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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl Breakdown and Prediction

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New York v. New England.  Sunday at 6:30 on NBC.  The lead-up to this Super Bowl has been different than most others I can remember.  When the matchup was first set two weeks ago, the Seers in the Desert immediately installed the Patriots as a 3.5 point favorite over the Giants.  As the money flowed it, the line dropped a bit.  It flirted with 2.5, but ultimately settled in at 3 point spread in favor of the Patriots.  Despite that, you'll be hard pressed to find a pundit on radio or TV this week who is actually picking the Patriots to win the game.  In fact, much of the talk this week has been about why Vegas sees the game so differently than the broadcasters.  Well one thing I know for sure is that if you scoff at the Seers, you do so at your own peril.  But, before the Wild Banshee officially weighs in, lets take a look at a few story lines.

The first story line is the location of the game.  The Super Bowl is being played in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium ... in other words, at the House that Peyton Manning Built.  But, Peyton isn't playing in the game.  Instead, Peyton's arch rival Tom Brady will be facing Peyton's little brother Eli.  If the Giants win, Eli will have two Super Bowl rings to show off on family vacations while Peyton will still only have one.  Another interesting thing is that the Patriots have been designated the home team for this game.  This means that they will be using the Colts' locker room.  So, Tom Brady will likely be dressing for the Super Bowl at Peyton Manning's locker.

Of course, as interesting as all that may be, none of that will impact who actually wins the game.  One thing that might impact the outcome is the health of Rob Gronkowski's left ankle.  The Patriot's tight end suffered a high ankle sprain in the second half of the Patriot's victory over the Ravens. That was two weeks ago, but high ankle sprains are hard to shake off.  Gronkowski finally got back to limited participation in practice the last couple of days.  This is the Super Bowl.  There is no doubt that Gronkowski will suit up and play, but there is some doubt as to how mobile he will be.  The Gronk has been a phenomenon all year.  There is no doubt about that.  And one of the interesting things about the Patriots' offense is that they prefer to use a two tight end formation.  But, the Patriots played a lot of games this year without their other outstanding tight end.  The Patriots coaching staff will find a way to get that offense moving even with a hobbled Gronk.  After all, Tom Terrific and Wes Welker are both healthy.

The problem for the Patriots is going to be on the defensive side of the ball.  I'm not saying this due to the fact that Patriots were statistically one of the worst defenses in the league.  When an offense is as potent at the Patriots offense, the defensive statistics can be deceptive.  The problem for the Patriots is a pure lack of manpower.  Throughout the playoffs, the Patriots have been calling on Julian Edleman, an undersized wide receiver, to play significant time on defense.  Edleman has acquitted himself nicely so far.  But, the Giants have arguably the best trio of wide receivers in the game.  Most likely, Edleman will be asked to guard Mario Manningham.  And, that is an unreasonable request.

And so ... the moment you've all been waiting for.  I am not claiming to be smarter than the bookmakers, but next week, there will be a parade down the Canyon of Heroes in Manhattan.  Banshee prediction: Giants 28, Patriots 24.