big East Tournament with Gerry McNamara. In the past decade, Syracuse University achieved 62% of their BET wins, 100% of their BET titles, 57% of their NCAA appearances, 73% of their NCAA wins, 67% of their Sweet 16 appearances and 100% of their Final Four berths when one or both of those players wore an SU uniform? How can we describe the other six years in the past decade when Jim ‘Pittsburgh’ Boeheim was left to his own devices to propagate his “prevent offense” and brilliant defensive schemes? EPIC FAILURE! In 1999, SU loses in the first round of the NCAAs as the worst-seeded (9-Seed) Syracuse team in school history. In 2000, Syracuse becomes the first Big East team to lose in the opening round of the Big East Tournament as the top seed. Two weeks later, Syracuse blows a 19-point second half lead en route to being BLOWN OUT in the Sweet 16. Don’t worry. It gets worse. In 2001, Syracuse suffers their worst NCAA defeat in school history against Kansas in the second round of the NCAAs. There you have three straight seasons of worsts and negative firsts. But more importantly, the 2000-2001 season remains the last time Jim ‘Pittsburgh’ Boeheim took Syracuse to the NCAA tournament without Gerry McNamara on the roster! Let that statement sink in for just a few seconds. That was eight years ago.

Syracuse Teams Seasons BET Wins BET Titles NCAA Appearances NCAA Wins Sweet 16s Final Fours
With GMac and Melo 1 1 0 1 6 1 1
With GMac 3 7 2 3 2 1 0
Without GMac or Melo 6 5 0 3 3 1 0

The table above should speak volumes to you about how little Jim Boeheim means to Syracuse success and how much a few select players in Syracuse history mean. You should know those players by heart. There are basically five players that are the difference between Jim Boeheim being a HOF coach and being a bum.
1) Derrick Coleman (11 NCAA Wins, 3 Sweet 16s, 1 Final Four)
2) Sherman Douglas (10 NCAA Wins, 2 Sweet 16s, 1 Final Four)
3) John Wallace (8 NCAA Wins, 2 Sweet 16s, 1 Final Four)
4) Gerry McNamara (8 NCAA Wins, 2 Sweet 16s, 1 National Title)
5) Carmelo Anthony (6 NCAA Wins, 1 Sweet 16, 1 National Title)

Let me break this down for you. The 1986-87 season was Syracuse’s first trip to the championship game, due to the fact that the SU roster was laced with five future NBA draft picks after having just lost three players to the NBA draft, one of them being Pearl Washington. That year was already Jim Boeheim’s 11th season as head coach, and not one of his teams had yet reached the Sweet 16. Sherman Douglas and/or Derrick Coleman subsequently brought Syracuse to the Sweet 16 three times between 1986 and 1990. Those five years are the basis of Jim Boeheim’s legacy, and that success was brought from the fact that twelve future NBA draft picks graced Syracuse rosters during that time.

In 1990-1991, the wheels began coming off the wagon. That team, led by Billy Owens, lost only six games all season. Unfortunately for SU, they not only lost in the first round of the BET (a big upset) but then became the first #2 seed to ever lose in the first round of the NCAAs (an even bigger upset). The 1991-92 team follows Boeheim-form and loses in the second-round of the NCAAs, the 1992-93 team misses the postseason completely because of NCAA probation, the 1993-94 team breathes a bit of life into the program by advancing to the Sweet 16, only to see the 1994-95 team bow once again in the second round.

Let’s set the stage here for who I think in the most important figure in Syracuse basketball history, John Wallace. Since 1990, Syracuse had been knocked out of the BET in the first round three out of five years, advanced past the second round of the NCAAs only once, was still wrapped in the dark cloud of NCAA probation, had just lost three starters including the All-Time Big East scoring leader Lawrence Moten, and did not bring in a single notable recruit. John Wallace was projected as a late first-round draft pick and considered leaving for the NBA. Syracuse basketball was in the toilet. The end for Jim Boeheim was as near as Wallace saying “I forgo my senior season for the NBA draft”. Instead, John Wallace returns for his senior season and carries a rag-tag group of nobodies (no other NBA draftees on the roster) on his shoulders all the way to the NCAA Championship game against Kentucky, where his 29-point performance at the Meadowlands in New Jersey was not enough to reach the pinnacle. Of course the following season without Wallace the team was awful, missed the NCAAs, and failed to win 20 games.

