Friday, February 3, 2012

The Rambling Gambler: Superbowl 46

Alas, the end of the football season really is around the corner. With the Superbowl only days away, it'll be a long wait before we see meaningful games again. Happily, we've got one good game left this weekend. With a line of only 3 points, it's certainly one of the closer spreads in recent Superbowl history. I wouldn't be surprised one bit to see a dramatic finish. As I've said before, these playoffs have delivered some amazing games. It would be perfect if it ended with just one more. I think it will. Both of these teams have key strengths and weaknesses, and both have the ability to take advantage and win. I'm going to deliver two picks for this one... first the winning team, and second, the over/under. I hope everybody has a great time watching the Superbowl this Sunday. I know I will!

It's Manning vs. Brady for Superbowl 46. Who adds another ring?
New England -3 over New York Giants

I wrestled with this one for quite awhile (which is why this is getting posted on 2/3), but I've finally decided to settle on New England. The simple fact at the core of all of my analysis is that I think the Patriots looked better winning against Baltimore than the Giants did against San Francisco. The Giants had major problems protecting Eli Manning, they had little success running the ball, and the defense was bailed out by a combination of Alex Smith's failure to throw the ball more aggressively and of course, the critical fumbles that led to 10 points.

Still, there is plenty of room to argue that the Giants can win this game. First and foremost is the matchup of New York's receivers against New England's secondary. With Patriots WR Julian Edelman putting significant time in at nickel corner, you have to expect the Giants to have at least some success throwing the ball. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have to be considered one of the, if not the, top duo of receivers right now in the NFL. If one of them gets slowed down, the other one always seems to pick up the slack.

The one thing that might slow them down though is their own offensive line. The Niners dominated the battle in the trenches last week and delivered blow after blow to Eli Manning. The Patriots d-line looked very sharp against Baltimore, and if they're able to apply pressure to Eli without having to bring extra pass-rushers, they may be able to keep enough players back in coverage to generate some stops.
Adding to that same problem is the Giants inability to run the ball effectively. They've struggled with it all season and they didn't look any better last week. The Patriots managed to bottle up Ray Rice last week, holding him to 67 yards on 21 carries. If they can do the same against New York, they'll have even more opportunity to put additional men in coverage and focus on shutting down the pass.

Last but not least, we need to take a look at Brady and the Patriots offense. The ankle injury to record-setting TE Rob Gronkowski  has everyone wondering how effective he'll be come Sunday. I wish I knew. He did come back in against Baltimore and managed to get a couple of catches, so I expect he'll at least be able to play and force the Ravens to pay attention to him. That aside, looking at what Vernon Davis did to the Giants defense, Aaron Hernandez could be in for a huge game. With the offensive line playing well, I'm not too concerned about New York's pass rush. I'm sure they'll get to Brady every now and again, but I think he'll have decent enough protection throughout the game.

Reviewing all of that, I'm left picking New England. More things seem to be going in their favor here. Again, I can absolutely understand anyone picking the other way here. It's a very tough matchup, but that's what should make it a great game.

Pick: New England -3
Score Prediction: Patriots 34, Giants 30

Patriots/Giants OVER 54

In case you didn't guess it from the score prediction, I like the over. I won't belabor the point with too much more analysis given the amount above. Basically, both of the defenses have questionable secondaries, and both of the offenses feature great quarterbacks, receivers, and are among the best in the league in passing. The defensive battles happened in the conference championship games. The Superbowl is going to feature to offenses battling for victory. Points will be scored and the over will be made.

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