The Super Bowl By The Numbers

Super Bowl XLVII is Sunday.  I did this last year and am updating again with some more facts from this year’s game:

  • CBS will broadcast their 18th Super Bowl this Sunday.  That is more than any other network.  NBC is in 2nd place with 17 Super Bowl broadcasts.
  • Today will be Super Bowl #8 at the Superdome

    Today will be Super Bowl #8 at the Superdome

    This year’s Super Bowl will be the 8th at the Louisiana Superdome.  The city of New Orleans has now hosted 11 Super Bowls, pulling one ahead of the city of Miami for the most all-time.  Miami has hosted 5 at the Orange Bowl and 5 at Sun Life Stadium.  New Orleans hosted 3 at Tulane Stadium in addition to the 8 at the Superdome.

  • Pat Summerall has announced the most Super Bowls with 11.  Al Michaels and Dick Enberg are tied for 2nd all-time 2nd all-time when he announces his 8th Super Bowl.  John Madden has the most appearances as colour-man with 11 games.
  • Sunday’s game will be the 3rd Super Bowl that Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have called together.  This will be Simms’ 5th Super Bowl broadcast having previously called 2 with Greg Gumbel.
  • Jack Buck announced 16 Super Bowls on the radio, most all-time.
  • The Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers each have 8 Super Bowl appearances, tied for the most all-time.
  • The Steelers has 6 Super Bowl victories, which is the most all-time.  The 49ers look to match them this year.
  • There have been 6 re-matches in Super Bowl history.  The Cowboys and the Steelers are the only two teams to play each other in the Super Bowl 3 times.
  • Former Cowboy and 49er Charles Haley 5 Super Bowl rings - more than any other player

    Former Cowboy and 49er Charles Haley 5 Super Bowl rings – more than any other player

    Defensive End Charles Haley has the most Super Bowl victories with 5.  He won 2 with the San Fransisco 49ers and 3 with the Dallas Cowboys

  • One player has played in 6 Super Bowls.  Defensive lineman Mike Lodish played in 4 with the Buffalo Bills and 2 with the Denver Broncos.  Wide receiver Don Beebe played in 4 with the Buffalo Bills and 1 with the Green Bay Packers but was on injured reserve in 1997 when the Packers went to their 2nd straight Super Bowl.
  • The longest pass play in Super Bowl history was a 85 yard touchdown pass from Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme to WR Muhsin Muhammad in Super Bowl XXXVIII.  The longest running play was a 75 yard touchdown run by Pittsburgh Steelers running back Willie Parker in Super Bowl XL.
  • The longest interception return was a 100 yard TD return by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison in Super Bowl XLIII.  That was also the longest play in Super Bowl history.  The longest fumble return in Super Bowl history was Dallas Cowboys’ defensive tackle Leon Lett’s infamous 64 yard fumble return in Super Bowl XXVII.  Lett fumbled the ball back to the Bills right before he reached the end zone when wide receiver Don Beebe came from behind to knock the ball loose.
  • The longest field goal in Super Bowl history is a 54 yard field goal from Buffalo Bills kicker Steve Christie in Super Bowl XXVIII.  The longest punt in Super Bowl history was a 63 yarder by Cincinnati Bengals punter Lee Johnson in Super Bowl XXIII.
  • The longest kickoff return in Super Bowl history was a 99 yard TD return by Green Bay Packers receiver Desmond Howard in Super Bowl XXXI.  The longest punt return in Super Bowl history was a 45 yard return by San Fransisco 49ers receiver John Taylor in Super Bowl XXIII.  No punt has ever been returned for a TD in the Super Bowl.
  • The highest scoring Super Bowl of all-time was Super Bowl XXIX in which the San Fransisco 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers by a score of 49-26.  There were 75 total points scored in the game.
  • MIA K Garo Yepremian's botch lead to the Redskins' only TD in the 1972 game

    MIA K Garo Yepremian’s botch lead to the Redskins’ only TD in the 1972 game

    The lowest scoring Super Bowl in history was Super Bowl VII in which the Miami Dolphins defeated the Washington Redskins by a score of 14-7.  21 total points were scored in that one.