Wallace may not have brought home the trophy like GMac or Melo, but what he did was save Syracuse basketball and Jim Boeheim’s job, whether people ever give him credit for that or not. Syracuse may have only won five NCAA tournament games in the six years that followed Wallace’s magical season, but imagine how bleak the future would have been if Wallace’s exploits had not brought players like Jason Hart, Etan Thomas, Ryan Blackwell, Allen Griffin and Damone Brown to Syracuse? Well, it would have looked a lot like 1996-97 when SU missed the dance and 2001-02, when Wallace’s magic had worn off and Syracuse lost in the first round of the BET and again missed the dance.

The stage was set for the arrival of GMac and Melo. In 2000-2001, Syracuse was exposed in the second round of the NCAA tournament as being woefully under-talented and was beaten by nearly forty points by Kansas. Syracuse had just missed the NCAA tournament in 2001-02 and was losing three starters off that team to the tune of 42.2 PPG. Syracuse basketball was in the toilet, again. Thankfully, Jim Boeheim’s assistants were able to recruit two gentlemen by the names of Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara, who immediately formed the best freshmen tandem in the country, and joined by fellow freshman Billy Edelin who anchored Syracuse’s bench, led the Orange to their first and only national title.

Five years later, Syracuse fans are waiting for the next John Wallace or Carmelo Anthony to rescue us from the bad coaching that defines Jim Boeheim and the disappointing and underachieving play that currently defines Syracuse basketball. We have already been waiting five years for another NCAA win. Hopefully the next “Boeheim Savior” comes along soon.

Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim Voted Worst Coach Of The Year!

By those with a brain, anyway.

As an absolute die-hard Syracuse fan I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that Syracuse was blown out in the Big East Tournament and will not even sniff the NCAA Tournament. The reason? Because hitting rock-bottom makes you realize what is actually wrong with your basketball program. At least this year I do not have to listen to Jim ‘Pittsburgh’ Boeheim talk about how his team was snubbed a bid to the big dance when they did not beat anybody, like he whined about last year. Did anything change? No. This year they did not beat anybody and rightfully so once again they will play in the NIT. Heaven forbid the NIT takes them back to Madison Square Garden so that Jonny ‘MSG’ Flynn can embarrass himself once again on the floor of the world’s most famous arena.

We have spent so much time building in excuses for Boeheim with injuries, but countless other teams have dealt with injuries all season, even in the Big East (Louisville, Pittsburgh). Both of those teams, by the way, were coached up and into the NCAA Tournament. Injuries have never impacted Boeheim in his 30-year career, and heaven forbid they rear their ugly head on the grand master now. Jim Boeheim is primely responsible for Syracuse wasting late-game leads against Georgetown and Pittsburgh by putting his young team into his patented “prevent offense” which usually results in a Syracuse loss. But of course, Jim Boeheim is never responsible for a loss, just like Paul Pasqualoni was never responsible for a Syracuse football loss, until of course he was run out of town for another guy who of course bears no responsibility for SU’s failure. Syracuse coaches are never to blame. Even Mr. Daryl Gross, who joins Boeheims WCOY award as the nation’s worst athletic director, bears no responsibility for the fact that every single major sport at Syracuse University is worse-off today than it was when he took over.
Of course Syracuse will play Southwest Middle Mississippi State (SMMSU) in the first round of the NIT so that Jim Boeheim can get his vaunted 20-win season once again, and all will be right in the world. Disgusting. Do Syracuse fans realize that both the men’s and women’s basketball programs at Oral Roberts and Western Kentucky won their respective conference tournaments to gain NCAA bids while both Syracuse programs lost in the very first round? Please tell me that is not both amazing and pathetic?

