NFL Championship Sunday Playoff Picks

Championship Sunday is here and 3 of the 4 teams playing today were playing on Championship Sunday last year.  The Patriots, Ravens, and 49ers are all making their second trip in a row to their Conference’s respective championship game.  The Falcons are the new team in the equation, replacing last year’s eventual Super Bowl champion Giants.  The Harbaugh brothers were swept out of a chance to make the Super Bowl last year.  Will it happen again this season?

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick

NFC Championship Game – San Fransisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons, 3:00 PM on FOX – The Falcons are 4-point underdogs at home to the Niners and most people don’t have much faith in the home-team.  While the Falcons got their first playoff win in the Matt Ryan-Mike Smith era last week they were practically begging the Seahawks to steal the game from them before putting it away on a last second field goal.  There was some question as to how 2nd year Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick would acclimate himself in the playoffs and he answered those questions resoundingly last week when he passed for 263 yards, ran for 181 and scored two touchdowns each through the air and on the ground.  I’m not sure if Kaepernick will match the success of his first career playoff start but the Falcons defense will need all hands on deck to stop him.  Veteran defensive end John Abraham missed the second half of last week’s game but should be good to go for this week.  Falcons cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson will try to slow down the Niners weapons on offense.  The bottom line is that while the 49ers offense can beat you the strength of their team really lies on the defensive side of the ball.  Good defense is sometimes forgotten during the post-season when guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are flinging around the rock.  The Niners have the best defense left in the tournament and it’s not really that close.  I’m going to predict that Matt Ryan and company will have a long day dealing with that San Fransisco front 7.  Michael Turner will have trouble as well.  The game will rest on the shoulders of Matt Ryan and I just don’t see him making enough big plays to win this game.  The Falcons defense won’t do enough to overcome this and the 49ers will head to their first Super Bowl since the 1994 season.

Final Score Prediction – San Fransisco 49ers 30, Atlanta Falcons 17

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick

AFC Championship Game – Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots, 6:30 PM on CBS – They’ll be a lot of cliches used to describe this game – a battle, a bar fight, a bloodbath.  I expect a great game and a close one as well.  No matter what people say about either side anytime these two teams come together they usually play it close.  The Pats are always up for big games like this and you don’t have to ask if the Ravens are going to be ready as it could be Ray Lewis’ last game.  Anyone looking for a blowout in Foxboro should go looking somewhere else.  This is going to be a close game.  I envision more points being scored in this one than last year’s 23-20 AFC final.  The Ravens are a year older on defense and aren’t the juggernaut that they have been in the past.  Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis are both hobbled but I’m guessing Lewis just gets through this one on adrenaline alone.  Ed Reed is the key.  He was quiet last week but he didn’t let Peyton Manning get anything behind him.  He’ll try to do the same with Tom Brady this week.  Defensively the Pats are better than they were last year but I still don’t see a championship caliber defense (not to say that they can’t win a championship, just not on defense alone).  There are some match-up problems for them.  Torrey Smith may be a handful like he was earlier in the season.  If the Pats play the long ball it should open up opportunities for Dennis Pitta and Ray Rice in the middle of the field.  I’ve criticized Joe Flacco a lot but he has come to play during this post-season.  I think he has another strong game today but Tom Brady will be a little bit stronger.  I think the Pats use the home-field to pull this one out but it will be by the most razor-thin of margins (no pun intended).

Final Score Prediction – New England Patriots 31, Baltimore Ravens 30

Follow me on Twitter

Advertisements

Sunday NFL Playoff Picks

So I didn’t do so well yesterday going 0-2.  I guess it serves me right for going against both Harbaugh brothers.  I’m still 4-2 on the post-season so hopefully I can get back on the winning track today.  Here are the picks:

Falcons QB Matt Ryan

Falcons QB Matt Ryan

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (1:00 PM, FOX) – I love Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson.  Pete Carroll not so much though.  The Seahawks have been an incredible story, coming out of nowhere to win 11 games and then winning on the road against RG III and the Redskins last week.  The Seahawks have a great defense but they will be tested today in the dome against Atlanta’s high-powered offense.  The match-up between Seattle CB’s Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman facing off against Atlanta WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White will be a fun one to watch.  I’m not too sure who will get the upper hand in that one.  The Falcons are OK on defense.  Hopefully they were watching how Green Bay handled the read option last night against San Fransisco and do the opposite of what they did.  Seattle uses the read option to feast on opposing defenses and if they get that going it could be a long day for the Atlanta defense.  A lot of people have pointed out this week that rookie Russell Wilson already has more playoff wins than Matt Ryan.  Despite being the NFC’s #1 seed people aren’t expecting much from the Falcons.  I think Matty Ice finally gets it done today as the travel will become too much for the Seahawks.  If the Seahawks had home-field advantage I would ride them all the way to the Super Bowl but they don’t.  I think Ryan does just enough to get his first playoff win and put Atlanta into the NFC Championship game.

Final Score Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 27, Seattle Seahawks 24

Patriots RB Stevan Ridley

Patriots RB Stevan Ridley

Houston Texans at New England Patriots (4:30, CBS) – I’m thinking that this game will be much closer than the one in Foxboro last month.  Matt Schaub has struggled in the last few weeks but he can wake up today against a below average Pats secondary.  On defense J.J. Watt has to show up more than he did in New England.  The key for Houston is to slow down the Pats offense just enough to keep it close.  Another factor for the Texans will be to limit the mistakes on offense.  On the Pats side obviously they have a lot of playoff experience and the best playoff coach in the game in Bill Belichick.  The Pats will try and do their thing on offense and they should move the ball with everyone healthy.  Stevan Ridley will be key as they will need him to move the ball without fumbling it.  The team who plays mistake-free ball will be the one who advances.  I expect to see a more efficient Matt Schaub this time around against the New England defense but his one mistake will be the difference in the game.  The Pats will take advantage and go into a re-match of last year’s AFC Championship game against the Ravens.

Final Score Prediction – New England Patriots 34, Houston Texans 24

Follow me on Twitter

Full AFC East Draft Recap

The 2012 NFL Draft is in the books.  I’m not going to give out grades because I think it’s pretty stupid to judge guys who have not even stepped on an NFL field yet.  Instead I will outline all of the picks for the AFC East and say what I liked and didn’t like about the 2012 NFL Draft.

