Yes, I’ve been stalling.
I wanted to collect every last bit of information I could before I committed this column to print, as both these games will be close contests. Let’s get started.
I pick the SF 49ers over the NY Giants.
Am I biased? Of course, I’m a Niners fan. But not blindly so. I amassed some key information and analyzed some important match-ups to back up my pick, although I did that after I already made my pick, hence the bias.
Here’s what I learned.
I examined both rosters for age, and gave the edge to the younger team. That would be the 49ers, which come in at a mean average of 26 years old, while the NY Giants came in at 27.
Nine players on the 49ers are 30 years of age or older, compared to 11 on the Giants.
The Giants reported nine players with issues, including Manning’s 24-hour bug. I expect him to be healthy for the game, though.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw’s foot problems could be a sticking point.
On the 49ers side, there were only six players hobbled, but Ted Ginn Jr., Patrick Willis and Jonathan Goodwin could be major losses if they don’t play. All are listed as questionable.
I’ll call this one a push.
I’ll take Jim Harbaugh over Tom Coughlin. Do I really have to explain why? Okay, I will then.
Harbaugh’s like Tony Robbins. He motivates. Coughlin’s like the guy who won’t give your ball back when it goes on his lawn. He’s cranky.
Candlestick Park looks to be cold, windy and rainy on Sunday, according to weather.com. These conditions favor defense, and I prefer the 49ers fourth-ranked defense over the Giants 26-ranked crew —although I’ll admit they’re playing over their heads in the playoffs.
The weather will also take away any quarterback advantage the Giants have. Eli Manning may be one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, but not when he’s throwing knuckle balls into the winds of Candlestick. But QB Alex Smith should have no problem doing what he does best — short, laser-like passes and handing off to Frank Gore.
I know I said this about last week’s game, but I’m saying it again — Frank Gore must have a great game for the 49ers to win.
The Key Match-up
The 49ers need to stop Manning to win the NFC Championship. And that means 49er pass rushing specialist Justin Smith will have to kick butt on Giants left tackle David Diehl.
Whoever wins that match-up wins the game.
David Akers will continue to be rock solid, as he kicks the 49ers to a one-point win.
While my NFC pick went against conventional wisdom, I’m with most of the ESPN pundits on their AFC predictions—Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will defeat the Baltimore Ravens. Handily.
The key match-up? Ravens safety Ed Reed versus common sense. What kind of idiot criticizes his own quarterback before a big game, thereby creating a distraction for this entire team?
That idiot would be Reed. Idiot.
Still, he’s right. Joe Flacco did look rattled in the game against the Texans, and he’ll look even more rattled in Foxborough.
Tom Brady will pick apart the defense, and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will run roughshod over the Ravens secondary. Wes Welker will be the usual stone in everyone’s shoe, and just when Baltimore thinks they’ve got the New England offense contained, midget running back Danny Woodhead will come out of nowhere to score.
This game doesn’t need a whole hellofa lot of analysis. Patriots by 14.
(Note: Here’s one idiotic prediction. Ray Lewis will get injured in the game. Why? Because he’s older, he’s a warrior, and he’ll try too hard.)
There. Now go make that phone call to Vegas.
Last Minute Notes
– I just checked, and there is one ex-Penn State player on the 49ers, two on the Giants. If there is a distraction from Joe Pa’s death it favors San Francisco.
– New England 23, Baltimore 20. Why was it so close? Because Flacco played way better than expected. And Brady way worse.
– The game ended in a 17-17 tie, and the Giants won with a field goal in overtime. I was thinking it would be a 49ers win at 17-16. Oh, well.
The Super Bowl Blog—Giants win! Giants win! Giants win!
I pick the New York Giants to win the Super Bowl. But if they don’t, then my record is intact—every time I bet for or against the Giants, I’m wrong.
Here’s why I’m picking New York after I picked them to lose against Green Bay and San Francisco in the playoffs.
First, Eli Manning really is the elite quarterback he said he was halfway through the season.
Second, that ain’t no 26th-ranked defense. It might have been during the regular season, but during the playoffs it was the third-ranked defense behind the Ravens and the 49ers.
Among Super Bowl contenders, it’s the first-ranked defense for sure.
Tom Brady will play better than he did against Baltimore in the NFC Championships—and look for both Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead to have big games as well—but it just won’t be enough.
The NY defense will harass Brady all day long, Eli will continually find ways to win, and the real difference in the game will be the lack of a healthy Rob Gronkowski at tight end for the Patriots.
True, Gronkowski’s not even on the injury report, but I saw how his foot got bent backwards two weeks ago and I don’t think it’s had enough time to heal. Not good.
So Giants win the Super Bowl, 31-28, and Eli Manning wins MVP.
