The New England Patriots are favored by 2.5 points over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
In Week 9, I wrote this about New England’s matchup with the Giants when the Pats were favored by 9 at home:
“I can’t see this game being a blowout for the Pats. I’ll pick the Giants to cover the spread, and I even like them enough to endorse the moneyline at +300 if you want to take a shot at a huge payout in a parlay.”
In a year where my predictions were only slightly more accurate than Rex Ryan’s, it’s good to remember that I had at least one moment of clarity. My overall record (47-47-4) was the worst in my four years of picking games, but I still did well in determining the best value in New England’s contests (11-7). This is the most important week not only for Patriots fans, but also for sports bettors (if you can get a seat in any sportsbook in Vegas this week, more power to ya). Let’s take a look at a few of the factors that could tip the balance in this game.
Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers
The Giants made their way past the Packers and 49ers on the strength of a +5 turnover margin. The Giants offense has just one turnover in their three playoff games. When these two teams met in Week 9, the Pats turned the ball over four times. Whichever team wins the turnover battle will likely win the game.
Neutral Field is Anything but Neutral
This time around, the Patriots do not have the benefit of homefield advantage. Hell, given the hatred of the Patriots in Indy and the fact that the Giants have Peyton’s little brother under center, it’s likely to feel more like an away game than a neutral field. The Pats were 6-2 on the road, but they played just two games indoors on turf. The Patriots won both games against non-playoff teams (Cowboys and Colts), but were outgained in both games.
Patriots Need to Adapt on Offense
Nagging injuries to Vollmer and Gronkowski will force the Patriots to evolve on offense. The Pats like to get the ball out quick, especially against teams with a good pass rush. The Giants will try to take away the short and intermediate routes to give their pass rush a chance to get to Brady, and they will definitely do their best to get a body on Gronkowski at the line of scrimmage to re-route him on his gimpy ankle. The Patriots will have to get creative on offense, running a lot of delayed releases to the tight ends and taking shots down the field. They also need to run the ball more to take advantage of a Giants run defense that ranked 19th on the ground. That’s a much different recipe than we’ve seen from the Patriots this year, but it’s probably their best shot at victory.
On all three of these counts, the Giants have a significant advantage they did not have in Week 9. If the Patriots were healthy, I’d like their chances. However, if Gronkowski is limited, it makes the New England offense a lot more human. But to hell with all that nonsense. You know what the Giants don’t have? Myra. That’s right, I said it. Ghosts are real, and they help football teams. Don’t believe me? Watch.
I’m taking the Patriots.
If Vegas is good at one thing during Super Bowl week, it’s getting gambling addicts and other miscreants to take a shot on ridiculous wagers. And after the year I’ve had, I’m inclined to take my chances at more than a few. Really, how could it get any worse?
First team to call a timeout: Giants (-110)
This one is free money. From the time that the ball is spotted, it typically takes the Patriots offense approximately six seconds to call a play, get set, run the play and call the next one. With the Giants, there are roughly 5-6 times a game where the play is called into the huddle and Eli looks at the sideline as if they asked him to wear a dress and matching heels during the postgame press conference.
Distance of the game’s first punt: 44.5 yards (under)
With these two offenses, a three-and-out is not terribly likely, so chances are good that any punt will come from near midfield. Weatherford and Mesko combined for 9 touchbacks on the entire season. Stats like these are clearly the real reason people read this column.
Longest TD scored in the game: 49.5 yards (over)
The way these two secondaries tackle? With the athletes these two teams have on offense? Yeah, no thanks.
What will Kelly Clarkson wear to sing the National Anthem? Anything else (-300)
Gear from the Colts, Giants, Patriots or NFL Super Bowl were the other options. Burlap Sack was not an option. If you can get +200 or better on Burlap Sack, it starts to become very attractive.
Will Madonna wear an NFL jersey or shirt during any point of the halftime show? No (-400)
If she’s wearing clothes, we’re all winners.
Will Madonna be wearing fishnet stockings at any point during the Super Bowl halftime show? (-120)
If she does, I will vomit out of my eye sockets.