Buffalo Bills

  1. 105th pick Nigel Bradham

    10th Overall – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

  2. 41st Overall – Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia
  3. 69th Overall – A.J. Graham, WR, NC State
  4. 105th Overall – Nigel Bradham, OLB, Florida State
  5. 124th Overall – Ron Brooks, CB, Louisiana State
  6. 144th Overall – Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State
  7. 147th Overall – Tank Carder, MLB, Texas Christian
  8. 178th Overall – Mark Asper, OG, Oregon
  9. 251st Overall – John Potter, K, Western Michigan

WHAT I LIKED: Pretty much everything they did from Rounds 1-5 with the exception of A.J. Graham.  Gilmore was the 2nd best CB in the draft and Cordy Glenn was a 1st round talent drafted in the 2nd.  They added some guys with a lot of experience from big schools in rounds 4 and 5.  Ron Brooks could be a real steal coming from a stacked LSU secondary that included Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, and Tyronn Mathieu.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:  This was a deep wide receiver draft and to end up with only Graham who had more of a mid round grade seems to be a bit disappointing.  The Bills could have used more depth at WR, TE, and LB but went with a guard in the 6th round after taking two offensive linemen earlier in the draft.

Miami Dolphins

  1. 42nd pick Jonathan Martin

    8th Overall – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

  2. 42nd Overall – Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
  3. 72nd Overall – Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami
  4. 78th Overall – Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri
  5. 97th Overall – Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
  6. 155th Overall – Josh Kaddu, LB, Oregon
  7. 183rd Overall – B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State
  8. 215th Overall – Kheeston Randall, DT, Texas
  9. 227th Overall – Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada

WHAT I LIKED:  Martin is a good tackle prospect.  He can play right tackle and if the Dolphins continue the purge and dump Jake Long after next season he can move over to the left side.  Egnew will be able to catch the ball, just don’t ask him to block.  Cunningham was productive in college.  Lamar Miller is a low risk/high reward guy.  He could replace Reggie Bush if they decide to jettison him.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:  Ryan Tannehill.  I wasn’t enthralled by their front 7 picks.

New York Jets

  1. 202nd pick Terrance Ganaway

    16th Overall – Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

  2. 43rd Overall – Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
  3. 77th Overall – Demario Davis, MLB, Arkansas State
  4. 187th Overall – Josh Bush, S, Wake Forest
  5. 202nd Overall – Terrance Ganaway, HB, Baylor
  6. 203rd Overall – Robert T. Griffin, OG, Baylor
  7. 242nd Overall – Antonio Allen, SS, South Carolina
  8. 244th Overall – Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan

WHAT I LIKED:  Stephen Hill is a high risk/high reward pick in the 2nd round but at his best could be a poor man’s Randy Moss.  Davis will give them decent depth in the middle and provide for some Bart Scott insurance.  I LOVED the Ganaway pick in round 6, that guy is a little ball of fire.  Also loved the Antonio Allen pick in Round 7.  He was very productive in college, that seems like great value.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:  No one can talk me into liking the Coples pick.  Melvin Ingram, Chandler Jones, even Courtney Upshaw were better options that were still on the board to bring in to rush the passer.  I’m not sure a guy with a reputation of taking plays off is the best guy to add to the Jets locker room.  They also took the wrong Robert Griffin from Baylor.

New England Patriots

  1. 21st pick Chandler Joens

    21st Overall – Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

  2. 25th Overall – Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
  3. 48th Overall – Tavon Wilson, FS, Illinois
  4. 90th Overall – Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
  5. 197th Overall – Nate Ebner, DB, Ohio State
  6. 224th Overall – Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
  7. 235th Overall – Jeremy Ebert, WR, Northwestern

WHAT I LIKED:  Obviously the aggressive moves in the 1st round.  Belichick and co. picked up two huge pieces for their defense.  Jones was the sexy pick because he’s the sack guy and has a UFC fighting brother but Hightower is the meat and potatoes guy that can be the heart of your defense.  Jake Bequette is a solid pick, he’s your standard hard working, never give up defensive lineman.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:  Going way off the board for Wilson and Ebner.  I’m not sure what the point is?  I understand the Dennard pick but a guy doing something so stupid so close to a life-changing event just rubs me the wrong way (Dennard got arrested for assaulting a police officer last week).  Guys like that don’t usually stick.

The Pats made the biggest impact early by securing Jones and Hightower in the 1st.  The Bills I thought had the most consistent draft and really hit on their picks in rounds 4 and 5, which included a pick acquired for Lee Evans and Marshawn Lynch respectively.  In total the 4 AFC East teams made 33 picks.  Of those 33 picks 15 were on the offensive side of the ball, 17 on the defensive side, and 1 on special teams.  The ACC had the most picks to the AFC East with 9.  The SEC and Big 12 came in second with 5 each, the Pac-12 and Big 10 had 4 each, the Mountain West and MAC had 2 each and the Big East and Sun Belt Conference each had 1.  Ryan Tannehill was the only QB picked by any of the AFC East teams.  There was 6 WRs drafted, the most of any position.

Now all of these guys will get to work in the coming weeks with rookie mini-camps and OTA’s and then training camp.  Some of these guys will make an immediate impact, some will sit for a while before they hit their strides and then some will never pan out at all.  You never know what return you are going to get on any draft pick until they hit the field.  That’s the beauty of the draft – it’s a crap-shoot.  That said, I think it’s time for ESPN to give up their draft coverage because NFL Network was light years ahead of them in quality all weekend long.

