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Analysis from A to Z | Value in Props
Super Bowl XLII-- The NFL Season's Final Dance - Patriots Versus Giants
For most of the 2007 season it was expected that the quarterback matchup of Brady vs. Manning would take place in the AFC Championship game. But in what may be the final chapter in a historic NFL season that matchup will take place in Super Bowl XLII.
Only instead of New England's Tom Brady matching spirals with Indianapolis' Peyton Manning, the league's MVP will duel against Eli Manning of the upstart New York Giants.
After New England methodically defeated San Diego 21-12 to win the AFC Title for their eighteenth straight win, the Giants totally outplayed the Green Bay Packers in a 23-20 overtime win to grab the NFC Title and guarantee that regardless of the result, Super Bowl XLII will be historic.
Clearly the greatest history will be made if New England attains perfection with a win to conclude a 19-0 season. But if the Giants pull the stunning upset it will mark the first time that a pair of brothers will have QB'd their teams to Super Bowl wins in back to back seasons as Eli's older brother Peyton led the Colts to victory in last season's Super Bowl.
But the oddsmakers do not like the chances of the Giants as New England was installed a two touchdown favorite at most sports books. Early money came in on the Giants to move the line down to 12 in most sports books, likely due to a combination of the Giants' impressive run through their first three playoff games and their strong effort in a 38-35 loss to the Patriots in the final week of the regular season.
The AFC continues to be the superior of the two conferences. But just how much better is the AFC?
Here's a statistical look at regular season interconference play over the past four seasons, looking at how the AFC has fared both straight up and against the spread vs. the NFC plus average scores and margins in AFC wins and in NFC wins.
||AFC Ave Win
||NFC Ave Win|
||44 - 20
||42 - 21 - 1
||29.6 - 14.6 = 15.0
||26.8 - 18.8 = 8.0|
||34 - 30
||33 - 30 - 1
||27.2 - 15.0 = 12.2
||25.1 - 16.2 = 8.9|
||40 - 24
||36 - 27 - 1
||28.7 - 14.8 = 13.9
||25.6 - 14.7 = 10.9|
||32 - 32
||30 - 31 - 3
||28.3 - 14.3 = 14.0
||27.2 - 16.1 - 11.1|
||28.5 - 14.6 = 13.9
||26.1 - 16.3 = 9.8|
To the surprise of nobody the AFC has clearly been the better conference during this time frame but the dominance is not as great as may generally be perceived. The AFC has been a solid edge over the four seasons but there have been two dominant seasons (2204 and 2006), one season with just a slight edge (2005) and one totally even season (2007).
The gap between the conferences, at least on a global basis, still exists, although it may be narrowing.
A Super Bowl line, of sorts, has been out since mid season. The AFC has been a favorite throughout, ranging from about a 10 point choice to as high as a 15 point choice at times, depending on the ebbs and flows of the leading contenders week by week. For much of the season it was expected that either Indianapolis or New England would be the AFC representative and that either Green Bay or Dallas would play from the NFC.
The Money Line for the Super Bowl is always an interesting phenomenon as in most years the underdog attracts most of the money line play, actually creating value for the favorite. As we go to press New England remains a 12 point favorite with the Patriots on the Money Line ranging from minus 420 to minus 465 with the take back on the Giants ranging from plus 325 to plus 425 depending on the sports book and the spread they use between favorite and underdog. If history is an accurate guide we can expect the money line to drop further in favor of the Giants before late money pushes the money line back up towards New England.
Including the Playoffs the New England Patriots are 18-0 Straight Up (S/U), 10-8 Against the Pointspread (ATS) and, in Totals, were involved in 11 OVERs and 7 UNDERs.
The New York Giants are 13-6 S/U, 13-6 ATS and have been involved in 9 OVERs and 10 UNDERs.
For the Patriots despite their perfect record it's been a tale of two seasons in terms of their dominant play. They won their first 8 games of the regular season by an average score of 41-16 while averaging 444 yards on offense and allowing an average of 268 yards on defense. In their final 8 games of the regular season the Pats were, of course, 8-0 S/U but just 2-6 ATS. The average score in games 9 through 16 was 32-18 and average yards were 383 on offense and 308 on defense.
