Five reasons why New England simply cannot lose
Posted: Friday January 25, 2008 12:36PM; Updated: Tuesday January 29, 2008 6:55PM
With all due respect to my friend and colleague Paul Zimmerman, the esteemed Dr. Z., the psychic guilt of having not picked Joe Namath and the Jets to beat the Colts in the Super Bowl 39 years ago is no reason to compound one's mistake by predicting a Giants upset of the Patriots in next week's Super Bowl, as he did for both SI.com and Sports Illustrated earlier this week.
It's an understandable, albeit misplaced, attempt on his part to make up for lacking the courage of his convictions oh those many years ago. I can certainly see a competitive Super Bowl on tap. It'll look a lot like the Patriots-Giants game I covered in the Meadowlands not quite four weeks ago. But it'll wind up being a New England victory, just as that one was.
The Patriots are going to win, Paul. And they'll be 19-0 and fresh out of challenges to their throne when they do. Just as I predicted way back in Week 7 of this season. To counter Dr. Z's case for a Super Bowl upset, here are my five best reasons why New England will not fall short of perfection:
1. Taking a break is a real buzz killer.
The two weeks between the NFC title game and the Super Bowl will serve to diffuse, if not kill, the Giants' sense of momentum.
Dr. Z and others are correct when they say that a huge part of New York's success this month is attributable to its soaring confidence level and the mental toughness to handle whatever challenge is next put before it. The Giants are in that zone right now, and not playing again this weekend actually hurts them more than helps. Once the most unpredictable of teams, they need to keep it going, keep the underdog mojo flowing, keep the win-a-week routine in place.
Ah, but nothing breaks a winning team's routine like a Super Bowl trip. Many a red-hot conference champions have rolled into a Super Bowl city and found the big-game atmosphere to be distracting and filled with the types of focus-altering stimuli that can throw a team off stride. The more playoff-tested and mature a team, the less chance there is for the Super Bowl nonsense factor to have an impact. But when you think of the Giants, maturity has not always been their calling card. This new incarnation of theirs is only weeks old.
If there's a team in Arizona that's likely to get caught up in all the hype and all the talk, forgetting ever so slightly to keep their heads down and their eyes on the prize, it's not New England. It'll be the Giants. New York doesn't need the extra preparation time or the build-up. It needs to keep playing. Keep pushing. Keep the pedal to the medal.
2. Nobody gets ready like Bill Belichick.
No coach in the league -- and maybe in NFL history -- matches Belichick when it comes to his legendary preparation skills. Giving him two weeks to get ready for an opponent is almost unfair. He'll invariably find a weakness in an opponent and devise a way to exploit it, or at least figure out a way to neutralize a team's greatest offensive strength. In his New England tenure, Belichick is 6-0 in the playoffs when he's had two weeks to prepare for an opponent, and that doesn't even include the Patriots' signature upset of the heavily favored Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, which was played just one week after the conference title games that year.
Belichick has done some of his best work against quarterbacks named Manning. He's 8-4 in games against the Peyton Manning-led Colts, beating him twice in three playoff games, and for the longest time Eli's Manning's big brother had to contend with the notion that he had a severe case of Belichick on the brain. That Week 17 showdown against the Giants was Belichick's first encounter with Eli, and while No. 10 played great, New England did win the game to cap its 16-0 perfect season.