A win for the ages

Eli Mannning, Super Bowl XLII MVPI’m still at a loss to describe my feelings after watching one of the most unbelievable finishes in sports history. Simply put, the Giants made history in Super Bowl XLII, and we are all fortunate enough to have witnessed it.

There’s no need here to rehash the entire game, but I will say this–never again should we pay any credence to so-called “experts” who spend their time telling us why they are so much smarter than everyone else and that because they believe that one team is so far superior to another that our own opinions should not even count. To them I say, “Shut the hell up!”

I am obviously thrilled that my prediction of a close Pats victory was wrong. The Giant defensive line, especially Michael Strahan, who played like a man possessed, was incredible. Their play will no doubt influence other NFL teams to focus on improving their pass rush in order to contain high-powered offenses like the Patriots. I also think Tom Brady was hurting much more than he will ever admit, but because he is a class act, he’ll never use injury as an excuse.

What I really enjoyed was looking at Bill Belichick’s shell-shocked expression. He is so smug and so arrogant that this is his ultimate comeuppance, and I sincerely believe the Pats will not recover from this loss for a very long time. Perfection has it’s price, and the Pats paid it big time.

As for Big Blue, what can you say? Eli Manning now must be ranked as one of the elite quarterbacks of the NFL–his last five games have been storybook-like, and his pass to David Tyree after escaping the Pats’ pass rush late in the game will be a play that will be on highlight reels for decades to come.

There’ll be time in the next few days and weeks when we’ll be able to reflect on what we’ve just witnessed. For the time being, Giant fans everywhere deserve the chance to rejoice and revel in their team’s victory. It definitely was one for the ages.

Talk is cheap. Play the game.

superbowl.jpgWell, this is it. No more talking, no more prognosticating, no more pontificating, no more nothing. Super Bowl Sunday is at hand.

I’m not going to go into any detailed analysis here–we’ve all seen, read, and heard enough about how these two teams match up in the last two weeks, and nothing I would say here would be any different than what most other people are saying.

However, just to get my two cents in, I think the Giants have a puncher’s chance to win this game. Simply put, here are my keys to a Giant victory:

  1. Don’t turn the ball over and create turnovers. Easier said than done, but if you make the Pats earn their possessions–either by stopping you or (better yet) getting the ball back after you score, you are giving yourself a chance. Giving them the ball in an easy scoring position will kill you.
  2. Play-action passes early. I’d love to see Eli Manning hit Plaxico Burress deep off of a play-action pass during their first possession.
  3. Run the ball up the middle. The Pat linebackers (Junior Seau, Ted Bruschi, Mike Vrabel) are older guys, and they may not be able to handle the physical punishment for 60 minutes if they’re getting run into by the Giant o-line and Brandon Jacobs.
  4. Make Tom Brady scramble. Whether he has a bum ankle or not, Brady will not make you forget Fran Tarkenton. He’s lethal if he can step up into the pocket, but you may be able to force him into a bad throw if you make him run outside the hash marks.

I think the Giants will keep it close–I’m looking at a 31-21 Pats victory, with a late score by New England. Of course, I would love to be wrong, and I’m going to root as hard as I’ve ever had for Big Blue.

Dead calm

header_logo.jpgThe Saturday before the Super Bowl is usually very quiet, except for the odd arrest or misadventure of a key player the night before the big game. (Remember Stanley Wilson of the Bengals?)

Anyway, the teams are having their final practices today, which should be nothing more than a walk-through and some final film sessions. Obviously, the coaching staff has a lot to do, including how to stop Randy Moss, and wondering if Plaxico Burress will be healthy enough to be a threat to the Patriot secondary.

The teams will pretty much be sequestered tonight right up until they get to the stadium tomorrow, so we won’t be hearing or seeing anything that will be of interest until the endless pregame show starts. If you’re a fan, Phoenix ought to be hopping tonight–I’ve been there many times over the years, and the nightlife is pretty exciting, especially in the bars and clubs in the downtown Arizona Center and along Scottsdale Road.

So, it’s time for all of us to get a good night’s sleep tonight, because tomorrow will be a historic day. Either an undefeated team reaches the pinnacle of achievement and will be considered the greatest football team of all time, or an a team given little chance to win, much less compete in the game of all games, pulls of a miracle upset.