The Patriots also failed to cover the line in both Playoff wins (31-20 over Jacksonville and 21-12 over San Diego, favored by 13 ˝ and 14 points respectively). They had a 403-350 yardage edge over the Jaguars and a 347-311 yardage edge over the Chargers.
The Patriots enter the Super Bowl having lost to the pointspread in each of their last 5 games.
The Giants also had some unique qualities to their season. They were just 3-5 straight up at home but after losing their opening road game of the season in Dallas, the G-men won 10 straight games on the road, including Playoff wins in Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay. Their 10 road wins is an NFL record and in winning their last two Playoff games the Giants avenged a pair of regular season losses to Dallas as well as a regular season home loss to Green Bay.
Of New England's 18 wins to date, only 4 of them have been by fewer than 9 points, including week 17's win over the Giants (38-35). Their overall ATS record is 10-8 but had they been favored by 12 in every game this season that ATS record would have still been a very fine 11-7.
The Giants are 13-6 ATS through their NFC Title win and if they'd been a 12 point dog in each game this season their ATS mark would improve to a stellar 16-2-1 as the Giants lost only 2 games by more than 12 points (35-13 to Green Bay and 41-17 to Minnesota) while losing by exactly 12 points to Washington (22-10).
Super Bowl History
As has been the case throughout Playoff history, the Super Bowl has tended to be one sided with the average margin of victory being more than 15 points. Although there have been more competitive Super Bowls in recent years the game still tends to produce double digit wins. New England won each of their three Super Bowls by exactly 3 points. But in the other 14 Super Bowls played since the NFL expanded the Playoffs in 1990 to include a dozen teams, 11 have been decided by 10 or more points, including last seasons's 29-17 win by Indianapolis over Chicago.
Historically the pointspread has not mattered in the Super Bowl -- just pick the winner of the game and you'll cash your bet. But that has changed recently. New England failed to cover in each of their last two wins. Against both Carolina and Philadelphia the Patriots were favored by 7 points and won each by a FG. Additionally, twice in the past 11 years the Super Bowl has resulted in a pointspread push. In fact, since Pittsburgh's 27-17 loss to Dallas in Super Bowl XXX, the Super Bowl winner has gone just 7-3-2 against the pointspread. However, it should be noted that the pointspread in 9 of the 11 games was a touchdown or higher. In the two competitively priced Super Bowls in the last decade nether game turned out to be very competitive at all with Baltimore routing the New York Giants and Tampa Bay doing the same to Oakland.
With a line of 12 Super Bowl XLII is the highest priced Super Bowl since St Louis was favored 14 points over New England back in Super Bowl XXXVI. In fact, this will be the eighth Super Bowl in the last 19 that will have a double digit pointspread. It is really remarkable to think that in the biggest game of the NFL season -- the game between supposedly two of the NFL's elite teams -- one third of the time a team has been favored by double digits. 14 times in 42 Super Bowls there has been a double digit favorite. More on this topic shortly.
5 of the 14 Super Bowls that featured double digit lines occurred consecutively in the mid 1990s and this year's game marks the end of 5 straight Super Bowl pointspreads of 7 points or less.
Yet double digit favoritism may be warranted given that 28 of the 41 previous Super Bowls have been decided by 10 points or more and that the average victory margin in 40 Super Bowls has been over 15 points. Naturally, the underdog enjoyed several of those double digit wins but the Super Bowl has often been one sided although recent history challenges this assertion. Sort of.
After 6 straight Super Bowls in which the winning margin varied from 10 to 35 points, 5 of the last 10 have been decided by 7 points or less, including 3 of the last 6 Super Bowl being decided by exactly 3 points. Of course the New England Patriots won each of those 3 games by a FG and that fact alone may indicated how great of a "team" the Patriots have been. A team that proves the old axiom of the sum being greater than the individual parts and being well prepared and well coached to just enough to win.
Still, most Super Bowls have been one sided with the straight up winner of the game also covering the pointspread. It was extremely rare that the game would be decided in the final few minutes and almost never did the pointspread come into play. The most noteworthy case of the points coming into play was back in 1979 on the infamous "Black Sunday." In Super Bowl XIII the Pittsburgh Steelers were favored by from 3 ˝ to 4 ˝ points over the Dallas Cowboys in a game won by the Steelers 35-31.
