Having reached the three-quarter pole of the 2010-11 NFL season, there looms an exciting possibility that the football Giants of New York and the New England Patriots, two of the league's true big-market teams, can reach the Big D, Sunday, February 6th in Super Bowl XLV, a rematch of the 2007 Super Bowl XLII thriller which shocked the nation and enthralled Giant fans everywhere to the tune of 97.5 million viewers, the most-watched Super Bowl ever.
The similarities between the teams' arcs are fairly distinct at this point. In 2007, the Patriots steamrolled their way to a 16-0 regular-season finish. Tom Brady had very simply the greatest QB season in NFL history with 398 completions, 4,806 yards, 50 TDs and only eight interceptions.
Randy Moss hauled in 23 of those touchdown throws. Wes Welker caught an incredible 112 balls. The running game was more or less an afterthought, but Lawrence Maroney was then a pretty effective rookie back out of Minnesota and chipped in 835 yards in only six starts. Of course he was well complemented by the exceedingly versatile Kevin Faulk, third down back extraordinaire, who had 265 yards rushing and 47 catches during the epic regular season roll.
Fast-forward to 2010, and the Patriots have returned to their dominating ways. They are 10-2, having repaid the Jets in full (45-3 in Foxborough) for an early-season 28-14 beating. In view of their recent 4 game run where they've averaged 40 points per, I think we can overlook the 34-14 letdown in the Dawg Pound in game nine as the Pats have nicely resuscitated themselves from there.
How good has Brady been thus far? He has 3,029 yards, 27 TDs and only four interceptions. If Welker has lost a step after last year's season-ending ACL/MCL injury, nobody's noticed. With 72 catches for 672 yards, he's still Tom Terrific's most effective third-down conversion weapon.
Deon Branch is back (can somebody please tell me what the Seahawks were doing with this guy these past three-plus years?) and smoking the opposition. Aaron Hernandez, out of college football factory Florida, has been a rookie godsend with 39 catches for 513 yards.
And they're better out of the backfield: BenJarvis Green-Ellis, with 699 yards, 4.4 yards per attempt, and diminutive but quick and sturdy Danny Woodhead, with 395 yards rushing, 5.4 yards per attempt, and 28 catches for 334, have been something more than a pleasant surprise.
Defenses have had to game-plan for them. With Moss gone and well out of memory, the Pats have revamped their offensive style once again into something very fast and utterly creative, to the tune of 31.6 points per game, first in the NFL.
The young, almost entirely revamped defense, (only man mountain Vince Wilfork is a holdover from 2007's starting lineup) is a question mark, although no one can deny they looked good against the Jets, (or was it just that the New Yorkers were entirely inept?).
Generally, though, they've given up points, 22.4 per game, 18th in the NFL, and yardage, 390.9, 31st in the NFL, in boatloads.
But, somehow, you figure with a Belichick-led staff, the D will find a way to win at least two of their final four games. They're at the Bears this Sunday (do you really see Brady being outdueled by Jay Cutler?), the Pack (too banged up) at home for a Sunday nighter on Dec. 19, at Buffalo (you can put that one in the bank) on Dec. 26, and finish at home against the rival Dolphins (who will be playing for nothing in the season finale, which means they'll probably look pretty much the same as they have all season, dead above and below the neck).
So, worst case, the Pats finish 12-4, and it really wouldn't be all that big a surprise with the way they're playing now to finish at 13-3 or 14-2.
They'll get a first-round bye, home field throughout and then some combination of the Ravens, Steelers or Jets (a week ago I would have said the Chargers as well, but who knows what to think of San Diego after getting crushed by the Raiders) en route to an AFC Championship.
Comparisons Between the 2007 and 2010 NY Giants
The 2007 NY Giants started the season at 1-2 and looked shaky on D under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
The 2010 NY Giants started the season at 1-2 and looked shaky on D under new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
Punctuated by a fierce pass rush, both defenses soon after righted themselves. The 2007 Giants started Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan at the end positions, and as the season progressed, young Justin Tuck, filling multiple roles along the line, started to make a huge impact in big games.
The 2011 defense starts Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck at the end positions, and has begun to use this year's first-rounder, Jason Pierre-Paul, a kid with unlimited talent, to great success all over the line. He's got four sacks in the last two games. With their collective depth up the middle in Barry Cofield (a 2007 holdover), Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard, this Giants defensive front is as formidable as any in the league and can propel any quarterback—even Brady—to force hurried, inaccurate throws and make game-changing mistakes.
The Giants did not sport a great linebacking crew in 2007, and they don't in 2010, either. Let's say it's more or less a push between the two, but the secondaries can't compare. In 2007, the New York secondary became so banged up that the Giants were literally picking up guys off the street for the classic, icy-cold NFC final in Green Bay (the legendary Greg Pope for one...huh?).
This year's secondary is simply better than 2007's, has better cover corners, (Aaron Ross, Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas), and a light years better safety group in Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle & Deon Grant.You put that together with a dominating pass rush, and the combo could be tough to overcome from here on out.
Offensively, especially if they can get the line healthy, this 2010 attack is probably an upgrade over the 2007 group as well. The caveat is that in 2007-08, Eli Manning played incredible, mistake-free football during the end run. This year, as my buddy Peck would say, he's had his sloppy moments, to say the least.
Overall, though, he's a much improved QB with great weapons in Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and Kevin Boss; though, in 2007 he had Plaxico Burress, who played out of his mind in Green Bay and caught the game-winner in Super Bowl XLII, and an effective Amani Toomer. Boss played well in his rookie season, already displaying the kind of hands and ability to take hits Giants fans have come to appreciate mightily.
The 2007 Giants were 8-4. The 2010 Giants are 8-4, with Minnesota in Minny, Philly at home, Green Bay in the tundra and the Redskins in Washington left to play.
No, it's not the easiest schedule, but if these Giants are going anywhere deep, they'll win at least three of four with all the marbles on the line, and finish at 11-5 or maybe even 12-4. They'll at least get a first-round bye, likely a second-round game at home before a probable NFC Championship matchup against either Atlanta or the Saints on the road, where they would really have to play like Giants!
Finally (if it should come to bare), the Patriots suit up against the Giants for a rematch in Super Bowl XLV.
First, this game will not finish 17-14 (it was 10-7 until late in the fourth). The Giants balanced attack will move the ball on the Pats' young D and will find the end zone with some regularity.
Similarly, Brady will run the up-tempo, quick-look offense against the Giants, negating the pass rush to a certain extent, and the Pats, too, will put points on the board early.
Halftime score: Patriots 14-13 over the G-Men.
In the second half, the Giants, if they don't come on this way from the outset, will make a secondary adjustment. They'll creep up on the line, check the shorter routes, leave Kenny Phillips to keep an eye on Branch or Hernandez running deep slants, and Brady will be forced to check down into second and third looks.
The Giants defensive line will start to make contact, and at the same time Manning and company will press forward. A fresh Jacobs will start to hammer down the young Patriots defense, opening things up for Ahmad Bradshaw, Nicks, Smith and Manningham to find green spaces and a well-protected Manning will start to click.
The Giants will twice find their way into the Patriots end zone in the second half and that will be enough.
Final score: Giants 27-Patriots 21.
From this writer's mouth to God's ears.
Hope you enjoyed it,