Syracuse fans need to wake up and hold the top men at the University responsible. Lord knows the nitwit writers at the Syracuse Post Standard are not going to do so – they barely know how the game is played. Wake up and realize that Syracuse is not Syracuse anymore, and nobody at the University is telling us why or accepting any blame. Alumni, fans and students alike have to start holding them accountable. This is your school that you have come accustomed to watching play in the NCAA Tournament and do well, and this is the second straight year that they will miss the dance. Even worse, Syracuse has not won an NCAA Tournament game in FOUR YEARS. Stop thanking God for Jim ‘Pittsburgh’ Boeheim and our current group of stiffs like Jonny ‘MSG’ Flynn, Donte ‘Clutch’ Greene and Paul ‘Bonehead’ Harris and instead start re-thanking God for Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara, because those two guys are the ONLY reasons why Syracuse Basketball (sports in general) remain even somewhat relevant.

Syracuse Headed To The Big Dance, NCAA’s Circa 1950!

Syracuse University basketball is headed to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) and will miss the NCAA field of 65 for the second straight season, thanks to an 82-63 smashing at the hands of Villanova in the very first game of the 2008 Big East Tournament. Syracuse was out-coached (big surprise), outplayed and out-hustled. Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, ridiculously voted as the Big East Co-ROY, wilted once again under the lights of Madison Square Garden (MSG) – missing shots, turning the ball over, and letting his team tank under the pressure. Jonny ‘MSG’ Flynn was dominated by the Villanova backcourt. Jim Boeheim performed his usual magic as head coach, as his vaunted 2-3 Zone allowed 55 second-half points. Jay Wright had little trouble out-smarting Jim ‘Pittsburgh’ Boeheim, who at this point has to be roundly considered one of the worst coaches in the Big East Conference.

Super Bowl XLII Recap: New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14

Now that I have basked in the glory of the humiliating defeat of the New England Patriots at the hands of the New York Giants, it is time for me to recap the game and how I predicted the big upset. After all, anybody could have picked the Giants to win (very few did), but only a select few could have given you the reasons why.

In my preview last week I ultimately dispelled four myths that I felt would play a key role in the Giants impending victory. Let us recap those four points.

Myth #1: The extra week of preparation was a huge advantage for the Patriots.
My Truth: The extra week was going to favor the Giants for several reasons.
Super Bowl Reality: The Giants were the clear beneficiary of the extra week.

The underdog phenomenon continues to gain momentum in American sports, and the New York Giants are just the latest chapter in what is a growing novel. Players tend to say all of the right things during the week, but the fact of the matter is that the New York Giants were sick and tired of hearing about how the Patriots were unbeatable and the greatest team ever. It was pretty obvious that the Giants defense was chomping at the bit to get onto the field and wipe that smug smile off Tom Brady’s face, and do so they did. Not only did the Giants dominate physically in this contest on both sides of the ball, but Tom Brady spent most of the game looking like a man defeated. The underdog phenomenon that worked for the Patriots in 2001 when they physically manhandled the highly-favored Rams offense and their receivers en route to a 20-17 Super Bowl victory, worked against them this time around. The New York Giants, the #5 seed in the NFC, with only one Pro-Bowl player, were the ultimate team with nothing to lose.

I argued last week that the extra week would not only provide the Giants with incredible motivation, but it would also allow their injured players time to heal as well as allow their coaching staff adequate time to fully dissect the Patriots offense and devise a game plan that built upon the schemes that nearly defeated the Patriots in Week 17. As is evidenced by the outcome, the two weeks of preparation delivered on all three counts. The Giants entered the game as healthy as they have been since early in the season, especially in that crucial secondary, as cornerbacks Kevin Dockery and Sam Madison were both on the field and ready to play. The Giants coaching staff devised, and their players executed, a game plan that proved far superior to that of the “genius” Bill Belichick. The Giants offense found ways to possess and protect the ball, convert on third and fourth downs, and put some points on the scoreboard. The Giants defense found ways to stop the run, pressure Tom Brady, and negate the big-play capability of Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth. Tom Coughlin, Steve Spanuolo and the Giants were able to incorporate every key to victory in their game plan and then execute it on the field. The success of the Giants preparation was evident on the very first series of the game, when the Giants possessed the ball for nearly eleven minutes, keeping Tom Brady off the field while putting three points on the scoreboard. In the end, the Giants gained more yardage, had a higher conversion percentage on third and fourth-downs, won the total time of possession and ultimately, won the game.

Myth #2: You cannot successfully blitz and pressure Tom Brady.
My Truth: Several teams have already done so this season but just did not finish off the game.
Super Bowl Reality: The pressure that the Giants applied on Tom Brady, mostly with their front four and with one or two extra pass rushers, transformed Brady into an average NFL quarterback.