Of the 17 Super Bowls played since the current Playoff system was adopted in 1990 the game winner has gone 12-3 Against the Pointspread (ATS). There have also been 2 pointspread pushes (Green Bay vs New England and St Louis vs Tennessee). The average margin of victory has been 13.4 points and the average total points scored has been 50.8. 9 of 17 Super Bowls have gone Over the total and 8 have stayed Under.
Of the 15 games since 1990 in which there was a clear pointspread winner favorites have gone 8-7 ATS.
Former Commissioner Pete Rozelle loved the saying that "on any given Sunday" any NFL team can defeat another. Over the past decade or so that saying can clearly be modified to "in any given season" any team can rise from the depths of ineptitude to make it to the Super Bowl. Case in point -- the Carolina Panthers. Just 1-15 in 2001, two seasons later the Panthers were in the Super Bowl, losing by a FG. When the Patriots defeated the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII it marked the fourth time in five seasons that the Super Bowl Champion was a team that did not even make the Playoffs the previous season.
Both New England and the Giants made the Playoffs in 2006 while last season's runner up, Chicago, was 7-9 this past season and failed to make the Playoffs. Last season champion Colts lost in the Divisional round.
Still, over the past decade there has been great turnover in Playoff participants from one season to the next and even this season's Playoffs included 6 teams that did not make the Playoffs in 2006. Last season saw 7 teams that made the 2005 Playoffs miss them in 2006 as was the case as well a season earlier.
Is that parity? Or mediocrity? You decide.
Analysis of Double Digit Super Bowl Favorites
New England is the fourteenth team to be favored by double digits in the Super Bowl.
The first 4 Super Bowls featured NFC/NFL teams favored by double digits with Green Bay winning the first two Super Bowls and covering in each. The New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs then won Super Bowls III and IV for the first wins by the younger AFL (now AFC).
It would be almost a decade before we saw another double digit favorite. In Super Bowl XIII Pittsburgh was an 11 point favorite when the defeated the Los Angeles Rams 31-19, barely covering the spread.
The sixth double digit Super Bowl favorite was the 1985 Chicago Bears, often cited as the greatest or most dominant team of the modern era - a claim these Patriots seek to claim if they can win Super Bowl XLII. It is ironic in that those '85 Bears were 10 point favorites over - guess whom - the New England Patriots. As with the Giants this season the 1985 Pats needed to win 3 road Playoff games to make the Super Bowl. In Super Bowl XX Chicago trampled the Patriots 46-10, easily covering the line and recording the second 18-1 record in NFL history. The first had come just a season earlier when San Francisco defeated Miami in Super Bowl XIX 38-16 as merely a 3 point favorite.
Double digit favorite # 7 was San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIV when the 49ers defeated Denver 55-10 as 11 ˝ point favorites. It would be another 4 seasons before the next double digit favorite and in Super Bowl XXVIII Dallas was the first of 5 straight double digit faves. Only the first two would both win and cover (Dallas defeated Buffalo 30-13 as 10 ˝ point favorites and the next season San Francisco defeated San Diego 49-26 as 18 ˝ point favorites). In Super Bowl XXX Dallas defeated Pittsburgh 27-17 but did not cover the 13 ˝ point impost. The next season Green Bay defeated New England 35-21, pushing the 14 point line. And then in Super Bowl XXXII we had the first upset of a double digit favorite since Super Bowl IV when Denver beat Green Bay 31-24 as 11 ˝ point underdogs.
Four seasons later, in Super Bowl XXXVI, New England became the second straight double digit dog to pull an outright upset as the Patriots began their current 'dynasty' with their last second 20-17 upset of St Louis as 14 point underdogs. The Rams were the most recent double digit favorites until this season.
To recap, double digit Super Bowl favorites have won 9 of 13 previous Super Bowls but have gone just 7-5-1 ATS, including 0-3-1 in the last 4 such occurrences, all within the last dozen seasons.
