Super Bowl 46: Eli Manning, a Nation Turns it’s Lonely Eyes to You – Oh Yeah, and Tom Brady

C'mon Mastercard, we're not having flashbacks yet.

“For two weeks, the focus was on the Patriots and their date with destiny. Few outside the locker room in East Rutherford, N.J., gave the Giants much of a chance.”

–Greg Garber, ESPN.com, Eli, monster defense power Giants to shocking Super Bowl victory, February, 3, 2008

(Yeah, I’ll start a column with a quote.  Big day.  Throw the formalities out the window.)

Aside from all the talk surrounding Rob Gronkowski’s ankle, you could change a few words in this sentence and it would fit Super Bowl 46, 4 years later. (Gronk is superhuman and will be a huge factor in this game FYI)

For two weeks, the focus was on the Giants and their date with destiny.  I’ll omit the second sentence, since any reasonable analyst is giving the Patriots a chance — if only a chance.

I’d just like to point out a few inconsistencies in the bulk of the “analysis” of Super Bowl 46.

How does a 9-7 team become the non-vegas favorite over a 13-3 team?  The most-cited source of Giant superiority is the Patriots defense, which allowed more yards than almost anyone else in the NFL.  Wait a second, so who allowed more yards than the Patriots?  The Green Bay Packers.

Ok, well no one liked the Packers to win the Super Bowl, right?  Actually, 5 of 7 NFL.com experts picked the Packers to win it all on the eve of the playoffs.

A quick glance at the postseason defensive numbers reveals a couple stats of interest.  The number that jumped off the page at me was 5.  The Giants have forced and recovered 5 fumbles this postseason.  Wow.  That’s a huge factor in their success I would have to assume. Now, do we consider forcing and recovering fumbles to be luck or skill?  Well, the two forced fumbles against San Francisco were certainly not skill.  The punt returner (we all know his name but I’m leaving it out because I feel bad for the kid) let one bounce off his knee and the other fumble was the result of his arm getting grazed.

I am not playing the “Giants are luckier than Patriots” card here.  No way.  Just trying to get a little deeper into the numbers here.  The Patriots were extremely lucky that the Ravens kicker did not tie the game.

To give a little extra action to those Giants fumble recoveries, let’s compare them to the Pats.  The Patriots have forced 4 fumbles and recovered……….one!  Wow, the Patriots are bad at recovering fumbles I guess.  Something to work on.  Truthfully, I think that oblong ball bounces kinda funny so fumble recovery percentage is probably a flukey stat.

So, we know the Giants have had a 4 possession advantage over the Patriots based on fumbles alone.

The Giants have sacked the QB 9 times to the Pats 8, and defensed 18 passes to the Pats 10.  That stat probably doesn’t encompass a QB throwing an incompletion that did not touch a defenders hand. Let’s look at QB pressure numbers:

Giants have hit or sacked the QB 9 times vs GB, 9 times vs ATL, and 9 times vs SF.  That’s remarkable consistency.  So, the Giants are averaging 9 QB sacks or hits in the playoffs.  The Patriots had 14 sacks or QB hits vs DEN, and 10 vs BAL.  That’s an average of 12 QB sacks or hits per game.  Ok, smaller sample size for Pats but they get the edge on QB pressures in the postseason.  It’s likely a bit misleading given how overmatched Denver looked, but was Atlanta that much better than Denver?  Even if you discount the Pats numbers a bit, at worst, the pass rush numbers are equal.  Sure, the Giants played Green Bay, and the vaunted Packers passing attack.  Let’s not forget that the Packers had not been the same the last month of the season, which included a loss to Kansas City.

You know what else is interesting?  People rave about Eli’s numbers and performance in the postseason, and nail Brady for his shoddy work against the Ravens – the 4th-ranked passing defense. The experts tend to throw out Brady’s performance versus Denver because the Broncos “were not a good team.”  Guess who Eli put up his biggest postseason numbers against?  Yup, the worst defense in the NFL by yards allowed – the Packers.

In the NFC Championship game, against the 16th-ranked San Francisco defense, Eli’s rating was a slightly above average 82.3 (0.2 points higher than his career QB rating). Oh and in case you’re wonering, which I bet you are, Manning’s rating against the 31st-ranked Patriots defense was 77.9.

Yet, I do not hear anyone discounting Eli’s performances — aside from a couple other Pats-based homers like myself.  But the experts like to discount Brady’s 6 TD performance versus the 18th-ranked passing defense of the Denver Broncos.

The national media without Peyton, and in desperate need of a drawling QB to love, have turned their weary eyes to Eli.  Eli can do no wrong. I think #10 has benefited from the loneliness and boredom of Brett Favre’s former ball-washers as well.  Little Manning’s wife must be happy, because her hubby’s got the cleanest balls in town!

WTF!? Did you know the Giants are the worst rushing team in the league in 2011 at 89.2 yards per game?  Me neither.  Remember when everyone used to say that a good running game and defense won championships?  Adages are dropping like flies in the NFL lately.

Did you know the Giants are 29th in the league against the pass by yards allowed?  Wow.  That must be some pass rush.

The Giants are 5th in the NFL in passing yards – impressive.  Can’t take that away.  Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are in the top five in postseason receiving yards.  Mario Manningham is good too from what I hear.  The Giants passing game is not far behind the Patriots – if at all.

I am torn between the value of the larger sample size numbers of the regular season, and the more recent yet limited postseason numbers.  I have to give the relevance edge to the postseason numbers because it also factors in the increased pressure of these games, which is only amplified more in the Super Bowl. I have approached the postseason numbers with the goal of showing how the Patriots are better, primarily to balance out the Giants ball-washing I’ve heard for the last two weeks.  Oh yeah, and because I am a Patriots ball-washer. But I am also a Patriots ball-buster.

I do not see a clear edge for either team.  Any predictions have to come from the gut because there’s no clear answer from the numbers.  As a Patriots fan, I love that the Giants have done all the talking and are very confident.  I love that the Pats are playing for Myra Kraft.  I love that the Giants have won the last two meaningful games that these teams have played.  Ultimately, in a game like this it seems to come down to limiting mistakes.  The Patriots looked amazing coming off the bye in the Divisional Round and the time off could have slowed the Giants momentum.

The way these teams have played over the last month, there is no reason to believe that this game will not be very close. The only way this game is not close is if all the bounces go the way of one team as they did for the Giants in Super Bowl 42.

See, this is where hope comes in and ruins any impartiality.  I think the Patriots have the better QB and coach. I think the Patriots have the emotional edge.  I think the Patriots have a pass rush that is flying almost completely under the radar (although the Giants O-line is likely aware).  And I cannot fathom another Super Bowl loss to this team so I have to do this:

Patriots 28 Giants 27.

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