No QB is immune to pressure. On Sunday against the Giants, Tom Brady rushed his reads and missed open receivers just like every other QB does in the face of a constant and significant pass rush. Brady has developed this reputation of being unflappable under pressure largely because his team rarely presents the opportunity for him to be hit. The New England Patriots are more committed to protecting their QB than any other team in the NFL. Even though Brady was under constant duress on Sunday, there were only a couple times in the game when the Giants rushed more guys than the Patriots could block. That Patriots have long surrounded Brady with a superior offensive line and they max out their protection schemes at every opportunity.

On Sunday, however, Brady was clearly flapped. His uniform was dirty. He was yelling at his teammates and the referees. His body language was despondent. He remained distant on the sidelines. Most of all, his passing accuracy suffered and he was outplayed by an opposing QB, the same scenario that developed in the three games this regular season when the opposing team fully committed to putting him on his backside every snap (BAL, NYJ, PHI). Not one of those teams finished above .500 this season, but all three decided to come after Brady with everything they had, and in doing so were in a position to win well into the fourth quarter. The Patriots needed an unnecessary timeout from the Raven’s coaches to beat Baltimore and needed the Eagles special teams to line up offsides on a punt to defeat Philadelphia.

Myth #3: The league has not yet caught up to the spread offense.
My Truth: By the end of the regular season, NFL teams have caught up to everything new.
Super Bowl Reality: The Giants demonstrated throughout the season and in this game that their defense was closing the gap with spread offenses throughout the league.

We presented to you that the Giants defense cut the offensive output for the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers by at least two touchdowns with each subsequent game against those teams. We also showed you that every Patriots opponent outside of the Buffalo Bills did the same in a second meeting, holding the Patriots to at least 17 fewer points than they amassed in the first contest. That is why we predicted that the Giants defense would hold the Patriots well below their 38-point outburst in their regular season meeting at the Meadowlands. In the end, the Giants defense outperformed even my expectations by holding the Patriots to less than half the point production that Tom Brady and company had accomplished just about one month ago.

The bottom line is that the NFL has already caught up to the spread offense, and that is the nature of the league. Every defensive coordinator in the league will spend the offseason studying what the San Diego Chargers and New York Giants did to attack Tom Brady and the Patriots offense in these playoffs. Every team in the AFC East will try to shape their team through free agency and the draft with the Patriots offense in mind. Success in this league is quickly dissected and copied.

Myth #4: The Patriots could not be beaten.
My Truth: The Patriots were basically all but beaten several times this season.
Super Bowl Reality: The Giants simply outplayed and defeated the New England Patriots.

During the week I told the readers that this same Giants team that gave the Patriots all they could handle in Week 17 was rolling into the Super Bowl as an even better squad with more confidence (and now plenty of playoff experience) that could use the two weeks of preparation to both get healthy and become better acclimated with the complex schemes of the Patriots. The idea that the resultant Giants team could not hang in the Super Bowl with the Patriots because of warm weather and fast playing turf was bonafide lunacy.

Everything leading up to the Super Bowl favored the Giants. Their secondary came together during the playoffs while Eli Manning and the offense really cut their teeth against three tough defenses on the road. Their near-defeat of the Patriots in Week 17 and their improbable run to the Super Bowl made the Giants extremely confident as a team. Finally, the extra week of preparation gave the Giants time to heal, game plan, and let the Patriots hype fester, annoy, and ultimately motivate them even more. Add all those ingredients together and you get the recipe we predicted – an historic upset of the New England Patriots and a historic season for their opponent, the New York Giants.

