It's hard to bet against Ray Lewis and the Ravens' amazing defense in the big game. Tom Hauck/Allsport.
Ravens triumph with mighty D
By Peter King, Sports Illustrated
One of the biggest misconceptions about football is that America wants to see eight touchdowns in an NFL game.
America wants to see a good game above all else. America wants a 12-10 thriller where every snap could be the decisive snap rather than a 42-17 track meet.
And that's what this Super Bowl will be, a defensive brain-teaser.
Why? Every possession will be Armageddon. When people ask me who's going to win, I tell them: If you can tell me which team will force more turnovers, that's the one I'll take. I believe a defensive touchdown, or a turnover leading to great field position and points, will determine the winner.
These are mirror teams, as we all know. If the Ravens have a slight edge on defense, which they do, then the Giants have a slight edge on offense. Ray Lewis is better than Micheal Barrow, but Kerry Collins is better than Trent Dilfer.
From the Ravens' perspective, the key will be keeping the field position to their advantage. I like their chances to do that. The other day, I was out with Michael Strahan, preparing a story on him for this week's Sports Illustrated. And when I mentioned the Ravens' run defense, with 725 pounds (and I may be conservative on that weight count) of Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams plugging the middle of the field, he said: "People talk about how they're not that active. Heck, what difference does that make? They can just hold their ground and plug the entire middle." And when the Giants' power back is the decidedly non-powerful Ron Dayne, I can see the Ravens' front licking its chops.
The other edge Baltimore will have, it seems to me, is the ability to force the aforementioned turnovers. If I'm the Giants, it scares me that the Ravens forced three turnovers a game, 49 in all. That's the most in the
league. New York forced 31.
In the end, the key player in this game will be Collins. Can he take the teeth-rattling blindsider from Ray Lewis in the first quarter, the six straight incompletions in the second quarter, the maddening succession of
third-and-nines all game long ... can he take all those things and make three big plays in the second half to win this game? I wouldn't bet against Collins after last weekend, when he turned in the biggest game of his life in the biggest game of his life. But this season has taught me one thing: When in doubt, never bet against the Baltimore defense.
| New York
Kerry Collins and the Giants should muster enough firepower to down the Ravens. M. David Leeds/Allsport.
Giants should take their third title
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
The Ravens are the chic pick. The Giants were last chic sometime in the Frank Gifford era. That's because the way the Giants win never goes out of style. They block. They tackle. They run the ball and they play solid defense.
Nothing fancy. Nothing frilly.
Yes, the Ravens have made their living this year doing the same things. There is nothing more basic these days than the Baltimore's playbook.
But something tells me that while both teams will start out sticking to their bread and butter, the Giants are better suited to make the adjustments on offense that might be necessary to win Super Bowl XXXV.
Why so? Because New York's offense is better than most people give it credit for. Remember the NFC title game, two whole weeks ago?
No, don't look for the Giants to even begin to duplicate that game plan. The proud Baltimore defense is way too talented for that, and New York isn't playing Minnesota's soft on the corners unit. But New York offensive coordinator Sean Payton came up with an innovative approach for that game and I trust he'll have some twist the Ravens aren't quite looking for either.
Don't get me wrong. I too don't see a high-scoring game coming on for either offense. And the Giants aren't going to get anywhere setting up the pass with the run. Barber might get around the corner once or twice, but rookie running back Ron Dayne shouldn't even get his uniform dirty.
But if my hunch is right, New York will make a little hay in the short, intermediate passing game, with tight ends Howard Cross and Pete Mitchell perhaps having busy days.
Giants quarterback Kerry Collins can be a pinpoint passer when he gets into the right rhythm. He was never better than he was against Minnesota and I liked the calm, adult approach he took to everything about Super Bowl week. I think Collins will have another big game, and he'll do a better job of handling the Ravens pass rush than Trent Dilfer will of handling the Giants' pass pressure.
Something in general tells me the Giants as a team will exude that calm on Sunday, while Baltimore's more emotional players will lend its sideline a more mercurial makeup. The Ravens have dealt with the sideshows of their coach sparring with the media, Ray Lewis being center stage, and defenders openly talking of pitching a shutout.
The Giants? They've been steady as she goes. No headlines. Just going to work. That's why I like them to find one more different way to win against an arguably more talented Baltimore team.