Sunday, January 20, 2008

Championship Sunday, Part 3

And now, to relax and enjoy Giants v. Packers.

Oh, Oh, and gotta love tonight's programming:

Fox: Giants v. Packers, in the third-coldest game in NFL history.

CBS: Special Report: "The Age of Warming."

Update: Third Tyne's the Charm--Fox beat me to it.

Giants 23, Packers 20 (OT). Couldn't decide whom to root for or against; based on the "what would help the Patriots most" principle, I measured Randy Moss's ability to run past Al Harris (considerable) against the public sentiment in favor of Brett Favre (again, considerable); plus the trouble for the Pats based on the Giants' having seen the Patriots before (marginal).

It is worth considering, just to consider, that anyone who has bet against the Patriots covering since the middle of November would have made a fortune. Philly was a nail-biter. They came within one stupid Baltimore time-out of losing to the Ravens. The Jets hung in for awhile, as did even Miami. The Giants let by double-digits late. And in the playoffs, both Jacksonville and San Diego hung in for 3 1/2 quarters, San Diego with their best three offensive weapons either out or seriously compromised.

Bottom line: in their last seven games, vs. the spread, the Pats are 0-7. This fact has to be discounted a bit, as the books in Vegas always add a "Cowboy Tax" (or "Irish Tax" or "Trojan Tax" or "Bear Tax") on the chic team of the moment, especially when said team has a certain history of success. But the truth is that the Pats have had to struggle for every win (or in the case of Miami, every win-that-should-have-been-a-stomp) since the 15th of November. Look it up: over two months.

However, the one constant in these seven games has been the wind--and mostly, the cold. They played Philly, Bal'mer and San Diego in outright wind storms. Giants Stadium in December and January is a wind tunnel. And things were hardly better in Foxborough against the other teams. In each situation, Randy Moss was effectively neutralized, Brady's passes fluttered and flew, and the Patriots pass-first offense was reduced to underneath bullets to Welker and Stallworth, plus out patterns to Gaffney.

What saved the Pats was--as Ted Cotrell, the Chargers' DC, said earlier in the week--the ability of the Pats' offense to play seven different types of football. With the Pats' biggest weapon, the bomb to Moss, as effectively neutralized as LaDanian Tomlinson's running game, with a superb and opportunistic Chargers secondary goading Brady into more interceptions this week (three) than he had incompletions last week (two), the Pats switched to grind-it-out, playing two and three tight ends, pounding Maroney between the tackles, and throwing screens and short-short-short outs, including two crucial first-down catches by Kevin Faulk, the game was effectively over by the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter.

Now, looking forward two weeks, one has to consider all of the previous paragraph, plus the fact that the Giants' defense isn't as good as the Chargers', plus the re-match may favor Belichick over Coughlin--add all that up, and then add that the Super Bowl will likely be played indoors, in 71-degree weather, and no wind whatsoever. What you are left with are the Pats of the last two months plus a Randy Moss and downfield passing game that becomes a factor all over again.

Anyway, what I think as I go to bed.

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