Follow me on Twitter

Thoughts on Day 2 of the draft and looking ahead to Day 3

Day 2 is in the books and it’s on to Day 3 where teams fill out their rosters while hoping to find a diamond in the rough in the late rounds.  Then one of my favorite parts, something we missed last year, when the guys who aren’t drafted are bombarded with phone calls when they become unrestricted free agents the minute the draft is over.  Here is a look at Day 2 of the draft:

  • The Bills got great value picking up Glenn at #41

    AFC East 2nd Round Picks:  Bills took Georgia OT Cordy Glenn with the 41st pick.  Huge value here, this guy was a first round talent.  He’ll play LT in Buffalo’s quick drop offense and they hope he’s a road grader for Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in the run game.  The Dolphins took Stanford OT Jonathan Martin with the 42nd pick.  Martin should be a pretty good player but I’m surprised that they took him to play RT, he seems like a more natural LT and obviously he won’t play there in Miami with Jake Long.  The Jets took Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill with the 42nd pick.  This guy has a ton of speed for his size as shown at the combine but the concern is that he could be a one trick pony.  Mark Sanchez isn’t exactly Dan Marino with the arm.  The Patriots took Illinois S Tavon Wilson with the 48th pick.  Not much is known about Wilson since he wasn’t really on anyone’s draft board.  He played for a bad program and a horrible coach so there is no where to go but up for him.  Best pick: Glenn, getting 1st round talent and a starter at LT at 41 is tremendous value.  Worst pick: Wilson, if nothing else because the other 3 teams got good value with their picks and he is sort of an unknown.

  • AFC East 3rd Round Picks:  Here is where the waters get muddied for me.  I will confess to only hearing of one of these guys picked before tonight.  The Bills took N.C. State WR T.J. Graham with the 69th pick.  It was an interesting pick because they traded up two spots to get him and he looked to be 5-7 round range on most people’s boards.  He does look like a poor man’s Lee Evans which is exactly what the Bills need.  The Dolphins took Miami DE Olivier Vernon with the 72nd pick.  Again I don’t know much about this guy but he’s staying home which is good for him.  Miami is going 4-3 so they need those 4-3 bodies in there so I guess this is a start.  The Jets took Arkansas State LB Demario Davis with the 77th pick.  He’s not exactly Melvin Ingram.  He’s only 235 so he seems kind of smallish for the Jets defense.  The Patriots took Arkansas DE Jake Bequette with the 90th pick.  This is the one guy I heard of.  He’s the dreaded “high-motor white guy” defensive end type.  He could make up a great duo with Chandler Jones in the future.  Best pick: Bequette, SEC guy, high motor, plays hard.  Worst pick: Graham I suppose because it seemed like a reach.
  • Upshaw would have preferred to go in Round 1 but he can't complain about his destination

    Other picks I liked on Day 2:  The Ravens nabbing Courtney Upshaw at the top of Round 2.  His knock that he only played at an extremely high level in college because of all of the talent that he had around him.  Well, look at all of the talent that he has around him now.  The 49ers grabbed LaMichael James to round out the transformation of what was an average offense last year.  He’ll be their Darren Sproles.  The Eagles grabbing Vinny Curry at 59 seems like a steal.  I liked Mohammed Sanu getting redemption and actually getting that call from the Bengals but what are the chances he believed that it was really the Bengals when they first called?

  • NFL Network is king:  If it wasn’t clear that NFL Network had the superior coverage on Day 1, Day 2 confirmed it.  While ESPN resorted to something that assembled more of a shock jock talk show than a draft by the end of the night NFL Network showed every single pick announced until the very end.  Mike Mayock is enjoyable and he wasn’t being feed picks like the ESPN guys and for the most part Michael Irvin and Marshall Faulk shut their mouths and only chimed in occasionally while the former players on ESPN were loud and obnoxious.  I probably won’t even turn on ESPN at all today.
  • What to look for in Day 3:  Well, I guess today is just checking out who your team picks.  If you went to college or have a college team that you root for you can check out where their guys go.  I like to see where the 2nd generation guys go, so I’m interested in seeing Nick Toon, son of long time Jets receiver Al Toon, get drafted.  Also a couple of name QBs remain, Michigan State’s gritty QB Kirk Cousins and Boise State QB Kellen Moore who barely ever lost but is only about a 6th round pick in the draft.  Enjoy your Saturday.

Follow me on Twitter

AFC East Draft Day 1 Review and Day 2 Preview

Day 1 of the NFL draft is in the books and day 2 looms tonight.  From a pure recap and review stand point the new draft format works a whole lot better.  You can spend all day analyzing the first round picks and then move on to what will happen on Friday night in Rounds 2 and 3.  Here’s a look at what I liked and didn’t like on Day 1:

  • The Pats got aggressive in order to acquire the uber-versatile Hightower

    I LIKED:  The Patriots’ aggressiveness in Round 1.  Their swindling pick system became obsolete with the new draft rules and so instead of finding trade partners to kick the ball down the road they reversed course and aggressively pursued their targets by trading up.  They got two good young defensive guys to add to their front 7 although I seem to be in the minority in liking the Hightower pick more than the Jones pick.  You just don’t find that versatility that Hightower possesses often.

  • I DIDN’T LIKE:  The pick of Ryan Tannehill from a football standpoint.  I get why they did it and I can’t honestly say that I wouldn’t have done it if I were in their shoes but this guy just doesn’t do it for me.  If he doesn’t pan out then it could set your franchise back for years.  Is it worth it to get a few months worth of fan support?  It certainly is desperately needed after the failures by Stephen Ross to woe coaches and quarterbacks to Miami.  The only benefit of the doubt I will give them in that Mike Sherman, who was Tannehill’s college coach, is now the Offensive Coordinator in Miami so that may help Tannehill’s transition.
  • South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore fit the Bill for Buddy Nix and co.

    I LIKED:  Buddy Nix staying true to his draft board again and not reaching for need.  The Bills need a WR and LT the most but since they had Michael Floyd off of their board due to character issues there was no guy at those positions worth the #10 pick.  It happens every year…two years ago it was Jimmy Clausen and Bryan Bulaga.  If they took either one of those guys then they would still be looking at trying to find a QB and a LT since Clausen sucks and Bulaga plays the right side.  Gilmore should be a great player in time and will get veteran leadership from Drayton Florence and Terrence McGee in the meantime.

  • I DIDN’T LIKE:  The Jets picking Quinton Coples over Melvin Ingram, Chandler Jones, or even Courtney Upshaw.  Coples was seen as a top 10 pick during the college season but attitude and effort issues dropped him down the board.  He also seems big to play OLB in the 3-4 which is what the Jets needed.  The Ingram pass is the biggest mystery to me because I think Ingram is going to be a real player in the future.  I can’t fault them too much for passing on Upshaw because everyone else did too but I still think he’ll be a player in the right situation.
  • NON AFC EAST THINGS I LIKED ABOUT THE DRAFT LAST NIGHT:  Loved Pittsburgh’s pick of David Decastro at #24, best pick of the night in my opinion.  Just a perfect fit and there may not be a guy in the draft set up to contribute right away than DeCastro.  Dallas made out by moving up to get Morris Claiborne at #6.  Dre Kirkpatrick could be a steal for the Bengals if he pans out, his arrest helped Cincy with that one.  They also got a good player in guard Kevin Zeitler with their 2nd 1st rounder.  I think Melvin Ingram was a steal for San Diego at #18 as well.
  • I didn't like the Poe pick before he got up to the podium...