It ought to be fun, but exhausting.

What’s wrong with Plax?

plaxico.jpgWe need this like we need a hole in the head…

Reports indicate that Plaxico Burress’ left knee is swollen and sore, and he has missed two straight practices (Wednesday and yesterday).

Of course, Plax has been dealing with right ankle problems all season long that has caused him to miss the majority of practices, so on the surface the fact he missed a couple of practices is not that big a deal.

However, with his knee bothering him, it could very welll have an effect on the possibility of Eli Manning throwing the ball deep to him early on in the game to put some thoughts in the Pats’ minds as well as opening up some underneath passing routes.

We’ll keep an eye on what’s happening with Plax, but hopefully it’s not too serious.

So what does Big Blue have to do to win this game?

tomcoughlin1.jpgIt’s now Thursday, and we can pretty much surmise that both the Giants and the Patriots are putting their game plans in place for this Sunday’s game. This is when things start getting really serious and we’ll see the talk die down and the strategizing begin.

With the Giants being the decided underdog, it’s going to be up to the coaching staff to come up with a scheme to beat the Pats. Obviously, it would help if Tom Brady throws a few interceptions and the Giants block a punt or return a kick for a touchdown, but we have to be realistic and assume that the Pats are going to play at a very high level. The key is that Big Blue has to at least match them in effort and execution in order to keep it close and (hopefully) put themselves in a position to win.

Newsday columnist Bob Glauber has come up with a five-point plan for the Giants that, if they follow it, will insure their victory over the Patriots. I won’t rehash all of them here, but I thought number 4 (FIND ELLIS HOBBS AND THROW HIS WAY: AGAIN & AGAIN & AGAIN) was interesting. Many of us have been so impressed with the Pats offense this season forget that their defense has not been that impressive. You can move the ball on them, but you have to score in order to put pressure on the Pat offense to match you.

In this case, Glauber feels that Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs can be beaten, especially if he’s lined up against Plaxico Burress in certain situations. Eli Manning has to get in rhythym early, and it might be worth it to take a shot deep with Plaxico against Hobbs early on in the game.

It’s going to be a tall order, but Coach Coughlin is surely working with his staff to come up with the plan that will bring them the ultimate glory.

Tell your statistics to shut up!

david-goliath.jpgOh well, according to this guy, the game shouldn’t even be played on Sunday!

Leave it to some nerd from a website called Coldhardfootballfacts.com to come up with all kinds of statistics that bolster his theory that the game between the Giants and the Patriots will be the “Mismatch of the Century.”

It’s always dangerous for someone to be so confident and right in their opinions that they can’t seem to accept the notion that ANYTHING can happen, especially when it comes to a single game. Sure, on paper (or an Excel spreadsheet, HTML table, PowerPoint presentation, etc.) the Patriots look virtually unbeatable.

However, to paraphrase Coach Coughlin, “Talk (and statistics) is cheap. Play the game.”

When you get so-called “experts” like this spewing out all kinds of statistics and logistical models that attempt to buttress their theories, that’s when you get into trouble. Does this guy’s theory take into account the fact that Tom Brady may or may not be suffering from a fairly serious ankle injury? Does his theory consider the notion that the Patriots are an undefeated team going into a championship game and, if they lose, they will be derided by the football world for eternity? Does he understand the unbelievable pressure they are under?

Of course, let’s not be foolish, the Giants are definitely the underdog here, and the conventional wisdom is that the Patriots will very likely win this game. However, to coin this contest as the “Mismatch of the Century” (and the century is only eight years old) seems rather childish. It’s not David vs. Goliath, folks–it’s just a football game.

Whenever I read or hear sports “experts” throwing complicated statistics out in order to make themselves look smarter than everyone else, I think of Charlie Brown’s response to Lucy when she trotted out a bunch of numbers to point out why their baseball team always lost.

“Lucy, tell your statistics to shut up!”