  • The largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history was Super Bowl XXIV in which the San Fransisco 49ers defeated the Denver Broncos by a score of 55-10.
  • The smallest margin of victory in Super Bowl history was Super Bowl XXV in which the New York Giants defeated the Buffalo Bills by a score of 20-19.
  • Don Shula has coached the most games in Super Bowl history with 6.  He coached 1 for the Baltimore Colts and 5 for the Miami Dolphins.  Chuck Noll has won the most Super Bowls as a head coach, winning 4 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • The oldest coach ever to win a Super Bowl was St. Louis Rams head coach Dick Vermeil in Super Bowl XXXIV.  He was 63 years and 92 days old when he won that game.  The youngest coach ever to win a Super Bowl was Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in Super Bowl XLIII.  He was 36 years and 341 days when he won it.
  • No head coach has ever won a Super Bowl with two different teams.
  • Obviously this year’s game will be the first time that the two head coaches in the Super Bowl – Jim Harbaugh of the San Fransisco 49ers and John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens – are brothers
  • The Super Bowl has never gone into overtime.
  • The 49ers are 5-0 all-time in the Super Bowl.  They are looking for their 6th Super Bowl win which would tie them for the most all-time.  The Steelers are 6-2 in the Super Bowl all-time.
  • The Ravens are 1-0 in the Super Bowl.  Their only appearance came back after the 2000 season when they defeated the New York Giants 34-7.  Ray Lewis was the MVP of that Super Bowl.
  • Joe Montana has won Super Bowl MVP 3 times, more than anyone in Super Bowl history.  Colin Kaepernick will try to join Montana and Steve Young as a Super Bowl MVP starting quarterback for the 49ers.  In all but one of the 5 previous Super Bowl wins for the 49ers has the starting quarterback won the game’s MVP.

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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

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Best Super Bowls of all-time – #1 – Super Bowl XXV – New York Giants vrs. Buffalo Bills

21 years later this game is still the standard in which all Super Bowls should be measured against.  Both teams were evenly match, they both had identical 13-3 regular season records.  The Giants were known for a ball control offense and a smash mouth defense.  The Bills were known for their vaunted K-Gun offense and a bend but don’t break defense.  In other words, they were the exact opposites on both sides of the ball which would make for an interesting match-up.

Super Bowl XXV – New York Giants vrs. Buffalo Bills – January 27, 1991, broadcast on ABC, announced by Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Dan Dierdorf

Lofton made a circus one handed grab off of a tipped pass to set up the Bills first FG

The Giants defense stood tall early and they forced a punt on Jim Kelly and the Bills’ first offensive possession.  The Giants, led by backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler who was filling in for an injured Phil Simms, set their game plan into motion.  They held onto the ball for 6:15 of game time on their first drive.  They went 58 yards on 10 plays, paced by running back Ottis “O.J.” Anderson, and scored on a 28 yard field goal from kicker Matt Bahr.  They ran a balanced offense, running both 5 passing and rushing plays each on the drive.  After the Giants’ scoring drive the Bills decided to put their own gameplan in motion.  Kelly and the Bills responded with a 5 play, 66 yard drive to tie the game.  The biggest play of the drive was a 61 yard pass to receiver James Lofton, which he caught after a defender tipped the ball in the air.  Kicker Scott Norwood made a 23 yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3.  After forcing a punt the Bills went back to work on offense.  Kelly led a 12 play drive in which the team didn’t face one 3rd down play.  It was vintage K-Gun offense that saw Kelly hit 6 passes in a row at one point, including 4 to receiver Andre Reed.  Running back Don Smith capped off the drive by scoring from a yard out to give the Bills a 10-3 lead.

The two teams traded punts and the Giants were pinned back at their own 7 yard line.  Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith sacked Hostetler in the end zone on 2nd down for a safety and gave the Bills a 12-3 lead.  The defenses held for the remainder of the 1st half until the Giants got the ball back at their own 13 yard line with 3:43 left.  The Giants went away from their plodding offensive game plan to quickly move the ball down-field before the half.  Hostetler brought the Giants down the field in the two minute offense and connected with receiver Stephen Baker on a 14 yard TD throw with :25 left in the half to make the score 12-10.

O.J. Anderson paced the Giants' ball control offense

The Giants got the ball back at the beginning of the 3rd quarter and re-employed their ball control offense.  They used 9:29 of clock time on 14 plays to start off the half.  The Giants converted 4 3rd downs on the drive, including a 14 yard pass from Hostetler to receiver Mark Ingram on 3rd and 13.  Ottis Anderson scored from a yard out on the 14th play of the drive to give the Giants the lead at 17-12.  The Bills had to punt on their first possession of the second half and the Giants were in position to distance themselves on the scoreboard.  They drove down to the Bills’ 35 yard line but Bruce Smith tackled Anderson for a 2 yard loss on 4th down and 2 to turn the ball back over to the Bills.  The Bills offense got a second wind after that play and they stormed back down the field on 4 plays, taking the ball 63 yards down the field.  Running back Thurman Thomas went in from 31 yards out on the first play of the 4th quarter to give the Bills a 19-17 lead.

