Super Sunday Thoughts

Towards the end of last year's Super Bowl it was feared that the NFL might not have a season this winter meaning that the last team left to celebrate this big accomplishment would be Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers.  Okay, maybe that's not such a bad thing as it really deflated the mysticism of Brett Favre's legacy in Green Bay allowing a superstar to rise up in the Discount Double Check guy.

The NFL lockout dragged its heels and scared some into believing that there would be no football this season.  This wouldn't affect ESPN in the slightest as they'd still find a way to fill out 22 hours of their scheduling to talk about the sport, but luckily for them they were given new highlights and stories to fill in their time.

Football was back on, and for many this was great news.  For others, it was just another season to have to drag on through as their team did little or nothing to excite them and give them even the glimmer of false hope on the horizon.  I'm looking at you, Miami.

For some, the shortened time to prepare for the season failed to faze them in their preparation while others seemed like more time could have been helpful.

No team looked stronger this season than the Green Bay Packers despite their defense ranking thirty-second in the league for total yards surrendered.  Storming forward with a 14-0 record to visit the Kansas City Chiefs, it was already being written about Aaron Rogers having an MVP season and looking like he could lock up a second Super Bowl victory on the high note of leading his team to perfection.  Again, sounds like a great way to wipe away some of the memory that Brett Favre installed in that city.

But the playoffs this season would prove to be a fickle beast incapable of following the script.  The resurgent Giants would carry behind them a whirlwind of momentum since dropping to the misery suffering Washington Redskins.

Just like that, the team most pegged to win this years Super Bowl was gone, with a whimper.

Over in the AFC, however, the team most likely to go to the Super Bowl managed to rid themselves of the pest known as history.  The Baltimore Ravens managed to shut down the Pittsburgh Steelers twice within the season and look like heavy favorites to represent the AFC come this Sunday.

They would ultimately buckle to a less-then-impressive New England Patriots who suffered two demoralizing defeats to the Buffalo Bills, of all teams.  With poor time management to try and tie the game, the Baltimore Ravens would boot, wide left, their shot to at going to the biggest stage in sports since their 2001 Super Bowl victory over the Giants.

So the stage is set, a return of the 2008 Super Bowl contenders square off once more but looking slightly different in terms of momentum.

New England's defense may have turned their story around after an abysmal regular season, hosting key stops of the offensive-less Denver Broncos and maintaining control over the Baltimore Ravens but neither team was as offensively threatening as what the Giants had faced in the Atlanta Falcons, Packers, and gun slinging San Francisco 49ers.

The question still remains if the Patriots defense has really turned the corner to be a threat to the G-Men's offensive line and place heavy pressure on Eli Manning all game long.  It was easy to pin down Tim Tebow who is looked upon as being more of a tight end or a full back playing the quarterback role as his ability to play the short game is incredibly limited.  They couldn't completely contain Joe Flacco as he stepped up to fill in the role that the Ravens hoped he could become when they drafted him, but they managed to make big key stops when it mattered most.

The same cannot be said of the Giants who simply have improved throughout these past seven weeks - not that they appear to have improved, they simply have.

Negating Matt Ryan's ability to find open targets in their secondary, pinning him deep in his pocket and collapsing it; containing Aaron Rogers to only 66 yards rushing and forcing dropped passes in the midfield; preventing Alex Smith to repeat his level of success that he gained hosting the New Orleans Saints the week prior to the NFC Championship game.

All this while Eli Manning has only grown to be a better quarterback and has found strong assets in Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Mario Manningham.  Their running game has still had its issues but thankfully they have fallen into a strength in Manning's pinpoint accuracy and the athletic play styles of his wide outs.

So what could sway me to believe in the Patriots dynasty once again reclaiming glory at the top of the football world?  Tom Brady.

Honestly, Tom Brady will have to be better than what he appeared in the AFC Championship game.

He cannot show up and become rattled easily because of the defensive pressure that this team is capable of placing upon him.  Brady needs to actually find the end zone and involve his receivers because relying upon the running game will not bring another championship to Boston.

I hold a fear - perhaps it's unfounded and completely illogical - that Brady may just have lost his nerve and will fail to show up this Sunday in a big enough manner to help bring the Patriots within striking distance of winning this game.

It's a tough call between the two teams but I'm ready to buy into the momentum of Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants over the defensively weaker Patriots.

Nothing would be sweeter than seeing if the Patriots could maintain the momentum of their earlier success and demonstrate, once and for all, that they are the true dynasty of this era.  Nothing would be cooler than to see someone like Tom Brady, a sixth round draft pick, become viewed as a better quarterback than Joe Montana.

But the reality for me is, I have to pick the New York Giants to win this game - they just look better, right now.

Sign me up for a 34-24 G-Man victory.


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