Super Bowl 2012 Preview: Are NY Giants the Favorite over New England Patriots?

David StarrContributor IJanuary 30, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03:  David Tyree #85 of the New York Giants catches a 32-yard pass from Eli Manning #10 as Rodney Harrison #37 of the New England Patriots attempts to knock it out in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

As a Pats fan and admirer of the Kraft family, nothing would please me more than to see Robert hoist his fourth Lombardi Trophy this Sunday.  

This team has brought him and all of its fans a lot of enjoyment precisely because in certain ways, we see a little bit of ourselves in the New England Patriots—we’re flawed, yet we always try to make the most of our strengths, minimize our weaknesses and never give up.  

But, that which I watched for—and dreaded—happened. The Giants made the playoffs.  

It may sound like Monday-morning quarterbacking, but it always struck me that they have just the right mix to beat the Patriots—at least this year's version of the Patriots. Well-balanced between the run and the pass, with a quarterback occasionally prone to mistakes, but increasingly efficient and tough in the clutch, Eli Manning and his offense could inflict a lot of damage on the Patriots' defense.  

Then, consider their defense.  They may be vulnerable in the back seven, but we all know what that defensive line of theirs accomplished four years ago.

Speaking of that which shall not be spoken of, Super Bowl 42 comparisons may not make the slightest impact on present performance, but they still appeal to our penchant for analysis.  

Four years ago, the Giants played a lot better than the Patriots, in the sense that they played about as well as anyone could reasonably have expected them to play.  Manning made few errors, and they controlled the ball reasonably well, limiting the number of Patriots possessions. Their defense harassed Brady.  And they had the miracle drive which, like all miracles, reflected a magical mix of skill and crazy good fortune.  

But, the key point remains; their coaches likely told them what they needed to do to have a chance of beating the unbeaten Patriots, and that's what happened.  

The Patriots, on the other hand, played below—far below—their optimal level.  They managed to score only twice.  Their offensive and defensive lines underperformed. They failed to make many opportunistic plays and actually muffed a few, like Asante Samuel's non-interception that would have sealed the game.  

As it is, they still nearly won the game.  Which goes to show, one could argue, that "on paper" they were the better team—a team that played only so-so, but still one that almost beat a team that played very well.  But who cares?  That's why they play the game on the field.

This year, the relative situations of the two teams seem reversed.  The Giants—with more weapons, greater versatility and a better blend of offense and defense—seem like the stronger team.  If I'm right about that, it suggests that if they play a good-to-great game, they're likely to win.  

The Patriots, on the other hand, may be without their biggest offensive weapon, the Gronk, and they may go away from the run and become one-dimensional too early.  Then, there's the scary scenario of their defensive secondary trying to stay with the Giants' receivers.  They have to play a great game to have much of a chance.  

Here's hoping, for Robert, for Myra and for all of us.