    NON AFC EAST THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE:  I’m not sure about Dontari Poe going #11 to the Chiefs.  Even factoring the systems I liked Fletcher Cox and Michael Brockers better.  Whitney Mercilus was a one year wonder so Houston going with him was a bit of a surprise.  I didn’t like the AJ Jenkins to San Fransisco pick although there is room for him to develop behind Moss and Manningham.

  • WHAT TO LOOK FOR TONIGHT:  What’s interesting is that the 3 AFC East teams that didn’t make the playoffs all have the same needs going into tonight.  The Bills, Jets and Dolphins all need receivers and offensive tackles.  The Pats have multiple picks and still need help in the secondary and could use some offensive line depth but they can add it anywhere, don’t necessarily need a tackle.  Buffalo is up 1st with the 9th pick of Round 2 however any 1 of the other 3 teams can move up.  As you saw last night that’s not hard to do these days.  There are plenty of wide receivers and tackles at the early stages of the 2nd round so look for a lot of action there.  The 3rd round seems so far away at this point but I’m sure the teams will be looking for whatever they didn’t get in Round 2.  I am not bold enough to mock the next two rounds especially after all the movement of last night.

Follow me on Twitter

Patriots pull reverse course and trade up for two defensive studs

The Patriots have made a habit in recent years of collecting draft picks and rolling them over year after year like they were an IRA or a mutual fund.  That practice came to an end last night when instead of moving back for more picks the Pats actually moved up in the draft to get players that they targeted.  The change in philosophy makes a lot of sense due to the new NFL draft structure and rookie salary pool.  With all the salaries tied so close together the value of picks have deteriorated,  The old NFL draft value chart made by Jimmy Johnson back in the late 80’s has turned obsolete.  Gone are the days where you can net a 1st round pick in the next draft for someone to move up in the 2nd round.  Belichick and his staff adjusted accordingly and used their own chips as currency to get the players that they wanted.  Here’s a look at the two players that the Patriots drafted:

New Patriots DE Chandler Jones

21st pick overall Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse – Jones is a guy that really flew up the draft boards in recent weeks.  The pick has gotten a lot of publicity but hopefully fans temper their expectations a bit, at least at the outset, because Jones is a bit of a project guy.  He’s at 266 right now but will probably develop into a playing weight of about 280-285 in 2 or 3 years.  That’s when he should really hit his stride as a player.  He’s got 10 sack potential and will be a versatile lineman with the ability to excel against both the run and the pass but he will probably be a work in progress for the first few years.  The Pats are probably going to run a more hybrid scheme this year, mixing the 3-4 in with the 4-3.  I think Jones will see the majority of his action in the 4 man front replacing Mark Anderson in a platoon with another DE, either someone picked today in the 2nd round or a veteran, perhaps even Andre Carter when he is healthy from his knee injury.  Long term Jones will be looked at as a cornerstone for the defensive line that will likely be running primarily out of a 4-3 base defense.  The 3-4 players that the Patriots used in their hey day are pretty much all gone with the exception of Vince Wilfork who can play both schemes anyway.  With the spread offense en vogue in the NFL these days defenses are using a ton of nickel packages and that means 4 down linemen which is why the 3-4 is sort of fading away again.  Jones is a great pick to develop during the transition.  He probably couldn’t have gotten drafted into a better situation, with Bill Belichick and Pepper Johnson and the rest of the defensive staff in New England as good as any in the league at developing defensive players, particularly defensive linemen.  I would give this pick a B+ with the only red flag being that he was a late riser which I am always weary of.  That means that his game film is not as good as some other guys but his workouts were better, which doesn’t always translate to a better player on the field.  However with Belichick and his staff ready to develop him he could not have found himself in a better situation.

 

New Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower

25th pick overall Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama – In a move that should shock no one Belichick moved up in the 1st round again (ok maybe that should shock you) to take a player from a Nick Saban coached defense.  Dont’a Hightower is as versatile a linebacker as they come.  In a 3-4 he is strictly an inside guy but in the 4-3, which I suspect the Patriots will be moving towards, he is a guy that can play all 3 LB spots if need be.  He’s got great size (6’2″, 265 lbs.) and good speed and can move sideline to sideline but can also rush the passer if need be.  I would imagine that the Pats will use a heavy rotation involving Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Rob Ninkovich, and Hightower this season with only Mayo getting more snaps than Hightower.  Brandon Spikes will probably get the most snaps in the middle this season but I can see Hightower playing with Mayo in the nickel packages.  Spikes is good when he is on but he is inconsistent.  I can see Hightower eventually usurping Spikes in the middle if he plays as good as he has the potential to.  Right now I see the guys mixing and matching in spots, Belichick loves to be creative and he can get plenty creative with the top 4 linebackers he has on the field now.  Hightower came from a Nick Saban coached team so he knows what it’s like to be well coached and how to play in a complex scheme.  His transition into the Belichick defense should be smoother than most and he should be ready to contribute right away.  Again this is a good long term pick for the Pats but unlike Jones Hightower will be there on opening day ready to make an impact.  I give this pick an A all things considered.  Hightower is the prototype for a Bill Belichick defense and he possesses a versatility that you don’t often see in a linebacker.

The Pats pick two more times today.  Again a trade UP wouldn’t be out of the question but I can see them trading down with one of their picks to grab a few for Saturday.  Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw looks mighty intriguing sitting there and there is a good chance that Baltimore will be able to snatch him up here.  The Pats do still need a lot of help in the secondary.  Janoris Jenkins will probably go early 2nd round but the Pats would probably have to move up to the first 2 or 3 picks of the night to get him.  Jenkins is by far the best CB on the board and would have been a 1st rounder if he didn’t have character issues.  The Pats would find a ton of competition if they tried to move up for Jenkins so maybe staying put would be the best option.  Belichick loves picking guys in the 2nd round and has had success in the past few years with Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Spikes among others.  I would expect today to be secondary day as they worked on the front 7 yesterday but don’t rule out another front 7 player or an offensive lineman.