Norwood walks off the field after his possible game winner sailed right of the post

There was one quarter to play and only 2 points separated the two teams.  The game was going as advertised, two teams that were evenly matched going at it, neither team giving an inch.  The Giants went back to work with their ball control offense on the very next drive.  The Bills defenders were barely off the field, after the offense only ran 4 plays before scoring.  The Giants took 7:32 off of the clock on the 14 plays they ran on the next drive.  Tight end Mark Bavaro caught 7 balls on the drive and the Giants drove the ball down all the way to the Bills 3 yard line.  Hostetler’s 3rd and goal pass was broken up by Bills linebacker Cornelius Bennett and the Bills held the Giants to a field goal.  Bahr kicked the 20 yard field goal to give the Giants a 20-19 lead.  The Bills were forced to punt on their next drive but they pinned the Giants deep in their own territory.  When the Giants couldn’t convert a 1st down they punted the ball back to the Bills with 2:16 left on the clock.  The Bills led an unorthodox two-minute drive filled with scrambles by Kelly (he was not known for his legs) and draw plays to Thomas.  The Bills ran a draw to Thomas with 29 seconds left on the clock at the Giants 40 yard line.  Thomas gained 11 yards but Giants cornerback Mark Collins tackled Thomas before he could get out of bounds.  This forced the Bills to get up and spike the ball at the line as they had no timeouts.  Kelly spiked the ball with about :08 left but the tackle by Collins cost the Bills about :10 of clock time which would have been enough time to run one more play.  Instead they called on kicker Scott Norwood to kick a game winning 47 yard field goal with :08 left.  Norwood was not a great long range kicker and there was a breeze in the outdoor stadium in Tampa.  Norwood’s kick had the distance but it sailed wide right and the Giants celebrate as Super Bowl Champions as Norwood and the Bills walked off the field in disappointment.

Final Score:  New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19

With the exception of Norwood you could argue that everyone had a good game.  It was the most efficient Super Bowl ever played.  Kelly finished 18 of 30 for 212 yards and no interceptions.  Hostetler finished 20 of 32 for 222 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.  Thomas had 135 yards rushing, 190 yards of total offense and a touchdown.  Anderson finished with 102 yards and a touchdown.  Neither team turned the ball over, the first time that has ever happened in the Super Bowl (Rams vrs. Titans was the 2nd and only other time).  The thing I love the most about this game was that it ended on a mistake.  Too often we hear about guys like Brady, Montana, Rice, Bradshaw and an almost un-humanlike element to them.  The truth is athletes are humans just like the rest of us.  They are the best the same way the world’s best heart surgeon is the best in the world at what he does – natural talent and the drive to be the best.  Some people don’t have that combination, some do.  Scott Norwood missed the field goal, not because he was a bad kicker but because he’s human.  That’s the way the ball falls sometimes.  It doesn’t make a guy like Norwood any better or worse of a person but things like this is what makes sports so great – the unpredictability.  The possibility that you could succeed or you could fail at any given moment.

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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.

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Long road for Herzlich led to the Super Bowl

After the 2008 NCAA season Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich was voted the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and named a 1st team All-American.  Herzlich was a monster on the football field that year for the Eagles, tallying 110 tackles to go along with 6 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.  NFL scouts projected Herzlich to be a 2nd round pick in the NFL draft if he came out after his junior season but Herzlich decided to go back to school, earn a degree, and try to improve his draft stock in his senior season in hopes of becoming a 1st round pick in the 2010 NFL draft.  It turned out that football was the least of Herzlich’s concerns the following year.

Mark Herzlich was the heart and soul of B.C.'s defense before the diagnosis

During the winter and spring months of early 2009 Herzlich experienced extreme discomfort in his left leg.  He would wake up in the middle of the night with excruciating pain.  In May of 2009 Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.  The initial prognosis was scary for Herzlich.  The doctors even discussed amputating his leg within hours of the initial diagnosis if the bone was damaged to the point where it would snap in two by simply walking on it.  Herzlich announced through the school on May 14, 2009 his diagnosis.  “Obviously, I was shocked. I had been extremely focused on preparing for my senior season at Boston College and for life beyond that.  Now, I must channel all that energy into facing my toughest opponent yet, and that is exactly what I will do. . . . At this point, I do not know what this means for my football future, but I am determined to rid my body of this disease so that I can put that uniform back on.  Thank you in advance for your prayers and concern.  Together, we will fight this and win.”  Football suddenly seemed like a pipe dream for a guy who was on the cusp of the NFL.

