2008 All over Again (Super Bowl XLVI Preview)

This year the playoffs took an eerily similar turn as it begins to look a lot like the 2008 playoffs. In 2008 the New England Patriots were on their way to becoming the best team in NFL history behind the arm of Tom Brady and the brains of Bill Belichick. As the season progressed the Patriots continued to rack up win going undefeated in the regular season for the first time since the 1972 Miami Dolphins did it. The success continued into the playoffs as the Pats were on their way to the only undefeated season since the ‘72 Dolphins. They looked almost unbeatable as they went into Super Bowl XLII against a much different opponent in the New York Giants. The Giants barely made it into the playoffs as they took a wild card spot after a disappointing start to the season and a last-ditch push into the playoffs. Behind the clutch play of Eli Manning and a stout defensive front four led by Michael Strahan. The Super Bowl was a matchup of David vs. Goliath with the lowly Giants squeaking past every opponent all season while the mighty Patriots had easily beaten all comers. The game actually proved to follow the path of David vs. Goliath with David getting the win as the Giants handed Tom Brady and Bill Belichick their first Super Bowl loss. This year the story is much the same as the Patriots and Giants will meet again with the Pats playing the favorites and the Giants playing the underdogs again. The stories of the seasons are similar but not identical to 2008 although the Giants hope that the result is the same.

 

New England Patriots

 

 

 

The Patriots are on top again after becoming the dynasty of the 2000s and falling away from their dominance after 2008. The Patriots made the biggest move of their life in 2000 when they hired Bill Belichick and drafted Tom Brady. This match of coach and QB would turn out to be one of the best in years as the next season they went on to win the Super Bowl. The success continued throughout the 2000s as Brady and Belichick continued to combine for 3 Super Bowls in the 2000s including an 18-1 season that saw them lose their first Super Bowl to the New York Giants. After 2008 the Patriots began to show some signs of struggle as they could not repeat the great success of past year leaving the playoffs early. This year the Pats looked to be back as one of the strongest teams in the NFL with many analysts selecting them as the best team in the AFC. The strong predictions began to fade away though as the Patriots began to show that their defence was not nearly as good as many had though. Belichick’s defensive magic had run out with the Patriots suffering one of the worst defensive season’s since the hiring of Bill Belichick. Tom Brady and the offence made up for the lack of defence though as Brady had his best season yet throwing for over 5,000 and surpassing Dan Marino’s single season passing record, although he did it one week after Drew Brees broke the record. Brady was able to mask the defensive problems as he used the versatile Aaron Hernandez and the breakout Rob Gronkowski. With his two tight ends in tow Brady was able to tear apart passing defences who could not find a way to stop the big and fast Rob Gronkowski. The Pats became the poster boys for the change that had become common this year as the offences took over the game with the best offences taking the top spots even with the worst defences. The Pats had some help though as they did not face any team that finished the season with a winning record giving them the easiest schedule in the NFL. The playoffs saw the Patriots earn a bye in the first round and then played their first winning team in Baltimore. After a tight battle that saw the Ravens come within a dropped ball in the endzone from winning and a field goal from sending the game to overtime, the Pats made their way into the Super Bowl. The Patriots will take their potent offence into Indianapolis and will hope that their defence can hold up enough to let Tom Brady work. If they can do this the Patriots will have a good chance at avenging their Super Bowl XLII loss but their defence is still their big question.

 

New York Giants

 

 

 

 