Follow me on Twitter

AFC East 1st Round Mock Draft

I don’t know enough about all 32 teams and all of the 50 or so potential 1st round prospects to do a full 1st round mock draft but I follow all of the AFC East teams enough to know what they need, who they like, etc.  So instead of trying to pick the 32 picks of the 1st round I will focus on the 5 that the AFC East teams currently hold.  Here is my prediction for what happens tonight within the AFC East

Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill

8. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M -The Dolphins are desperate for a QB.  They lost out on Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn this off-season.  They desperately need a win in the PR column right now and that’s why they’ll reach by about 20 spots to take Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill.  The problem the Dolphins have is that they hold the #8 pick in a draft where the two best quarterbacks are also the two best players.  The drawback to taking Tannehill is that they have created so many holes in the off-season that they really need a guy who can come in and contribute right away.  Tannehill will likely start the season playing behind Matt Moore, David Garrard, or both.  It would probably be for the best as the Dolphins traded their best receiver and lost their starting right tackle to retirement.  They are in year 1 of a rebuild and they can sit on their future franchise QB for a year while they build a team around him.  The question that remains is whether or not Tannehill is a franchise guy.  Some people feel strongly that he is and some feel strongly that he isn’t.  He’s got a big arm but he lacks experience playing in NFL style systems.  He hasn’t played the same competition that Andrew Luck played against at Stanford or Robert Griffin III played against at Baylor but Texas A&M is no slouch playing in the Big 12.  I guess only time will tell whether or not he can be “the guy” for an NFL franchise.  Back-up pick: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore

10. Buffalo Bills – Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina – The Bills upgraded their pass rush in the off-season and need a few more players at key positions.  Left tackle, wide receiver, and cornerback are the three most glaring needs.  The left tackle crop isn’t all that strong and the Bills could probably get a similar player at tackle at the 41 spot as they can at #10.  They need a big wide receiver with speed opposite Stevie Johnson and Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd would seem to fit the bill but the Bills had not engaged much with Floyd in recent weeks and didn’t even bring him to Buffalo for a visit.  That leaves cornerback.  The Bills are also very high on Alabama safety Mark Barron but at this point he is flying up the boards and I doubt that he even makes it to #10.  The Bills have two aging corners, Drayton Florence and Terrence McGee, and can put Gilmore with 2nd year player Aaron Williams and match them up on the outside for many years to come.  They play in the AFC East with the pass happy New England Patriots and their secondary has struggled against Mark Sanchez of the Jets.  Getting a ball-hawk could be enhanced if the additions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson do what they are supposed to do up front and put pressure on the passer.  Despite their interest in Barron they are deep at safety and adding Gilmore would give them a great deal of youth mixed with some veteran leadership in the secondary.  It would not shock me to see the Bills trade down and try to grab and extra 2nd rounder so they can fill the LT, WR, and impact secondary guy all within the first 2 rounds.  But if they stay put and make the pick at #10 my prediction is that Gilmore will be the guy.  Back-up pick – Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

South Carolina DE/OLB Melvin Ingram

16. New York Jets – Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina – The Jets have a few areas of need and are another team that has been rumored for a trade up but in the end I think they stay predictable and go for the pass rusher.  Syracuse DE Chandler Jones is an intriguing option at this spot but I’m not sure that Jones projects well in the 3-4 scheme that Rex Ryan loves.  Ingram has the skills to be a prototypical hybrid defensive end/linebacker.  He is skilled at rushing the passer, which the Jets are looking for, and has the savvy to play in the Rex Ryan 3-4 defense.  He’s got decent enough cover skills so that he won’t kill them but a match-up against a Gronkowski could be an issue.  Still, the reason he would go here is his pass rush abilities and he has plenty of those.  The Jets could use a receiver and Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd could still be in play but I doubt it.  They could go secondary or they could go offensive line as well but at the end of the day I think the instincts of Rex Ryan win out and the Jets go and grab the pass rusher and put him with the outstanding trio of Bart Scott, David Harris, and Calvin Pace.  It’s a safe pick and it makes the most sense.  Back-up pick – Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

Notre Dame S Harrison Smith

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans Saints) – Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame – I know that every Patriots fan in the world will be screaming for front 7, for someone to rush the passer but I don’t think it’s the pick here.  Bill Belichick and his staff rarely do what you think they are going to do.  I could see them trading this pick because it will have more value than the #31 pick but you’re probably not going to be able to get another 1st round pick next year for either pick so might as well use the higher one.  The Pats biggest problem last year was in the secondary.  They played poorly in pretty much all areas.  They had no one at safety almost all year with Patrick Chung’s injury.  Adding a player like Smith to the fold and assuming Chung can stay healthy for a season would make a huge weakness into a strength.  The Pats still need help at corner as well but Smith may be a safer pick than the corners that will be left at the end of the 1st round.  The Pats could go D-line here but I think that Belichick is weary about putting a rookie into his complex system, especially one that could be a 4-3 for several weeks then back to a 3-4 for another stretch.  Smith is a versatile safety who could help with both the run and the pass.  I just get the feeling that they are going secondary with this pick and in my opinion Smith is the best bet at this spot in the draft.  Back-up pick – Nick Perry, DE, USC 

31. New England Patriots – Trade down into the 2nd round.  You know it’s coming.  The Patriots love drafting players in the 2nd round and #31 is a prime spot for someone to move up 10 or so spots to get the player they want and Belichick will jump all over the opportunity.  He’ll probably get more than he should for the pick too.

We’ll see how I do.  If I am close enough maybe I will try the 2nd and 3rd rounds for tomorrow.  Enjoy the draft.

Follow me on Twitter

Will Peyton Manning land in the AFC East?