Analysis of Dominant Teams in the Super Bowl
At 16-0 New England is the first team to complete a perfect regular season and make it to the Super Bowl. The only other such team was the 1972 Miami Dolphins who went 14-0 in the regular season and then won all three post-season games including Super Bowl VII over Washington, 14-7. The NFL adopted a 16 game regular season schedule in 1978 and it has remained at that number since. There have been a total of 21 teams that went either 14-2 or 15-1 in the regular season, which would clearly be classified as being dominant.
Not all 21 made the Super Bowl as you'll soon learn. But many of them did and here is how they fared in their Super Bowls.
Excluding the two Super Bowls when a pair of "dominant" teams squared off, such teams have won 7 of 9 Super Bowls and have gone 4-4 ATS plus however you choose to view Pittsburgh's "Black Sunday" result.
The follow chart summarizes the post season fates of the 21 teams that have finished 14-2 or 15-1 since 1978. In two cases a pair of "dominant" teams faced one another in the Super Bowl. The information for other "dominant" that made it to the Super Bow are highlighted in bold type. Following the chart are some notes regarding some of the dominant teams listed that did not make it to the Super Bowls in their dominant season.
||Post Season Result|
||Won SB XIII v Dallas (12-4) as 3 ˝- 4 ˝ point faves (Black Sunday)|
||Lost SB XVIII v L A Raiders (12-4) as 3 point favorites (9-38)|
||S Francisco (15-1)
||Won SB XIX v Miami (14-2) as 3 point favorites (38-16)|
||Lost SB XIX to San Francisco (15-1) as 3 point underdogs (16-38)|
||Won SB XX v New England (11-5) as 10 point favorites (46-10)|
||N Y Giants (14-2)
||Won SB XXI v Denver (11-5) as 8 ˝ point favorites (39-20)|
||Lost in Divisional Playoffs to Washington (12-4)|
||S Francisco (14-2)
||Won SB XXIV v Denver (11-5) as 11 ˝ point favorites (55-10)|
||S Francisco (14-2)
||Lost to N Y GIANTS * (13-3) in NFC Championship|
||Won SB XXVI v Buffalo (13-3) as 7 ˝ point favorites (37-24)|
||S Francisco (14-2)
||Lost to DALLAS * (13-3) in NFC Championship|
||Lost to Atlanta (14-2) in NFC Championship|
||Lost SB XXXIII to Denver (14-2) as 7 ˝ point underdogs (19-34)|
||Won SB XXXIII v Atlanta (14-2) as 7 ˝ point favorites (34-19)|
||Lost to Tennessee (13-3) in AFC Championship|
||St Louis (14-2)
||Lost SB XXXVI to New England (11-5) as 14 point favorites (17-20)|
||New England (14-2)
||Won SB XXXVIII v Carolina (11-5) as 7 point favorites (32-29)|
||Lost to New England (14-2) in AFC Championship|
||New England (14-2)
||Won SB XXXIX v Philadelphia (12-4) as 7 point favorites (24-21)|
||Lost in Divisional Playoffs to PITTSBURGH * (11-5)|
||San Diego (14-2)
||Lost in Divisional Playoffs to New England (12-4)|
* Team in CAPS went on to win that season's Super Bowl
New England has been involved in the last 3 Super Bowls involving a "dominant" team and in each game the Underdog covered the pointspread.
Note that San Francisco, 14-2 in 1990 and again in 1992, failed to reach the Super Bowl despite having "dominant" regular seasons. In both cases, interestingly, the teams that eliminated the 49ers from the Playoffs went on to win, and cover, the Super Bowl, including the underdog Giants in Super Bowl XXV over Buffalo.
Minnesota went 15-1 in 1998 but lost to Atlanta in the NFC Title game. The Falcons went on to lose to Denver in Super Bowl XXXIII as detailed above in a matchup of a pair of 14-2 teams.
Jacksonville went 14-2 in 1999 but lost to 13-3 Tennessee in the Playoffs before the Titans lost to St Louis in Super Bowl XXXIV, 23-16, pushing the 7 point line.
In 2005 Indianapolis went 14-2 before losing to 11-5 Pittsburgh in the Divisional Playoffs with Pittsburgh ultimately winning Super Bowl XL.