Obnoxious Patriots and Fans Waddle in Defeat

I have tried, all day and unsuccessfully, to order the Boston Globe’s book on the 19-0 New England Patriots that went on sale nearly two weeks ago. The title of the book was supposed to be “19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England’s Unbeatable Patriots.” The title of the revamped book will be “18-1: The Historic Season of Failure for New England’s Patriots.” This now infamous book, which will never actually be published, had reached as high as twelve on the Amazon.com best seller’s list. Obviously, many Patriots fans assumed that their team could was the inevitable victor. How glorious. The forums on Amazon have listed the books that were also purchased by these New England fans (via Amazon.com)

Give ‘em Hell, Thomas: The Memoirs of President Dewey
Mission Accomplished: Iraq’s WMD Arsenal, and How We Found It
Miracle on Iceski: Soviet Domination of Olympic Hockey in the 1970s
The Art of War by Donald Rumsfeld
The Road to Glory: Highlights of the Mets 2007 Postseason
The Late Show Wars: How Chevy Chase became the King Of Late Night
Coaching My Way by Isiah Thomas
World Domination for Dummies by Adolph Hitler
How to Win a Land War with the Soviet Union by Adolph Hitler
0-16: The Long Season of the 2007 Miami Dolphins
How To Maximize Profits by the Enron Executive Board
California Real Estate: The New American Dream
American’s Love for Massachusetts Politicians by John Kerry, Mitt Romney, and Michael Dukakis

I had the opportunity to spend the weekend in New England as a fly on the wall. Every person and establishment had already planned their week around a Patriots championship. “Super Tuesday” was being planned as a victory parade for the entire region. It was all so gloriously foretold, so inevitable, so obnoxious. The fact that it has all come crashing down is so beautiful.

Giants Stomp Goliath! New York Beats New England 17-14!

Before we get into all the ramifications of Super Bowl XLII, readers of the blog need to give me a little credit here. After basically picking the final score of the college football national championship, I not only gave you the Giants beating the spread in a close game, but also getting over the hump and pulling out a victory, 28-27. The New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 17-14 in a game that featured three lead changes in the fourth quarter after the first three quarters had largely been a defensive struggle dominated by the front four of the New York Giants.

Besides crowning the Giants the champions of Super Bowl XLII, this game had many other ramifications.

1) The 1972 Miami Dolphins are now restored as the only undefeated team in the Super Bowl era. Those Dolphins finished 17-0 and world champions, while the only thing the Patriots accomplished in the end was complete humiliation. This is an even better story considering that the 2007 Dolphins flirted with a winless season.

2) The New England Patriots and their fans are now the joke of the NFL for at least the entire next year. No matter how many games they win by how big a margin, the Patriots will remain a joke until they win another Super Bowl.

3) There is now a lot more pressure on the Boston Celtics. Boston fans, fueled by their local papers and talking heads, have been hopeful of championships in baseball, basketball and football since mid-summer. The hype reached fever pitch when the Red Sox came back from a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS to eventually advance to the World Series and sweep the Colorado Rockies. Now, all of New England will turn their attention to the Celtics. Unfortunately for New England, the Celtics, in reality, are not even one of the five best teams in the NBA and their chances of winning the title are very slim.

4) The rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees should be even more intense in 2008. New England fans have enjoyed, and started taking for granted, the past six months as the center of the sports world. If 2008 begins with a Super Bowl win for the New York Giants and culminates with the unprecedented 27th world championship for the New York Yankees, it will be a disaster for those “wicked pissahs” of the Northeast.

5) The “genius” tag in sports will come under even greater scrutiny. When previewing the college football title game between LSU and Ohio State, I mentioned how quickly a guy like Jim Tressel can lose the genius status. Tressel, whose legend was made with Ohio State’s big upset of Miami to win the title in 2001 and their consistent domination of Michigan, has seen his immortality take a tremendous hit with two consecutive blowout losses in the title game. Bill Belichick is no different. His 4th-quarter decision to forgo a 49-yard FG attempt in favor of a failed conversion on 4th-and-13 will forever remain in the “annals of football idiocy” and a hall-of-fame entry in the “psychology journal of delusional arrogance.” It should also be pointed out, gleefully, that Belichick and the Patriots failed to make adjustments and solve the defensive riddle presented to their juggernaut offense by a first-year defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo.

In the end, this was a small step for man but a Giant step for mankind. The Patriots are a classless organization filled with criminals (Jabar Gaffney, Randy Moss), cheaters (Spygate), a holier-than-though quarterback who impregnates women out of wedlock (Tom Brady), a millionaire head coach with such a repulsive personality that he must pay for sex (Bill Belichick), the dirtiest players in the league (Rodney Harrison, Vince Wilfork) and players who are just plain old and annoying (Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi).