Peyton Manning is now a free agent and reports say that 12 teams have already made contact with him.  Miami and maybe the Jets look to be heavily involved in the recruiting process so it seems that there is at least chance that Manning lands in the AFC East.  It would be significant, not only because he would improve the Jets or the Dolphins tremendously, but also because Manning would play Tom Brady’s Patriots two times a year.  Here’s a look at the chances of Manning landing with any of the AFC East teams:

The recruiting has already started in Miami

Miami Dolphins:  Stephen Ross is ready to roll out the red carpet and whatever else he needs to lure Manning to Miami.  Miami has some good pieces in place.  Receiver Brandon Marshall can be a prime target for Manning and receiver Davone Bess catches almost everything and would quickly become one of Peyton’s favorite targets.  Reggie Bush is a threat out of the backfield.  The line as anchored by Jake Long, one of the best offensive tackles in the game.  They have a good enough defense.  Still they finished 6-10 last season and have a new coach coming in.  Ross might want Manning but perhaps new head coach Joe Philbin will want Matt Flynn, who played under him in Green Bay.  My guess is that Philbin would obviously be open to acquiring Peyton Manning for his offense but wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if the consolation prize was Flynn.  Location wise Miami is obviously an enticing destination and Manning does have a condo down on South Beach.  Stephen Ross has been trying desperately to bring a big name to Miami since he became owner but for whatever reason guys are scared off.  He missed out on Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, who leveraged the situation to secure a better job in San Fransisco.  He missed out on former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, who leveraged the situation to get himself more power at his new job in St. Louis.  Manning could leverage this situation to secure a better contract in a situation that might be a bit closer to winning, say a Kansas City or a Arizona or the next team…

Odds: 10 to 1

Ryan would love to have Peyton on his side

New York Jets: For his first two years in the league quarterback Mark Sanchez was dubbed “The Sanchise”.  The Jets made the AFC Championship game in each of his first two years.  Now after an 8-8 season they are ready to throw him into the scrap heap.  The Jets were in turmoil at the end of last season and even though Sanchez may have been the least of their worries we all know that head coach Rex Ryan loves attention and would love to bring in Peyton Manning to make fans forget about the locker room woes on 2011.  Their receiving corp has malcontent Santonio Holmes and they have Shonn Greene coming out of the backfield.  Dustin Keller is a weapon at tight end that Manning would love to utilize.  The Jets have one of the top defenses in the league.  Obviously the big story about Peyton playing for the Jets would be that he was playing in the same city as his brother.  We’ll hear the jokes about Archie and Olivia Manning’s reduced travel schedule or the Manning duplex but I think this might be more of a deterrent than an advantage.  Eli has built himself into an icon of New York City after spending much of his career in Peyton’s shadow and I’m not sure Peyton is ready to step back into his spotlight.  Also it needs to be acknowledged that the turmoil and the in-fighting in the Jets clubhouse was very real at the end of last season and Peyton would probably need assurances that it’s in the past.  The problem with that is that public enemy #1, Santonio Holmes, is virtually unmovable and Rex Ryan has too much pride to change his coaching style for one player.  Still they will go all out if they really want him and they will probably be one of the better teams to make a run at Peyton.

Odds: 20 to 1

The Bills already have a QB that's dedicated to the team

Buffalo Bills:  The Bills just signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a 6-year, $59 million extension during last season.  Fitzpatrick is no Manning but he is the most productive Bills quarterback statistically since Jim Kelly.  Also his favorite receiver, Stevie Johnson, just signed a 5-year extension himself and Fitzpatrick shaved his head into a mohawk with a #13 and the words “he’s back” shaved into the side of his head.  I don’t think he would have done that if his job was in jeopardy.  In the end, even if there was serious interest from the Bills, I don’t think they’d crack the top of the list of his preferred destinations.  They might stick their toes in the pool but I don’t see them going much further than that.

Odds: 250-1

New England Patriots:  For the past 11 seasons it’s been 1A and 1B.  They already have one, they don’t need the other.

Odds: 1,000,000 to 1

Follow me on Twitter

 

Super Bowl XLVI Preview and Prediction

In what might be the most anticipated Super Bowl rematch in its history the Patriots and the Giants will square off in a rematch of their Super Bowl battle 4 years ago in which the Giants defeated the Patriots for their first and only loss of the season.  The Patriots will no doubt have revenge on their minds but like 4 year ago the Giants match up extremely well with the Patriots.  Like the Championship games I expect this one to be close and maybe another game that comes down to the last possession.

Super Bowl XLVI – New York Giants (12-7) vrs. New England Patriots (15-3) – Sunday, February 5, 2012, 6:30 PM at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, to be broadcast on NBC and announced by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth

Both the Patriots and Giants have had a fair deal of roster turnover since their Super Bowl meeting 4 years ago but the schemes that both teams run are by and large the same.  The Patriots run more out of the 4-3 than the 3-4 on defense these days but they have basically been a hybrid team for years.  Obviously the Patriots use the middle of the field more than the edges now on offense with tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez replacing the production of receivers Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth from 2007.  Offensively the Giants were more of a ball control offense in 2007 with possession receivers like Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer.  They can stretch the field more now with speedier receivers Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham.  Here’s how the two teams match-up

Giants pass offense vrs. Patriots pass defense

Hakeem Nicks and the Giants' receiving corps could present match-up problems for the Pats

Eli Manning had a pretty good game 4 years ago but this time around both he and his supporting cast are improved.  The Patriots have struggled in one-one-one match-ups on the edges all year.  They’ve done a decent enough job getting to the quarterback but the loss of defensive end Andre Carter was a big blow to the Pats’ defensive line.  Outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich has stepped up for the Patriots towards the end of the season and in the playoffs and he’ll need to have a big game if they want to harass Eli Manning.  If they don’t put pressure on Manning it could make for a long afternoon for the Pats’ defense.  Cornerback Devin McCourty has struggled in one-on-one match-ups all season long and could have a long night if he’s put on an island with Cruz or Nicks.  Another match-up that may be problematic would be a potential match-up between cornerback/receiver Julian Edelman and one of the Giants receivers.  They all have a pretty good height advantage on Edelman and Edelman has been dealing with the likes of Lee Evans and Matthew Willis in the first two weeks of the playoffs.  The Giants are 3 deep at receiver and are likely to present a match-up problem in the slot that the previous two playoff opponents were not able to exploit.  One game plan that the Patriots could revisit is the one Bill Belichick used in 1990 with Bills’ receiver Andre Reed.  He could line up a linebacker opposite Cruz when he’s in the slot and chip him on every passing route.  Reed caught 8 balls for 62 yards in that Super Bowl but he said that was the hardest that he had ever been hit in a game.  I’m not sure that the Patriots have the personnel to do that, particularly if they are playing with 4 down linemen and only 3 linebackers.  I think Eli Manning has a big game.  The Patriots don’t have the personnel to slow down this offense enough.