And in 2006 San Diego went 14-2 but lost to New England in the Divisional round of the Playoffs before New England lost to ultimate Super Bowl winner Indianapolis in the AFC Title game.
Analysis of Teams with 4 or More Wins Than Their Opponent in the Super Bowl
Another way of looking at potential mismatches is by looking at previous Super Bowls in which one team was clearly better than their opponent, based on their regular season records. A difference of 4 games would seem to be a reasonable gap between two teams that would indicate a clear difference between the teams. In this season's Super Bowl there is a 6 game difference as New England was 16-0 and the Giants were 10-6.
Beginning with the adoption of the 16 game schedule in 1978, there has been only one Super Bowl in which one team had 4 or more regular season wins than their opponent until now - Chicago (15-1 in 1985) defeated New England (11-5) in Super Bowl XX, as detailed earlier.
Interestingly, since the adoption of the 16 game regular season, the Super Bowl team with the better straight up regular season record has gone 17-7 straight up (5 times the records were the same). Against the spread these teams have gone 12-10-1 (excluding Pittsburgh's result from "Black Sunday") but just 1-6-1 since 1996!
Tthe acceleration of free agency in the 1990's has created a greater gap between well managed and poorly managed franchises while at the same time narrowing the talent gap within those consistently well managed franchises.
Rematches of Regular Season Games
This season's Super Bowl will be the eleventh rematch of a regular season game since the introduction of the 16 game regular season schedule and the first since 2001. Here's a look at how the previous 10 regular season games and Super Bowl rematches went. Regular season and Super Bowl results are shown from the perspective of the Super Bowl winner. The team shown in CAPS hosted the regular season game.
||+ 6, 42
||L W U
||W W U
||N Y Y|
||W W U
||W W U
||Y Y Y|
||L P O
||W W U
||N p N|
||W W U
||W W O
||Y Y N|
||W P U
||W W O
||Y p N|
||L L U
||W W U
||N N Y|
||L L U
||W W U
||N N Y|
||W W O
||W W O
||Y Y Y|
||L L O
||W P U
||N p N|
||L W U
||W W U
||N Y Y|
To illustrate what is being shown let's review the first listed rematch. Oakland won Super Bowl XV which was played following the 1980 season. In their regular season meeting, played in Philadelphia, Oakland was a point underdog and the Over/Under was 42. Oakland lost the game straight up but won against the line with the game staying UNDER the Total. In the Super Bowl Oakland was a 3 point underdog and the Total was 40. Oakland won the game 27-10, winning against the pointspread. The game stayed UNDER the Total.
The final column shows whether the regular season results were repeated. In the case of Oakland and Philadelphia the straight up results did not repeat (N) but the pointspread winner and Over/Under result did repeat (Y).
Of the 10 previous Super Bowl rematches, the straight up winner of the regular season game has gone just 4-6 straight up in the Super Bowl. The team that covered the regular season game has gone 5-2 ATS in the rematch with two of the regular season games and one of the Super Bowls involving a PUSH. And the Totals result from the regular season game has been repeated 6 times in the 10 rematches. Readers are left to draw their own conclusions by inspecting the specifics of the 10 individual regular season games and rematches.
How The Teams Got Here
New England wrapped up the top AFC seed almost in training camp. Actually, once the defeated Indianapolis 24-20 in early November it was but a mere formality until the actual mathematical clinching took place. The methodically won both Playoff games, played at home, defeating Jacksonville 31-20 in the Divisional round and then dispatching San Diego 21-12 to win the AFC Championship.
The New York Giants took a different route, qualifying as a Wild Card after finishing second in the NFC East behind Dallas. That meant to make it to the Super Bowl the Giants would have to play - and win - 3 games on the road. Even though they's won 7 straight road games since losing their opener at Dallas, New York was a longshot to survive a route that had rarely been accomplished. Yet, as underdogs in all 3 games, the Giants won at Tampa Bay, then at Dallas and finally at Green Bay to win the NFC Championship. And none of the 3 wins was a fluke.
