Friday, February 3, 2012

8 comments Bottom-of-the-Barrel's Pickoffapalooza 2012: Superbowl

So here it is, if you can pick yourself up after the extraordinary tension of the Pro-Bowl. Was at work during the Pro-Bowl and was going to consider checking the score and literally couldn't be fucked even clicking the relevant app on my phone. Who actually won? Allow me also to hate on the bye week break (again) for the Superbowl. Sucks the life out of it, I'm not sure when I actually should start reading up on it (articles are "ELI MANNING - ELITE!!!" about a billion times by the looks of things), and by now I'm basically ready for baseball.

Anyway, here it is, SAWX AND YANKS!


By the way, bookmakers everywhere are cheering big time for the Patsies here. They started at 3.5 and would be into 2.5 if crossing three wasn't the most difficult journey ever for bookmakers. Anyway, gentlemen, it's time to pick, ensure you choose...wisely.



I think this game will be pretty evenly matched. While the Giants are playing very good football I don't think they will be able to defeat a determined New England team. I see the Patriots taking care of the ball and ultimately doing what they do, dominating time of possession and keeping the Giants' offense off the field. That said, New York has the weapons to score quickly and to keep this game close.



Too much Giants hype and not enough respect for Tom Brady being really fucking good. New York is playing well, but the strength of their team (the pass rush) will be negated by Brady's propensity to get rid of the ball quickly. Pats roll.



My city, Indianapolis is playing host to Super Bowl XLVI, with 150,000 + visitors expected in the Circle City. The excess of entertainment and our societal devotion to the NFL are on full display in the streets of downtown Indianapolis. The eyes of the world will be upon us in a few short days, and it is almost enigmatic the energy and efforts extended for one game. Just one single game.

Granted, it is the one game that will further define the already rich legacies of two proud flagship NFL franchises. One game that can tie Tom Brady with Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks to win four rings. One game that would give Eli Manning indisputable proof of his elite status amongst this generation of signal callers. One game that might be able to bring some degree of peace to the heart of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, whose endured the painful loss of wife Myra to cancer.

For the past ten days the second and infinitely more important meeting between the New York Giants and New England Patriots this season has been dissected, analyzed, and discussed from every conceivable angle. Every stat, story, and sound bite has been spread to the four corners of the Earth, leaving nothing about either team, or its players unknown.

For that reason I refuse to throw out a bunch of stats and figures this week as in past write-ups. The strengths and weaknesses of these two teams are known. By virtue of being the lone two teams whose players will not be in street clothes on Sunday, the Giants and Patriots must be playing pretty good football right now. Sure, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff, and 49ers punt returned Kyle Williams deserve a Super Bowl ring depending on the victor, no one ever said that a bit of luck and fortune weren’t part of the equation.

Whichever team is able to take care of the ball, and get defensive stops at key points in the game will be the champions. That almost goes without saying. I make that statement more so to say that I think these teams are unconventional enough in the paths they’ve taken this season, and leading up to this culmination. With a penchant for winning games oftentimes while exhibiting poor play on one side of the ball or the other. Demonstrating they can win games despite playing imperfect football.. The Giants were a 9-7 regular season ball club, and the Patriots somehow have advanced despite the handicap of a defense ranked next to last in the entire league. Bill Belicheck has transformed his team yet again, this time with a most potent offense led by virtually unstoppable dual tight ends. Hopefully Gronkowski is healthy enough to be effective, and not be a decoy or hindrance. While the Giants late season surge, and fearsome pass rush mirror the very characteristics of their last Championship run.

This one, last single game of the season is a contest between two evenly matched teams. Teams with some similar qualities that blur the line just enough that you can’t really discern who has a decisive edge. Teams with different, but equally matched strengths, capable of being the deciding factor in what should be a closely contested affair.


