I have never claimed to be an expert when it comes to predicting outcomes of football games, although last year I nearly predicted the exact final score of the Super Bowl while hitting on seven of my nine prop bets. (My prediction was 26-17, the final was 29-17.) For whatever reason I had a very good feel for that game. This year's Super Bowl, however, remains a mystery to me. Part of the reason I am having trouble getting a good feel for this game is that I am a bitter Jets fan and I can't stand either team. I'm finding it difficult to put my personal feelings aside and look at the game objectively. I think right now I am as close to objectivity as I am going to get, and with that being said, here is my official Super Bowl XLII prediction.
I believe that football is the most difficult sport to predict because there are so many variables. This may sound strange, but I truly feel the coin toss will be a major factor in how this game is played. On one side we have a Giants team that is best suited to try and play ball control and keep Tom Brady and the vaunted Patriots' offense off the field. But football is unique in that days of gameplanning can be shot to hell almost instantly. The Patriots can win the coin toss, receive the opening kickoff and, if they execute as they have for the majority of this season, put the Giants in an early hole. If this happens, how long will the Giants remain patient? If the Giants win the toss, they can at least attempt early on to slow the pace of the game and see what their running attack can accomplish against an aging New England linebacking corps. Given the fact that I do not like either team at all, I would at least like to see a competitive contest. So I'm using the premise that the Giants win the toss and at least keep the game competitive in the early stages.
I think the Giants will be able to move the ball effectively against the Patriots' defense. The biggest key to me is how the Giants' offense will perform in plus territory. The Patriots are very good at bending but not breaking, as they proved in the AFC Championship game against the Chargers. The Patriots won that game by nine points despite actually scoring less times than San Diego. Their ability to limit the Chargers to field goals down in the redzone was the main reason they were able to fend off a resilient San Diego squad and keep their hopes of an undefeated season in tact. I feel this game will be played in much the same vein as that one, with the Giants able to get into position to score, but having trouble putting the ball in the end zone.
On the other side of the ball, we have arguably the best offense in NFL history. Now people have made reference to the fact that the Patriots' offense has not looked great in recent weeks. Is that because teams have gotten a feel for how to slow them down, or is it a combination of less than ideal weather conditions resulting in a sloppy field? Remember, this game will be played in warm weather on a fast track, which New England has not seen in quite some time. It would not surprise me if we saw the New England offense of September and October in this game. But something tells me the Giants will show enough resistance to keep this game close most of the way.
The X factor to me is red zone efficiency, which in most instances is a reflection of play at the quarterback position. I think both offenses will have their moments moving the football, and I think both defenses are good enough to limit the number of scoring opportunities. But what sets New England apart to me is their ability to score touchdowns instead of field goals. His interception last week not withstanding, Tom Brady does an incredible job of executing in the red zone, and I feel that is where this game will be won. I think the Giants can match the Patriots in terms of time of possession, total yards and even number of scores, but I think New England will make more effective use of their red zone opportunities and do a better job scoring touchdowns while limiting New York mostly to field goals, as they did to San Diego two weeks ago. I hate to say it, but I'm afraid we're looking at 19-0 here, folks.
New England 24, New York 16