I like the Giants, barely
Updated: Friday January 26, 2001 2:27 PM
Sports Illustrated's Peter King will file daily reports from Super Bowl XXXV. Check back tomorrow through Sunday afternoon (and during halftime of the game) to, in King's words, "find the good, the bad, the ugly and the latte of Super Bowl week."
TAMPA -- Giants 13, Ravens 9. God, I never thought I'd be making a winning prediction for the Giants in any game against a good team this year, never mind in the Super Bowl. I have not been in the Giants' corner all season. In fact, I may break a leg jumping onto their bandwagon, speeding down Interstate 275 just outside the hotel here. But I have no choice. For me, Super Bowl XXXV comes down to one strong opinion I have:
I think Kerry Collins can make three or four plays in this game against a terrific Baltimore defense without turning the ball over more than twice. And a clean game, with three or four impact passing plays, is all it's going to take to win.
The Giants wouldn't have been able to play this type of game against such a transcendent defense in midseason. A two-game losing streak, including a disastrous 31-21 loss to Detroit on Nov. 12, made the Giants look exactly like I thought they would: like a 6-10 or 7-9 team. I thought they'd go in the tank. Jim Fassel thought otherwise. "After the Detroit game," Fassel said this morning at his final news briefing, "we developed a real mental toughness and a way of doing business that hasn't changed since we've been down here in Tampa. Nothing has fazed this team. We knew where we're going, we know what we need to do, end of story."
How can you not like the Ravens' ability to shut people down and make special-teams plays? Logic says Baltimore should be able to make a play or two against New York's weak special teams, but I hear out of Giants camp that Jason Sehorn and Jessie Armstead have been working with the kicking teams, which is the kind of emphasis Fassel needs to put on those areas for this game. And the Ravens know that the only Giants player really able to make big plays in space, Tiki Barber, is going to get the ball plenty Sunday. "We've really focused on Tiki Barber out of the backfield and catching the ball," said Baltimore coach Brian Billick this morning. "Our guys really feel like he's going to be a factor in the game."
Mike Shanahan told me the other day he thought defensive turnovers could well decide the game. Join the club. My ample gut tells me the Giants will make zero, one or two. No epidemic, like the Ravens have forced so often this year (56 takeaways in 19 games). "It's going to be a tight ballgame," Fassel said. "The teams that gave away games, they're not here. The teams that make you beat them, they're here."
That's why I love this game. A play in the first quarter could decide it. A play with 30 seconds left could decide it. And I think the Giants, sometime, will make two or three more of those game-changing plays than will the Ravens. A four-point win? That sounds about right.
Bizarre Media Note of the Day
Quote of the Day
From the female barista at the Starbucks' station just off the lobby in the Marriott Waterside, my home for the week, to me this morning: "You're back again?"
1. I think we all want this game to be played. Now.
2. I think the Bill Parcells -to-Tampa Bay rumors will never, ever come to fruition. Saw Parcells in the lobby here last night, and I've never seen him as angry about a news report in the 16 years I've known him. The New York Post reported Thursday that Parcells could return to coach the Bucs, Bills or Browns this year, and I know the story is not true.
Tagliabue on the Bucs' sale rumors: "I know for a fact the Bucs are not for sale."
3. I think I have no idea if you'd like to know this or not, and it's a tad name-droppish, but I figured this would be a good way to illustrate what a day in the life of the Super Bowl is like. Here are some people you've heard of with whom I've conversed with face-to-face, one-on-one, in the last 24 hours: Greg Comella, Tiki Barber, Marvin Lewis, Billick,Fassel, John Mackey, Dom Capers, Matt Millen, Marty Mornhinweg, Dan Patrick, Parcells, Mike Tirico, Fred Smerlas, Will McDonough, Paul Zimmerman, Trev Alberts, Vince Cellini, Fred Hickman, Mike "I Stopped Kevin Dyson A Yard Short" Jones, Sterling Sharpe, Anthony Muñoz, Herman Edwards, Derrick Brooks. Some day, if you ever have the chance to meet Alberts, you absolutely must ask him about his old farm dog, Blackie, and his penchant for chasing, and eating, fly balls.
4. I think tonight will be fun. Daughter Laura and fellow Montclair (N.J.) High field hockey tri-captain Perri Hillsberg will land around 6 p.m. in Tampa for their first Super Bowl weekend, and they'll make their Commissioner's Party debut sometime around 8 p.m. Four midterms down, one to go. Laura tells me she still has some Latin studying to do this weekend, and I appreciate her scholarly ardor. But somehow I don't think she'll crack the book much before getting home on Monday.
5. I think I can't read anything more about this game. I can't write anything more. It's engulfing me. I need a Super sanity break. Or a few cold ones. Or both.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King covers the NFL and appears
regularly on CNN/Sports Illustrated and CNN's NFL Preview.