GIANTS 38-27

Having talked about both teams for collectively five games, it might be appropriate to zoom out a bit and look at the big picture, and it just so happens we have a Superbowl which is very conducive to the big picture. Normally looking at a game from four years ago is a bit ridiculous, but maybe not in this case, as the Giants and Pats are two of the most stable franchises in football. The coaches remain from four years ago. Bradshaw, Jacobs, Umenyiora, Tuck, Manning, Ross, Webster, McKenzie, Snee, Diehl, Mankins, Koppen, Light, Wilfork, Brady and Welker all return. That is a list of most of the relevant players in this game. But I'm more interested in the changes since that game. The Giants are unequivocally better. Their receivers outside of Burress (who had one of the best receiving seasons I have ever seen that year) were decidedly mediocre going into that Superbowl. Now they boast one of the best receiver troikas in the game. Their defensive line trades an aging Strahan for the most athletic defensive player in the league. Eli Manning is much, much better than four years ago. Their offensive line might be slightly worse, but although the numbers looked bad last week, I thought they protected outstanding against San Fran early, and Manning took some sacks in lieu of making some risky throws (New York had no turnovers) he might have let go against a less dangerous ballhawking secondary. Six sacks and twelve hits also isn't quite as bad as it sounds when you consider New York called pass 64 times against a fine pass rushing team. So there's just about nowhere New York is definitively worse, and several areas they are significantly improved.

New England are the opposite. Harrison, Seymour, Bruschi, Ty Warren, Meriweather, Adalius Thomas, Vrabel, Samuel, Hobbs are all defensive subtractions from that team. Now, I understand that many of those players were well past their prime, overrated or both. But even so, just a sense of experience, intelligence, sanity and serenity in the defensive team will be sorely missed in the chaos of the ensuing two weeks. I mean the only meaningful addition is Jerod Mayo (and Mark Anderson, sort of, I guess), who had his worst season as a pro this year. The defense is undoubtedly worse, probably much worse (even though defense was hardly considered a strength of the 2008 team, they finished 4th in YPG against and 4th in PPG against). I know what you're thinking, Gronkowski and Hernandez, sure, Welker is better and Green-Ellis is probably an upgrade over Maroney but remember, Randy Moss had 1,500 yards and 23 touchdowns that year. By and large, I don't think there's much debate that New England is not the same team they were four years ago. I think both changes to the Giants and Patriots are fairly substantial, and I do think it's relevant - Superbowls are different than other games and I think how these teams responded to it four years ago is at least slightly instructive.

So is the win in Foxboro - without Hakeem Nicks, it should be said. I have mentioned how insanely hard it is to win in New England and the Giants did it, and while it did require a Manning game winning drive, there's nothing especially unusual about those drives this year. Eli's fourth quarter heroics are by now quite famous, and considering his playoff exploits, he has to be considered just about the most clutch QB in the league. The Giants have beaten Green Bay, San Francisco and New England, all on the road, the three top seeds in the NFL. They also beat Atlanta, a 10 win team, by three scores. Meanwhile, I have painstakingly compiled a list of New England's wins against teams with a winning record at the end of their season. This took a lot of time and research, so I encourage you to look over it closely;


That's it. That's the list. Because Lee Evans dropped a TD pass and Billy Cundiff missed a 32 yard field goal. Their best win outside of Massachusetts is against Denver. Denver. Great.

I mentioned the Giants offensive line, who I have been broadly impressed with over the last few weeks, even though on paper it looked messy against the Niners. This game is on them, because what was apparent against Baltimore, and I suppose has been all year for the Pats, is that if you stop their pass rush, they are just completely impotent defensively. I mean, obviously every team wants a pass rush, and are a better functioning team when it is clicking for them getting to the quarterback. But it's just absolutely critical for New England as it's the only thing they do remotely competently. With a decent rush, they are a below average defense. Without it, they don't have a defense basically at all. They got to Flacco early and Baltimore's bad offense did nothing, but when Baltimore's line settled in, Flacco (Flacco!) was dissecting them with ease. Pay no mind to the "New England made stops when they needed to" storyline. It's bullshit. Yeah sure, they got a pick and a fourth down stop. Whoop de doo. They were just awful on basically every other defensive play of the second half. They gave up 213 yards (389 on Baltimore's last eight drives) and if this went into OT, I doubt the Patriots would have been able to hold on. New England is going to have to, at minimum, duplicate San Francisco's pass rush to have any hope here, against an offense infinitely better than Denver or Baltimore, and I think it's fairly obvious the chances of that are slim. I think Eli is going to absolutely go beserk on New England here. The best quarterback (by QB rating) New England have beaten was Philip Rivers (Matt Moore, no shit, was the second). It would be literally unprecidented for them this year to beat a QB or an offense of this class. I was intrigued by the performance against Denver, but probably should have known better - New England are just too atrocious defensively to take particulary seriously against good opposition, and New York easily qualifies.