Take heed, Mr. Coldhardfootballfacts.com guy…

Plax makes his pick

Plaxico makes like Jimmy the GreekI’m not sure it’s on the same level as Joe Namath’s guarantee of a Jet win against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, but Plaxico Burress has come out and made his Super Bowl prediction and, as one would guess, he picks Giants to beat the Patriots by a score of 23-17.

Now, of course, the media will jump all over Plaxico for having the temerity to pick his team to win the game. He and all of the other players have to be humble and say things like “well, we hope to play our best and see what happens, blah, blah, blah…” Let’s give Plax credit for at least standing up for himself and EXPECTING his team to win. That’s what they’re in Arizona for–to win the game!

This shouldn’t be a big deal, but I guarantee you the Boston/New England media will make a big deal out of this.

Phil Simms offers Jeremy Shockey advice on how to deal with being out of the Big Game

Simms knows how Shockey feelsJeremy Shockey has certainly been a center of controversy ever since he’s been a Giant, and the fact that he’s been out of the lineup for the last few weeks with a broken leg, and will not be able to play on Sunday, has been on the mind of a former Giant player who went through the same thing during Super Bowl XXV against the Bills.

Phil Simms commented the other day about the various emotions he went through when he suffered a broken foot in Week 15 in 1990 (ironically against the Bills) and ended up missing the rest of the season, including the playoffs and Super Bowl.

Simms says that he can understand Shockey feeling depressed and upset about not being part of his team’s magical run, and that the fans have been increasingly saying that the team is better off without him. Simms advises Shockey to go to the game, be proud of your team, and support them in their efforts to win.

What Simms said is so true. Yes, Shockey can be a knucklehead at times (a LOT of times), but he does play with a passion and a fire that his teammates have emulated. If Big Blue wins on Sunday, he can rest assured that he did a lot to help his team get where they are. Whatever happens moving forward is going to happen, but he should just enjoy the moment.

Will this be Michael Strahan’s last game?

Is this it for Strahan?The last couple of days have been kind of annoying when it comes to the Super Bowl media hype. Guys having multiple microphones shoved in their faces being asked ridiculous questions, and their answers are being turned into pseudo-declarations of war. It’s all very silly, if you ask me.

Anyway, here’s something we should take a moment and ponder–is next Sunday’s game the last one Michael Strahan will ever play? Of course, like this story says, it would be wonderful if he can walk off the field for the last time a champion like John Elway and Jerome Bettis but, then again, those guys weren’t going up against an undefeated juggernaut, either.

Strahan hasn’t come out and definitely said that this would be it, but he is 36 years old and playing a position (defensive end) that causes you to get hit on every single play. Sooner or later, your body will just say “Enough!” and that will be that.

Plus, he missed all of training camp last year, and what will make us think that he’ll report to camp this summer if he decides to play again? I seriously don’t believe Coach Coughlin will put up with that circus again, so the organization may force Strahan to make a decision a few weeks after the game as to whether he’ll be coming back or not.

Obviously, if Big Blue wins, it would seem likely that Strahan will call it quits. If they lose, who knows?

Big Blue goes back to work

Time to get back to workAfter a few days of rest, relaxation, and basking in the glow of their improbable ascent to the NFC Championship, the Giants finally get back to work today and begin a few days of practice before they fly down to Phoenix on Sunday.

Of course, the two weeks off between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl have been a bone of contention for a number of years, with some teams taking advantage of the layoff and others not knowing how to handle it. As a fan, I would rather play the game the following week after the AFC/NFC title games, but the two weeks allows for the media to build the game up to a fever pitch, although this particular matchup–an undefeated juggernaut versus a Cinderella story–really needs no introduction.

In any case, the Giants get back to work today and one would expect Coach Coughlin to work his players hard for the next few days and get them focused on the task at hand. Keep in mind that they have to fly to Phoenix (a 4+ hour flight) and they have the big Media Day next Tuesday where there is no practice for both teams, so they need to get moving on a game plan as soon as possible.

There will be much more time for analysis of the game in the next few days, but I would expect the coaching staff to focus on the offensive line play for the next few days. The line has been banged up in the last few weeks, and they need to get healthy and in sync to compete against a Patriots defensive line that has shown some wear and tear in the last few weeks, but you know that their head coach is looking at ways to counteract any weaknesses and make it difficult for the Jints.