The American people could not be better served today. Justice for all!

Super Bowl XLII Preview: New England Patriots vs. New York Giants

Super Bowl XLII will be played on Sunday, February 3, 2008 in Glendale, Arizona between the favored New England Patriots and the New York Giants. Heading towards the weekend the spread sits at 12 points and the O/U at 53.5, as Vegas is obviously predicting a fairly high-scoring game by Super Bowl standards. Basically, Vegas is predicting the Patriots will win 33-20. Historical trends suggest that both the spread and the O/U are too high, considering that in the past ten Super Bowl games, only three times has the combined score been over 53 (1997, 2002, 2003), only one of those games involved a high-scoring teams (1997: Denver vs. Green Bay) and none of those games involved the Patriots. Likewise, only three of the past ten Super Bowls have ended in a spread greater than twelve points (1998, 2000, 2002), the victors in all three of those games were defense-oriented teams, and again none of those games featured the Patriots. If we simply sample the three Super Bowl appearances by the Patriots in the past ten years, the final score should be around 25-22 in favor of the Patriots. The bottom line is, the Super Bowl is rarely the high-scoring blowout that Vegas is predicting in this game.

Everybody knows the Patriots are 18-0, and some are already assuming that 19-0 is inevitable, which is pretty humorous considering these teams played a 38-35 game just one month ago where the Giants led the game well into the second half. To further illustrate why the expectation of a Patriot’s blowout may be a fallacy, let me dispel some myths and present some interesting points.

Myth: Most of the talking heads have exclaimed that the two week span between the divisional championships and the Super Bowl is a big advantage for genius-coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
Truth: The extra week before the Super Bowl almost always favors the underdog, especially when they are playing the New England Patriots.

In 2003, the 17-2 Patriots were huge favorites against the Carolina Panthers, who used the two weeks of preparation to prepare for and play the Patriots to a draw after 60 minutes of football, with Adam Vinatieri kicking the winning 41-yard FG with four seconds left to play. The Patriots won 32-29. Again in 2004, the 17-2 Patriots were huge favorites against the Philadelphia Eagles, who used the two weeks of preparation to get WR Terrell Owens healthy enough to play and were tied with the Patriots after three quarters before falling 24-21.

We have seen the underdog phenomenon repeatedly in recent years, both in the NFL and college football. These football players are elite athletes with big egos, and you can only tell a proud man so many times the he is going to get his butt kicked when the time comes without that man elevating his game to meet the challenge. The Giants know they are capable of beating the Patriots, as they just proved it a few weeks ago. Constant insistence that they are overmatched will only make them more focused. Combine the underdog psychology with the fact that the Giants are nursing some injuries and the Patriots have the most complex offense in the league to prepare for, and you realize that the extra week can only benefit the Giants.

People forget very quickly that the Patriots had two weeks to prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars in these playoffs, and the Jaguars looked very comfortable both on offense and defense against the Patriots, on the road. Many so-called experts have blasted Jacksonville for their defensive game plan, but that conservative scheme held the Patriots to 31 points despite the fact that New England’s second score was the direct result of a David Garrard fumble deep in his own territory. Jacksonville was also playing without their best defensive lineman (DT Marcus Stroud) and their best linebacker (MLB Mike Peterson). If the Patriots had scored only 31 points against the Giants in Week 17 they would no longer be undefeated, and do not forget that the Patriots scored 35 points in last year’s AFC Championship game and lost. If the Giants hold the Patriots to 31 points this Sunday, they have an excellent chance of winning.

Myth: You cannot successfully blitz Tom Brady.
Truth: The Philadelphia Eagles did just that in Week 12 at Gillette Stadium, the Baltimore Ravens did so the following week on Monday Night Football (MNF), and the New York Jets did the same thing to Brady in Week 15. The juggernaut Patriots offense generated only 24 points at home against the Eagles, 13 points at home against the Jets, and 27 points against the hapless Ravens. Two of those games began with the Patriots returning an interception for a defensive touchdown. In those three games, Tom Brady was 66-119 passing (55.5%) for 777 yards with only three TDs, two INTs, and was sacked seven times. Even more interesting was that in those three games, Brady was outplayed by three backup QBs in the much-maligned A.J. Feeley, Kyle Boller and Chad Pennington, who were a combined 67-103 passing (65%) for 741 yards, five TDs and four INTs, putting the argument that weather was the biggest factor to bed.