Edge – Giants

Patriots pass offense vrs. Giants pass defense

Hernandez will need to step up with the ankle injury to Gronkowski

The biggest weapon in Brady’s arsenal is Rob Gronkowski and he is hobbled.  I think he may be slowed a bit in this game but that just means he won’t have as many yards after the catch.  I am guessing that between Bill O’Brien and Josh McDaniels they can come up with something to offset that.  The Giants weakness is at the back of their defense.  On paper they should have a pretty good secondary but cornerbacks Corey Webster and Aaron Ross have struggled at times this year.  The Giants also have a weak spot at middle linebacker.  Starter Chase Blackburn was picked up off of the street halfway through the year after rookie Mark Herzlich went down.  Herzlich was replacing veterans Clint Sintim and Jonathan Goff, both of whom landed on IR.  Herzlich might be back for the game but he is coming off of a broken ankle and did not have much experience to begin with.  The key guys for the Giants defense will be safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle and how they match up with Gronkowski and fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez.  Rolle and Phillips have also struggled at times this year.  Look for Hernandez and Gronkowski to possibly switch roles and Hernandez will be the one to stretch the field and Gronkowski will be used more underneath.  The Giants, like all other teams will try to keep Wes Welker in front of them.  I like the guy so I hate to say this, but don’t expect Chad Ochocinco to be a factor.  He’s just not that guy anymore.  The big elephant in the room here is the Giants pass rush.  Obviously it’s one of the best in the league.  The way I see it Bill Belichick had one major priority above all others in the past two weeks – slow down the Giants pass rush and keep Tom Brady upright.  Bill Belichick is one of the best game planners in league history and I’m guessing that he’ll have something in mind to protect Brady on Sunday night.  The Giants will get sacks but I don’t see them repeating their performance from 2007.

Edge – Patriots

Giants rush offense vrs. Patriots rush defense

Big Vince Wilfork ahs been a monster in the midle during the playoffs

The Giants have the same two running backs that they had in 2007, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.  Both of these guys are sometimes underachievers and Bradshaw comes into this game hobbled.  I expect that the rushing game won’t be a focal point of the Giants offense but Jacobs and Bradshaw can get the job done when they need to.  The wild card in this match-up is Vince Wilfork who was a monster in the AFC Championship game against the Ravens.  Wilfork wants that second ring and looked extremely motivated two weeks ago.  Worse for the Giants is that center David Baas was banged up in the NFC Championship and has been limited in the practices leading up the the Super Bowl.  That sets up a very favorable match-up for Wilfork and the Pats D-Line.  If the Giants needs to use one of their guards to help Baas expect things to open up for the rest of the Pats front 7.  They’ll need Brandon Spikes and guys like Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick to come up big if the Giants try to take Wilfork out of the game.  Still with Baas and Bradshaw banged up I think Wilfork and co. will be too much for the Giants offensive front.  The Giants will find a little success in spurts but I don’t see a ground game getting established over the course of the whole game.  I don’t think the Giants running game finds a rhythm.

Edge – Patriots

Patriots rush offense vrs. Giants rush defense

Defensive lineman Chris Canty keys the Giants run defense

The Patriots will start BenJarvus Green-Ellis at running back.  He is a similar running back to Laurence Maroney who started the game in 2007 for the Pats.  Danny Woodhead will get plenty of time but he has not been as effective recently.  I’m not sure how much you’ll see of the formation with Aaron Hernandez in the back field since Gronkowski is hobbled.  The secret about the Giants’ pass rushers is that they are pretty good against the run too.  Linebacker Mathais Kiwanuka has proven to be very versatile, which is why the Giants moved him from end to linebacker.  Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul are pretty good at stopping the run as well and Chris Canty is an addition to the middle of the Giants defense that wasn’t there in 2007.  Defensive lineman Dave Tollefson is another underrated, versatile player on the Giants front defensive line.  Again I see the Patriots failing to get in a rhythm with the ground game because their assets on offense are in the pass game and they will go back to their crutch if they feel that they are not being successful against the run.  The Giants have really stepped up their run defense in the end of the season and the playoffs so I don’t expect the Patriots to run much on the Giants.  This one will be won by air.

Edge – Giants

One of these QBs will add another ring to their resume

So there you have it, as far as match-ups go the tally is New England Patriots 2 and New York Giants 2.  We could bring Special Teams into the conversation but both teams have good kickers, punters, and coverage units.  Like the game in 1990 between the Giants and Bills, this one is very evenly matched.  The game will be won in the air and the quarterbacks will be key in the game.  Both are former Super Bowl MVPs and both enjoyed one of their better seasons to date this year.  This is cliche, and obvious, but the game will come down to whoever protects the ball better.  If there are no turnovers in the game I give a slight edge to the Giants.  However there have only been two Super Bowls in the 45 previous games that have ended with no turnovers by either team.  Considering that the Patriots have Brady, who has been intercepted only once in 155 Super Bowl pass attempts, and Green-Ellis, who has never lost a fumble in his life, I think they are the ones who are less likely to turn it over.  Still, when Eli Manning is bad he is very bad and when he is good he is very, very good.  Right now he is good.  Does he turn the ball over?  Maybe it comes down to Bradshaw and Jacobs?  Either way you slice it this one is a tough game to pick.  I almost want to flip a coin on it.  I hate to do a gimmick prediction but I’ll do it anyway (Just call me Chris Berman).  Like 21 years ago neither team will turn the ball over.  There will be a few more points scored in this one than the 1990 game between the Giants and Bills.  The Patriots will lead 28-27 and Eli will try to rally the Giants down the field and set Lawrence Tynes up for the game winning 47 yard field goal.  The kick will sail wide right and the Patriots win by a point.

