Tarkenton: New York Giants will win Super Bowl
I find it amazing that the New England Patriots are favored in Sunday's Super Bowl. It is a testament to the respect people have for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady when it comes to winning big games.
Although I understand why people find it easier to just trust the Patriots, here is how I look at the teams:
On the defensive front, the New York Giants are far superior to the Patriots. The teams are roughly equal defending the run, but the Giants are much better at pressuring the quarterback. The Patriots had to put their top pass rusher, Andre Carter, on injured reserve in December, and while they still have some talented guys, they can't measure up to the Giants.
New York was tied for third in the league in sacks, even though Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck missed substantial amounts of time. With all their rushers healthy, the Giants are as good as it gets. Unless the Patriots find a way to slow them down, Brady will be under pressure all game long.
In the secondary, the Giants are a little better than the Patriots. I wouldn't say the Giants are strong against the pass, but the Patriots are getting by with one of the most porous pass defenses I've ever seen. Belichick has used duct tape and Super Glue to keep the secondary from falling apart, and his magic has worked well enough to get the team into the Super Bowl. But the Patriots' patchwork secondary, including college quarterback-turned-wide receiver-turned-defensive-back Julian Edelman, will face one of the league's best receiving corps.
Speaking of receivers, the Patriots have some great ones. Wes Welker led the league in receptions and trailed only Calvin Johnson in yards, while Rob Gronkowski broke tight end records for receiving yards and touchdown catches in a season. In fact, Belichick reimagined the way NFL offenses utilize tight ends, taking full advantage of the mismatches Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez present.
But the Giants match up well in that department. Welker was second in
receiving yards, but New York's slot man, Victor Cruz, was right behind him in third place. Hakeem Nicks is one of the game's elite outside receivers, and Mario Manningham is a fantastic third option.
In the running game, I trust Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs more than New England's small army of backs. Through two playoff games, BenJarvus Green-Ellis leads New England with 96 yards on 28 carries. Second? Hernandez with 70 yards.
Of course, everyone anticipates New England has the big advantage at quarterback. Sure, Eli Manning has had a great year, but Tom Brady is Tom Brady, right?
I think the two are close to even.
Brady is still great, but at age 34, he's not quite as consistently dominant as he has been in past seasons.
Eli, meanwhile, has stepped up his game and joined the ranks of elite quarterbacks alongside Brady. In the playoffs alone, he has thrown eight touchdown passes to just one interception. And watching him play, I think he has been even more impressive than his statistics indicate. He's displaying great leadership and making clutch plays.
Of course, as we saw in the conference championship games, strange things can happen when it all comes down to just one game. If Lee Evans catches the ball, or if Billy Cundiff makes the kick, maybe it's Baltimore in the Super Bowl. If Kyle Williams holds onto the ball or doesn't let a punt touch his knee, maybe San Francisco is in the big game. Luck just wasn't on their side.
There's no way to guarantee which way the ball will bounce and who will catch some lucky breaks. But right now, I would bet on the Giants winning.
Fran Tarkenton is Vikings analyst for TwinCities.com and the Pioneer Press. He is a former Minnesota Vikings quarterback and a Pro Football Hall of Fame member. He also is an advocate for small businesses and the founder of OneMoreCustomer.com.
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