The truth is that in the second half of the season, multiple teams have shown that the Patriot offense can be slowed by rushing only four and dropping seven out of the Cover-2 defense (IND, JAX) or with heavy blitzing (BAL, NYJ, PHI). In the first meeting between the Giants and Patriots, the Giants had a short week of preparation, and defensively they seemed to want to blitz but were concerned whether they could do so successfully. Considering that Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is a disciple of Philadelphia’s Jim Johnson, and New York is both healthier and more confident in their secondary than they were several weeks ago, I expect the Giant defense to be more aggressive this time around. They most likely will send more blitzes, while staying in a rather conservative base defense that will resemble the approach that Jacksonville took against the Patriots. I think the Giants will commit to stopping the run on first down with a basic, two-deep safety alignment, and then adjust their level of aggression based on the outcome of those first down plays. In other words, the Giants will play what is often referred to as a bend-but-do-not-break defense.

Myth: The league has not yet caught up to the spread offense run by teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots.
Truth: The league catches up to everybody and everything. The Patriots have played four teams twice, only one with a winning record, and only once have they scored as many points in the second meeting or won by as large a margin. After beating the Jets 38-14 on the road in Week 1, they escaped 20-10 at Gillette in Week 15. After crushing the Dolphins 49-28 on the road in Week 7, a significantly more depleted Dolphins team was a nuisance and held the Patriots to 28 points in Week 16. In Week 2, the Patriots crushed the Chargers 38-14 at Gillette Stadium. Then in the playoffs against the same team (more depleted) in the same place, the Patriots squeaked out a 21-12 victory. Only the Buffalo Bills failed the close the gap significantly the second time they saw that Patriot offense.

The New York Giants are also a great example how it takes less than one season for a defenses to catch up to new offensive schemes. In Week 1, the New York Giants gave up 45 points at Dallas in a loss, then cut the Cowboys output to 31 points in Week 10, and finally went back to Dallas in the playoffs and held them to 17 points. In Week 2 the Giants were blown out at home by the Green Bay Packers, 35-13, then traveled to Lambeau Field in the playoffs and held that same outfit to twenty points in an overtime win.

So if we take all that information, we find that three out of four teams that faced the Patriots a second time cut New England’s offensive productivity by at least 17 points, and that in three rematches against teams that defeated them earlier in the season, the Giants cut the output of those teams’ spread offense by at least two touchdowns each time. If this significant trend continues it suggests that the Patriots will only score 24 points against the Giants in the Super Bowl. Maybe Plaxico Burress’ prediction of a 23-17 Giants victory has some rational backing, although the Patriots scoring only 17 points on a fast turf seems a little extreme to me. The Giants have scored an average of 23 PPG in the playoffs, so maybe that is where Burress is getting his numbers.

So Plaxico Burress had made his prediction, so let me make mine. As I have mentioned, I think the extra week will work in favor of the Giants, while the conditions in Arizona really should benefit both teams, as it will make the Giant pass rushers look faster just as it will the Patriot receivers. We all know Eli Manning plays much better in the warm weather, what QB doesn’t, and the fast turf should create some opportunities in the return game, where I feel the Giants are better equipped to take advantage.

The bottom line here is that these teams played a closely contested game just one month ago, and since that time I feel the Giants have improved as a team. The Giants have also played three games on the road against better defenses than they will see in the New England Patriots. Two of those games came in difficult conditions. So I guess my whole point is that if the Giants offense could move the ball on the road, in a hostile environment, in poor field conditions, you can be sure that they will move the ball against the Patriots. Of course, moving the ball will not be enough. Holding onto the ball for long, sustained drives that result in at least three points is the key to the Giants winning the game. If New York makes five trips to the red zone and comes out with three TDs and two FGs, those 27-points just might be enough against a Patriots offense that only gets limited touches.

Vegas Prediction: 33-20 Patriots
Burress Prediction: 23-17 Giants
Super Bowl Trend: 25-22 Patriots
Playoff Trend: 22-19 Patriots
Rematch Trend: 31-24 Giants
My Prediction: 28-27 Giants



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