Why The Teams Are Here
New England is here because they demonstrated throughout the season - from start to finish - that they are the best team in the NFL. They set team records for most points scored and greatest point differential while QB Tom Brady set the record for touchdown passes and WR Randy Moss set the record for TD receptions. The offense was # 1 in both points and total yards and also # 1 in passing yards. In running the football the Pats were # 13, gaining 116 rushing yards per game. Despite their potent offense the Patriots' defense also excelled. They ranked # 4 in both fewest total yards and total points allowed, # 9 in fewest rushing yards allowed and # 6 in fewest passing yards allowed. On offense they were # 1 in committing just 15 turnovers during the regular season - less than 1 per game. On defense they were # 9 in forcing 31 takeaways, nearly 2 per game. They were truly dominant, especially in the season's first half, repeatedly showing a killer instinct.
The Giants started 0-2 and were on the verge of 0-3 before a strong second half in Washington that enabled New York to overcome a 17-3 halftime deficit in a 24-17 win. Though just 3-5 at home the Giants went 7-1 on the road before winning 3 more road games in the Playoffs. The reason they are in the Super Bowl is because in their three Playoff wins they lost just one turnover - a fumbled punt in the win over Green Bay. The were plus 5 in turnovers in the three Playoff games after coughing up 34 turnovers in the regular season and a minus 9 turnover margin. QB Manning has protected the football very well in the Playoffs, managing each game very effectively.
It just so happens that the AFC faced the NFC East in interconference play this past season so there have been 6 common opponents faced by the Giants and the Patriots. The Giants played 10 games against those 6 teams while New England had 9 games against those same 6 teams. Those common foes consisted of Buffalo, Dallas, Miami, the New York Jets, Philadelphia and Washington.
Obviously, New England was a perfect 9-0 in their contests, going 6-3 ATS and outscoring those 9 foes 360-138, an average of 40.0 to 15.3.
The Giants were 7-3 in their 10 games against common foes, going 6-4 ATS and outscoring those foes 228-203, an average of 22.8 to 20.3. The average score in their 7 wins was 23.2 to 15.0. The average in their 3 losses was 21.7 to 32.7.
Overall the Giants appear to have faced a much more difficult schedule as their 19 opponents were a combined 171-145 this season. New England's 18 foes have a combined record of just 150-153.
But in looking at the record of teams defeated New York's 13 wins have been against teams that were just 96-104 against the rest of the league. New England's 18 wins have come against teams that were 150-135 against the rest of the NFL.
Additionally, New York's 19 opponents had a combined pointspread record of 155-147-14 (51.3 %). The Patriots' 18 foes had a combined ATS mark of 156-134-13 (53.8 %).
Coaching, Experience and Intangibles
New England has a clear edge in these areas with three Super Bowl wins in 6 seasons. They've been to the Playoffs 5 times in the 6 seasons, missing only following their first Super Bowl win when they went 9-7 but misses making the Playoffs as both a co-Division champion and ass a Wild Card due to tie breakers.
At the heart of their success are coach Belichick and QB Brady. New England is an astounding 14-2 in the post season since their first Super Bowl winning season.
A significant part of the Patriots' roster has been part of one or more of the three Super Bowl teams.
The Giants have limited Super Bowl experience with only two key players - DE Michael Strahan and WR Amani Toomer - remaining from the Giants' team that was routed by Baltimore 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV following the 2000 season, one season before the Patriots began their run.
The Giants have Playoff experience in recent seasons and coach Tom Coughlin also made the Playoffs while coaching Jacksonville, but never made it to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots have additional intangibles on their side, the most significant is their chance to make history and set a new standard.
But the Giants can also lay claim to several intangibles. They enter this game with that powerful underdog mentality and the knowledge that they competed with the unbeaten Patriots on even terms 5 weeks ago.
The edges clearly belong with the Patriots but if this is a key part of your handicapping philosophy it would be wrong to suggest the Giants are totally shut out. Rather, the Giants' positives are minimized by the huge edges enjoyed by the Patriots in terms of experience and coaching, having gone through the Super Bowl preparation routine three times already. They know how to handle the hype and two week buildup to the game and how to maintain their focus on the task at hand despite numerous distractions.
General Comments and Observations About Super Bowl XLII
The Super Bowl is handicapped unlike any other game played during the regular season or the Playoffs. There is finality to the season following this game. The winners are champions and the losers must settle for playing the 'what if' game during the offseason. Often these games become one sided as the trailing team ultimately accepts the inevitable while the leading team continues to play with purpose. Mistakes -- penalties and especially turnovers -- become magnified.