Final Score Prediction:  New England Patriots 28, New York Giants 27

Follow me on Twitter

Best Super Bowls of all-time – #2 – Super Bowl XLII – New York Giants vrs. New England Patriots

The New England Patriots finished the 2007 season as the first team to go undefeated in the regular season since the Miami Dolphins in 1972.  They were the first team to win all 16 games since the NFL season was expanded to 16 games in 1978.  They had easily beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars and the San Diego Chargers at home in their two playoff games.  On the other side the New York Giants earned a wild card berth in the NFC with their 10-6 record.  They beat Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Green Bay all on the road to earn a spot in the Super Bowl.  They were all that was standing in the way of perfection for the New England Patriots.

Super Bowl XLII – New York Giants vrs. New England Patriots – February 3, 2008, broadcast on FOX, announced by Joe Buck and Troy Aikman

Maroney scored the first TD of the game in the 1st quarter

The Giants took the ball after the opening kickoff and decided that the best defense against the Patriots offense was keeping them off of the field.  They embarked on a 16 play drive that took almost a full ten minutes off of the 1st quarter clock.  The Giants marched 77 yards before the Patriots finally stopped them and Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes came on to kick a 32 yard field goal and give the Giants an early 3-0 lead.  The Patriots responded quickly, aided by a 43 yard kick return for running back Laurence Maroney to their own 44 yard line.  Maroney started the drive off with two runs for 15 total yards.  Brady then followed up by hitting 3 consecutive passes.  The Giants defense held the Pats to a 3rd and 10 but linebacker Antonio Pierce interfered with tight end Ben Watson on the 3rd down pass in the end zone to give the Pats 1st and goal from the 1.  Maroney went in from a yard out two plays later to give the Pats a 7-0 lead.  Those were the only two drives of the 1st quarter.  Early in the 2nd quarter the Giants moved down the field when quarterback Eli Manning hit receiver Amani Toomer with a 38 yard pass completion on 3rd and 7 to move the ball to the New England 19 yard line.  Three plays later Manning was intercepted by cornerback Ellis Hobbs to end the drive and the scoring threat for the Giants.  The teams traded punts for most of the remainder of the first half.  Tom Brady tried to rally the Pats offense at the end of the half and he hit consecutive 18 yard passes to Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth.  At the Giants 44 ayrd line Brady was sacked for the 3rd time in the half, this time defensive end Justin Tuck forced a fumble and fellow defensive end Osi Umenyiora recovered to end the Pats’ threat.  The halftime score was 7-3.

The Pats took the ball first in the 2nd half and went on a drive that was extended by a shrewd Belichick challenge on a 4th down and 2 punt play when he saw that the Giants had 12 men on the field.  The challenge gave the Pats a first down and they advanced the ball to the Giants 25 yard line.  Brady was sacked once again, this time by defensive end Michael Strahan and gave the Pats a 4th and 13 from the Giants 31 yard line.  Belichick decided to forego the long field goal attempt and go for it.  Brady’s pass to receiver Jabar Gaffney was wide and the Pats turned it over on downs.  The 3rd quarter ended with neither team scoring and the Super Bowl went into the final quarter with a score of 7-3 New England.

Tyree made a miraculous catch to keep the Giants' final drive alive

Manning started off the 4th quarter with a big 45 yard pass to tight end Kevin Boss.  Four plays later Manning hit receiver Steve Smith with a big 17 yard completion on 3rd down to keep the drive alive.  Manning ended the 7 play drive by finding receiver David Tyree from 5 yards out for the Giants’ 1st TD of the game and a 10-7 4th quarter lead.  The two teams traded punts until the Pats took over at their own 20 with 7:54 left to go in the game.  Brady quickly took the Pats down the field with a 5 yard pass to receiver Wes Welker and a 10 yard completion to Moss.  Maroney took the ball down to their own 44 yard line with a 9 yard run.  Brady continued to work methodically, finding Welker for 13 more yards and then finding running back Kevin Faulk for 4.  He once again hit Welker with a 10 yard completion, giving the Pats 1st and 10 from the Giants 29 yard line.  Brady hit Moss for 11 yards and then Faulk for 12 giving the Pats a 1st and goal from the Giants’ 6 yard line.  After missing on his first two throws Brady hit Moss on 3rd and goal after Giants cornerback Corey Webster slipped.  The Patriots took the 14-10 lead with 2:42 left to play.

Burress scores the game winning touchdown

Manning had one last chance and needed to get into the end zone.  The Giants’ drive started from their own 17 yard line.  Manning hit his first two passes to Toomer for 20 yards but the Giants were quickly faced with a 4th and 1.  Big Giants running back Brandon Jacobs gained two yards on 4th down to keep the Giants alive.  With 1:15 remaining Manning threw a pass right into the hands of Pats’ cornerback Asante Samuel but Samuel couldn’t hold on to the ball and the Giants were still alive.  On the next play, a 3rd and 5 from the Giants’ 44 yard line, the Pats had Manning dead in the backfield.  Manning turned around to allude linebacker Adalius Thomas but went right into the hands of defensive ends Jarvis Green and Richard Seymour.  Manning broke out of their grasps and flung the ball downfield to Tyree who leaped over safety Rodney Harrison and grabbed the ball with one hand and held it against his helmet as he went to the ground.  He never lost control of the ball and came down with the 32 yard pass completion.  3 plays later, on 3rd down and 11, Manning found receiver Steve Smith to once again keep the drive going for the Giants.  That gave the Giants a 1st and 10 from the Patriots 13 yard line.  Manning found receiver Plaxico Burress wide open in the end zone on the next play for the touchdown to put the Giants ahead 17-14 with :35 to go in the game.  Brady and the Pats had one last-ditch effort to score and salvage their perfect season but defensive tackle Jay Alford sacked Brady on 2nd down and 10 and Brady missed on his last two pass attempts.  The perfect season was dead and the Giants were Super Bowl champions.

Final Score: New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14

The Patriots seemed destined for a 19-0 season but the Giants weren’t about to be a footnote in history.  It’s hard to quantify the biggest upset in NFL history but this might have been the most historic as the Giants ruined the undefeated season.  The two teams combined for 73 points just a month earlier when they met in the regular season but after only combining for 10 points in the first 3 quarters of this game they treated us to a 3 touchdown 4th quarter filled with drama and great moments.  Of all of the catches in Super Bowl history Tyree’s probably ranks as the best.

Follow me on Twitter