Patriots (-3.0)

New England 31-20

My preseason Super Bowl pick was New England-Atlanta. I chose the Patriots to win this game back in the fall. I haven’t changed my mind since then. One of the biggest discussions I have had over the past week has been people asking me when the Giants became an unstoppable football team, to the point it seems like the Patriots should not be favored in the game? I’m not sure. I realize the Giants are peaking at the right time, but I still feel like the Patriots are the better team. As strong as the Giants have looked in these playoffs, this game has all the makings of a statement game from Brady and Belichick.

There have also been constant discussions about this game being just like the 2007 Super Bowl, which I believe to be stupid. These two teams did play earlier this year with the Giants winning that game, but I am not sure how much can be learned from this earlier game. I made a comment in a recent TMQ post that I didn’t think either of these games tell us much about the upcoming Super Bowl. This was in response to Gregg Easterbrook having made a comment the Patriots should win the game because they beat the Giants in 2007 and then lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl that year. So Gregg's logic dictated with the Giants winning earlier this year it bodes well for a Patriots victory in the Super Bowl. Commenter “JJJJShabado" did some research and came up with 11 Super Bowls where there were rematches. He posted the research in the comments and I asked his permission to post it here since I found it interesting:

2007: Giants d Patriots (Patriots d Giants in Week 17)
2001: Patriots d Rams (Rams d Patriots in Week 10)
1999: Rams d Titans (Titans d Rams in Week 8)
*1994: 49ers d Chargers (49ers d Chargers in Week 15)
1993: Cowboys d Bills (Bills d Cowboys in Week 2)
1990: Giants d Bills (Bills d Giants in Week 15)
*1986: Giants d Broncos (Giants d Broncos in Week 12)
1983: Raiders d Redskins (Redskins d Raiders in Week 5)
*1981: 49ers d Bengals (49ers d Bengals in Week 14)
1980: Raiders d Eagles (Eagles d Raiders in Week 12)
*1977: Cowboys d Broncos (Cowboys d Broncos in Week 14)

So 63.7% of the time the team has lost the regular season match-up and has won the Super Bowl.

In terms of probability, you would expect this allocation 16%, assuming each team has a 50-50 shot of winning the Super Bowl.

The starred entries are times when the team that won the first game also won the Super Bowl. It is interesting that out of the six Super Bowl rematches since 1990, the team that lost the first game won the second game. So it seems the current trend (if we can call six games over 22 years a "trend" at all) is for teams that won the first game to lose in the Super Bowl. I’m not sure this information really tells us anything (though I appreciate the research) for the upcoming game though. I'm not even sure if this is a similar game to the 2007 Super Bowl, or even the matchup earlier this year. So it may be dangerous to use any previous games these two teams have played over the past few seasons to predict the outcome of the current Super Bowl matchup.

So what does this information tell me? It tells me we can look back at previous games two teams may have played, but it doesn’t necessarily help predict the outcome. Maybe in terms of strategy the team that lost the first game would have an advantage in they will want to gameplan and scheme around the problems that caused the loss in the first game, while the team that won the first game will want to somewhat continue a gameplan that worked in the first game. Teams that win a game probably won't radically change a gameplan away from something that previously worked. Maybe this is a stupid line of thought and both teams would radically change their gameplan, I don't know.

I think that’s the biggest lesson we can learn is that each NFL game (cliché alert) is its own game and has to be judged on its own without us “learning” too much from the first game. What we “learn” is only relevant in terms of that previous game in many cases. Sports don't have hard and fast rules, like "put your hand on a hot stove and your hand will get burnt." It is hard to say because Play X/Strategy X worked last time it will work again in a rematch between the same two teams. So I believe it is hard to look at the previous Giants-Patriots game, and especially the Super Bowl from four years ago, and think that tells us something about this Sunday's Super Bowl.