The New York Giants have not been as strong a team as the Patriots and have not been as consistent either. The only thing that the Giants can guarantee is a wild season that includes late season pushes and collapses. In 2004 the Giants tandem was introduced as Tom Coughlin replaced Jim Fassel as the head coach. Along with the head coach the Giants added a new QB as they completed a draft day trade for Eli Manning. The coach had his QB as both would travel through their careers in the NFL forever attached as the hope for the Giants who had struggled to be anything more than a better than average team in the previous years. With Coughlin at the helm and Eli Manning anchoring the offence the Giants became more consistent making the playoffs for the next 3 years. With this new consistency the Giants began to improve and won the Super Bowl in 2008 beating the Patriots. Since their Super Bowl in 2008 the Giants have been more inconsistent as they lost some veterans that were keys to their success. They made it back to the playoffs for the first time this year after a late season push that saw them beat the Dallas Cowboys twice in the last 4 weeks to win the NFC East Division. With clutch play from Eli Manning and a great front four the Giants began looking like the team from 2008 as they took the same path, minus playing one home game. They got through some of the toughest teams in the NFC including the 15-1 Packers and the streaking 49ers but came through it all. The key to the Giants game is their defence and more specifically their defensive line, like their 2008 team. In 2008 Justin Tuck was the young stud on at defensive end while Michael Strahan provided the veteran presence. This year Justin Tuck has become the veteran presence while Jason Pierre-Paul is the young stud. These two ends add two more defensive ends, Osi Umenyiora and Dave Tollefson, in the Giants’ “NASCAR Package” that provides the best pass rush in the NFL. With four big and fast defensive ends on the line the Giants have given offensive lines fits all season including the playoffs. The Giants defence relies on this pass rush as they do not have the best defensive back corps but when the line can get pressure they force mistakes that the DBs capitalize on. On offence the Giants continue to be led by Eli Manning who has finally started to click with a receiving corps after years of struggling to find a connection after Plaxico Burress left the team. This year he has found Victor Cruz who had a breakout season and has become the Giants deep threat who specializes in YAC yardage. The defence relies heavily on the pass rush that has yet to be stopped while the offence relies on the big plays between Cruz and Manning. The formula has worked so far for the Giants but they are susceptible to being stopped if a team can plan properly.

 

Matchup:

 

 

 

In 2008 the game was a low scoring affair with most of the points coming in the fourth after the defences got tired. This year don’t expect that to repeat as both offences are too good to be held back. The Patriots are the better of the two as Tom Brady has been able to carve up defences all year. The one issue with Tom Brady at QB is the fact that pressure makes him much worse. This is something that the Giants have as they will be able to put pressure on Brady with their front four leaving a full complement of defensive backs to cover the passing game. The biggest issue for the Giants defence will be whether or not they can find a way to stop the two Pats tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Nobody has been able to stop these tight ends and the Giants will try to be the first team to successfully do this. Of course the focus is still going to be the pressure and whether the Pats line can hold off the defensive pressure and give Brady time to throw to his weapons. Brady has little experience this year against a good defence as he faced a winning team for the first time in the AFC Championship when the Baltimore Ravens gave Brady a rough time in the pocket and forced many mistakes. The Giants will be looking to do the same and have a better pass rush to do it with. For the Giants offence the biggest questions will be just how many points they can put up against the 31st ranked Pats defence.  Manning is not easily shaken and so getting pressure is not going to be the key to stopping the Giants. Instead the key will be the defensive mind of Bill Belichick who will need to take his group of unknowns and create complexities that Manning will be unable to read. The key matchup for them will be the coverage of Victor Cruz in the slot as no team has been able to successfully cover him yet. The Patriots will try to use a group of people most likely including their utility man Julian Edelman who does double duty on offence and defence. If the Pats cannot stop Cruz they will be in for a long and painful day on defence and will need Brady to rescue them. Brady has that ability to carry his team and has vowed to play better than last week while Bill Belichick has proved time and time again to be one of the best coaches in the NFL. If there is any coach that can figure out how to stop Victor Cruz it would be Belichick. The matchup will not be the 17-14 defensive struggle of 2008 as the defences are not nearly as good and the offences are much better. The Patriots are the favorites much like 2008 but the Giants again play into every weakness that the Patriots have. Brady is no good under pressure and the Giants are the best at providing it. The Patriots have one of the worst defences in the league and have yet to face a potent passing offence but they will do just that against the Giants who can make it a long day for the Pats defence. There are just too many weaknesses in the Patriots game that the Giants can take advantage of while the Patriots cannot do the same to the Giants. With all of this working against the Pats I believe they will find that the Giants are their kryptonite and they will go 0-2 in the Super Bowl against the G-Men.

 

Prediction:

New York Giants 28 – 24 New England Patriots

Comments
One Response to “2008 All over Again (Super Bowl XLVI Preview)”
  1. foultalk says:

    I have the score a little higher than you with the Giants winning. The d-line of the Giants will be hard for the Pats to stop. Check out the rest of my thoughts here: http://foultalk.wordpress.com/

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