Keep in mind as you do your own analysis of the game to look at each team's body of work over the entire season. Sure, recent form is important but don't place too much emphasis on what you saw last. Rather, try to look at the matchup as the coaches will be doing in the 2 weeks leading up to the game.
Keys to success often lie in several areas. The ability to run the ball on offense and to defend against the run on defense. The ability to avoid turning the ball over on offense is also key.
New England enjoys significant edges on offense and also sizeable edges on defense. They arguably beat better football teams to get here and have yet to taste defeat all season. Several times - including against the Giants to end the regular season - the Patriots rallied from behind to preserve their perfect season.
At the height of their dominating run, arguably their Sunday night 56-10 rout of Buffalo, New England had the highest power rating of any team in NFL history according to many who maintain such ratings. While their play over the second half of the season was not nearly as dominant (three wins by a FG in their final 8 games) their entire body of work must be considered in assessing how they may fare in Super Bowl XLII.
Recall that weather and the elements impacted their late season play. Conditions in Arizona are likely to be either ideal or very close to such.
The Patriots' performance over the season suggests they will win the turnover battle. New England just does not turn the ball over, losing just 15 turnovers during the regular season. After an error-free game against Jacksonville the Pats did lose the ball 3 times (on Brady interceptions) in the win over San Diego. For the two Playoff games the Pats were plus 1 in turnover margin after being plus 16 in the regular season. The Giants were minus 9 during the regular season and plus 5 in their three Playoff wins.
History shows that winning the turnover battle is critical to winning Playoff games. The team committing fewer turnovers has won more than 83 % of Playoff games over the past 20 years. That percentage rises to over 90 % when the margin is plus 2 or higher.
The Giants have better statistics in the running game, averaging more yards per rush on offense (4.4 vs 4.2) and allowing fewer on defense (3.8 vs 4.3). But the Patriots enjoy a huge edge in the passing game on both sides of the ball. On a per pass attempt basis New England has the edge on offense (8.0 vs. 5.9) and on defense (5.9 vs 6.2). On a per completion basis - perhaps the most important measure of the ability to gain yardage - New England also has the edge on offense (11.5 vs 10.5) and on defense (9.9 vs 10.8).
Against teams that finished the regular season with 10 or more wins New England was a perfect 8-0 S/U but just 4-4 ATS. The Giants were just 2-4 S/U (though both wins were Playoff wins in Dallas and Green Bay) and were 3-3 ATS. In their 8 games against "elite" teams the Patriots' average score was 33.5 to 19.8, a margin of 13.8 per game. They outgained the opposition by an average of 396 to 312 and were plus 8 in turnover margin. In their 6 games against elite opposition the Giants were outscored by an average of 24.5 to 31.0, a margin of minus 6.5 points per game. They were also outgained in those 6 games by an average of 332-360, or minus 28 yards per game. The Giants were exactly even in turnover margin when facing the best teams on their schedule.
Summary of Key Points
|The Case for the Giants
||The Case for New England|
|In reaching the Super Bowl the Giants have already avenged regular season losses to both Dallas and Green Bay
||Belichick has repeatedly shown an ability to fare well against opponents the second time around, especially when it comes to defensing quarterbacks|
|Have won a record 10 road games this season
||A dominating and record setting offense|
|A solid running game on both sides of the football
||3 Super Bowl wins in 6 seasons|
|Led the NFL in sacks
||Led the NFL in fewest giveaways|
|No pressure - they are expected to lose
||Pursuit of perfection and making a case for being the best team in NFL history|
|The Case AGAINST the Giants
||The Case AGAINST New England|
|For much of the regular season they were at best a very average team
||All the pressure is on New England - a loss here and their 18-0 season will forever be a stigma|
|Despite a strong pass rush, secondary is vulnerable and will be facing football's best pass offense
||His well publicized ankle injury could have QB Brady at less than 100 %|
|Despite a strong playoff performance, QB Manning is still susceptible to mistakes
||They are facing a team with great confidence that nearly ended their perfect season in week 17|