I’ve heard all week about how the Patriots made Brady uneasy in the pocket and they are in his head. Few quarterbacks can be effective with pressure in his face. Eli Manning handles pressure in his face well, but it still affects his play. Both teams are obviously going to want to put pressure on the other team’s quarterback and neither team has a great defense, so the offensive line play on each side will make a huge difference in the game. Eli Manning seems to be playing well, absent the Giants second half struggles against the 49ers, and Tom Brady has sworn he won’t play as poorly against the Giants as he did against the Ravens. So both quarterbacks are coming off less than typical stellar performances. The good news for both quarterbacks is the opposing defenses aren’t nearly as strong as the Ravens and 49ers defense.

I feel like the Giants are an overwhelming pick for this game. They are the favorites without actually being favored. I’m not sure I see it. I don’t see them being able to cover Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Welker and I think the Patriots are really motivated to prepare and play well in this game. The Giants have gotten their shit together recently and put on a great run through the playoffs. As many questions as I have about the Patriots being able to cover the Giants receivers, I have as many questions about the Giants stopping the Patriots tight ends. The 49ers showed two weeks ago a good defense can get pressure on Manning and force him to look uncomfortable in the pocket. The Patriots want to do the same thing to Manning.

I look for the Patriots to get the ball out of Brady’s hand quickly in the passing game and try to run the ball on the Giants early in the game to slow down their pass rush. I don’t know if the Giants will be able to run the ball on the Patriots with Wilfork in the middle of the line. The key to beating the Giants is to force them to blitz in order to get pressure on Brady and test their average secondary. The game will be closer than my predicted score indicates. I feel like the Patriots are going to run the ball with Woodhead, Benjarvus Green-Ellis and others (Hernandez?) in order to keep pressure off Brady and I believe the secondary will hold up well enough to slow down the Giants.

So rejoice Giants fans. I am picking against your team for the third time in these playoffs. That means I will probably be wrong since I have been wrong three times before. I hope everyone enjoys the Super Bowl. I still would like to see it played on Saturday night in order to prevent me from having to go to work the next day. Of course the NFL is terrified no one will watch the Super Bowl on Saturday night or that groups of people will go to bars to watch the game. I’m not sure I buy this very much. I still think people would stay at home to see the game and commercials, but I could be wrong.

Jimmy: NYG (+3.0)

Sean: NE (-3.0)

Jon: NE (-3.0)

Ben: NE (-3.0)

Chris: NE (-3.0)

Bill Simmons: NE (-3.0)


Justin Zeth said...

You know I love you guys so please accept this as constructive criticism in the spirit of Christian love:

J.S. said...

lol, I see...

J.S. said...


Still undefeated in three years on this thing!

/obnoxious lame bragging

Justin Zeth said...

Congratulations, bro.

Bengoodfella said...

Justin, thanks. I have to write a lot though. It's in my contract.

J.S., whatever. I will probably struggle next year when I have to choose whether to pick the Panthers in the Super Bowl or not.

Get what I did there?

rich said...

I for one can't wait to hear about Simmons' take on Manningham's catch. Considering he still hasn't gotten over Tyree, I think he may have a stroke.

Baron von Awesome said...

Manningham's catch has nothing in common with Tyree's but the superficial circumstances. Tyree's catch was a miracle. Manningham's was a great throw and a great catch.

As usual the Giants were lucky in a whole bunch of ways, but that play wasn't one of them.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, Simmons' Twitter says "that sucked." So I'm guessing we are in store for some more "we are so cursed and feel bad for us because everything is so awful" type Simmons writing with a lack of perspective that only someone who hasn't truly suffered a tragedy in their life can do based on a sporting event.

Baron, very true. Tyree's was amazing for the fact Manning escaped the rush and threw the ball up to Tyree. The Manningham-Manning catch was just a brilliant throw and a brilliant catch. Nothing short of that.

I have to admit the Giants were lucky, especially in regard to the fumbles. Still, you could argue the Pats were lucky to even be in the Super Bowl. But you are right, comparisons to Tyree's catch are going to be made and they will be forced.