I’ll update this report during each quarter. Should be amusing. Meanwhile…
• • •
The Associated Press recently handed out honors to NFL standouts during the 2011-2012 season. Here are the results.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers won the MVP award, while Saints QB Drew Brees won Offensive Player of the Year. That seems like a fair compromise.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs won Defensive Player of the Year. I was definitely pulling for 49ers pass-rushing specialist Justin Smith, but Suggs works for me.
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton easily won Offensive Rookie of the Year. He surpassed Peyton Mannings’s rookie passing record with 4,051 yards, and set a single-season NFL QB rushing record with 13 touchdowns. Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Lions QB Matthew Stafford won the Comeback Player of the Year Award. How a 23-year-old in only his third season even qualifies for the award is beyond me. My pick, and it’s the right one, was 49ers QB Alex Smith.
Finally, Jim Harbaugh won his well-earned Coach of the Year honors.
• • •
First Quarter Comments:
—First play by Brady leads to a safety.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Brady hater, I love the guy. But he ain’t no Joe Montana.
And he’s rattled. Just sayin’.
—With 3:24 to go in the first quarter, the NY Giants are Cruz-in’. See what I did there?
—At the end of the first quarter, NY leads 9-0. I’m also 2-0 on beers to coffee, so if these updates become riddled with typos, you have to let it go.
You have to.
—Best commercial during first quarter, Pepsi’s. I always thought that Flavor Flaves big clock was a euphemism for something else that rhymes.
Second Quarter Comments:
—With 13:40 to go in second quarter, New England hits a field goal. That more than makes up for the safety. Heh.
—Best commercial of the second quarter, goflora.com. You know why. Although I liked the French bulldog commercial by Sketchers until Mark Cuban showed up.
The Doritos commercial was clever, but no cigar. And the Ameritrade commercial? Wrong baby. Sorry, but when you want Charlie Sheen, Ashton doesn’t cut it.
—Wow. Danny Woodhead caught a touchdown pass with eight seconds to go in the half. Did not see that coming. He caught zero touchdown passes during the regular season.
— And at the end of the half, it’s New England Patriots 10, New York Giants 9.
Half Time Comments:
—Here’s hoping for a wardrobe malfunction.
—Best commercial, Bridgestone (Madonna). Sure, it was all prerecorded and lip-synced, but I’ll take that over Roger Daltry’s live off-key performance during Super Bowl XLIV.
—Betty White has jumped the shark. Sorry.
— Whoa. I spoke too soon. Clint Eastwood’s commercial for Detroit—and subtextually for Barack Obama—beat out Madonna’s. Like Woodhead’s touchdown, I did not see that coming.
Third Quarter Comments:
—With a little more than six minutes to go in the third, the Giants hit a field goal. Not good. Every field goal is another score closer to losing (yes, I’m paraphrasing Steve Young).
—The sack of Brady with 5:30 and some change in the third could be the turning point in the game. He might be injured. Beyond that, if the Giants keep up the pass rush the Patriots are doomed. Period.
—With 35 seconds to go in the third, Giants hit another field goal. Not good for NY.
—Best third quarter commercial: The one with Jerry Seinfeld. Advertising what, I have no idea. Honorable mention commercial: The NFL’s.
— And at the end of the third, it’s New England over New York, 17-15.
Fourth Quarter Comments:
—Really? Two time outs burned by the Giants?
—Four minutes to go in the game and WELKER DROPS THE PASS. Unbelievable. That’s your play of the game.
—3:39 to go in the game and Manningham makes a catch. It looked clean in slow motion, but how do you make that call live? NFL refs are amazing.
—Three minutes to go. Run, run, run, Giants.
—Two minutes to go and they give it to Ahmad Bradshaw. Good idea!
—Short pass. Okay. Run, run, run. Good run, Bradshaw. Waste a Patriots time out.
—Uh-oh. Bradshaw scores, so Brady gets the ball with :57 to go. Guess Bradshaw doesn’t know a gimme when he sees one.
—If Brady wants a fourth Super Bowl ring, he’ll definitely have to earn it.
—Just to get this out of the way… best fourth quarter commercial: The Honda commercial with Matthew Broderick. Not the best cause though—I love dogs.
—Great catch by Deion Branch. Keeps the game alive.
—Giants have too many men on the field. That’s a coaching error.
—With five seconds to go, Brady gets one more Hail Mary. He ain’t no Joe Montana and he ain’t no Doug Flute.
—Final score, New York Giants 21, New England 17. Great game.
—And I have to admit, as much as it pains me, that Tom Coughlin is a great coach. Nobody accidentally wins this twice, even with a great quarterback. Ask Don Shula.
Odd, because he reminds me of the elderly crank in my neighborhood who won’t give my baseball back (to this day, in fact). Or the 1800 Tequila guy.
But you have to give it up—two Super Bowl rings are not a fluke. One might be, though.
Let’s ask Brian Billick.