Herzlich’s course of treatment was aggressive chemotherapy and radiation.  Eventually he would have to undergo surgery to take out the infected bone and replace it with a cadaver bone which would seriously impair his ability to even be able to run ever again, let alone play football.  Herzlich kept going with the intense treatment and eventually the tumor in his bone had shrunk so much that the doctors gave him a choice – you can have the surgery or since the chemo and radiation was working so well you can roll the dice and forego the surgery.  After vast consultation with doctors, family, friends, and a lot of thought Herzlich decided to attempt to save his football career and forego the surgery.  Herzlich continued with his treatment and would go to a radiation session in the morning and then have a chemotherapy session in the afternoon and then another radiation session 6 hours after the original one.  He had to have a shot into his stomach at home, which he administered himself.  He was given chemotherapy intravenously, sometimes for 5 hours at a time.  He went through 7 months of aggressive chemotherapy and radiation and on October 3, 2009 after he was done with his treatment he went live on ESPN College Gameday from the campus of Boston College and announced that he was cancer free.  He was given a medical red shirt for the 2009 season and was eligible to return to B.C. for a red shirt senior season in 2010.

Herzlich went from hospital room to Super Bowl in the span of 2 1/2 years

On September 24, 2010, 16 months after doctors had told him that he may never walk again and if the cancer had spread he’d have a 10% chance of survival, Mark Herzlich led the Boston College Eagles onto the field for their opening day game against Weber State.  Herzlich recorded 5 tackles in the Eagles’ 38-20 win.  Herzlich finished the season by playing in all of B.C.’s 13 games and recorded 65 tackles and 4 interceptions.  He graduated from Boston College and headed to Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine to realize his dream of playing in the NFL, a dream that looked all but crushed a year before.  Herzlich was put through the ringer in Indy with a string of medical tests and tough questions from NFL scouts about how his body and mind would react to what he had been through the previous year.  In the end NFL teams were scared off by the medical uncertainty and Herzlich was not picked in any of the 7 rounds of the 2011 NFL draft.  What was worse was that rather than getting calls from NFL teams immediately after the draft, as was customary for undrafted players, the NFL was in a lockout so the undrafted players had to wait until the lockout was lifted to find their new teams.  It may have been a blessing in disguise for Herzlich because when the lockout was lifted over 3 months later Herzlich’s medicals were standing firm and teams like the Eagles, the Ravens, the Patriots, and the New York Giants came calling.  Herzlich chose the New York Giants because of their strong ties to Boston College.  Co-Owner John Mara was an alumni, Head Coach Tom Coughlin was the former coach of B.C. and Herzlich would be able to play with fellow alumni Chris Snee and Mathias Kiwunuka.

Herzlich made the Giants out of camp and even started two games in the middle of his rookie season before a broken ankle put him on the shelf.  Herzlich practiced on a limited basis during the week leading up to the NFC Championship game against the 49ers and the two weeks of recovery since should give him a good chance to play in the Super Bowl.  After already having been through so much Herzlich hopes to play in his 1st Super Bowl at just the age of 24.  A win on Sunday would be nice for Herzlich but he’s already had the biggest win of his life when he beat cancer.  Everything else is just gravy but a Lombardi Trophy would make more some mighty fine gravy.

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NFL Championship Weekend Predictions

The time has come for me to make my picks.  It should make for an exciting championship weekend, as the two games are far better match-ups than people may give them credit for.  My favorite storyline of the weekend is the young upstart Harbaugh brothers, 49 year old John in his 4th season with the Ravens and 48 year old Jim in his 1st season with the 49ers, going against 59 year old Bill Belichick, with 17 seasons and 175 wins (most among active coaches) under his belt and Tom Coughlin, with 16 seasons and 129 wins (4th most among active coaches) under his.  A lot of people expect to see a 2007 rematch between longtime rivals and coaching mates Belichick and Coughlin but I wouldn’t be too quick to count the Harbaugh bros. out just yet.  They are tough games to pick but here are my predictions for Championship Sunday:

AFC Championship Game – Baltimore Ravens (13-4) at New England Patriots (14-3), 3:00 PM (CBS)

Tom Brady will play in his 6th AFC Championship game

The top two seeds meet in Foxboro on Sunday to determine the AFC representative in the Super Bowl.   The Patriots have averaged 40 points in the last 4 games but two of those games were against the same opponent, the Denver Broncos.  I am, a bit surprisingly to be honest, in the minority that think that the Patriots have not been tested enough this year.  The Baltimore Ravens were the 3rd best defense in both points and yards allowed this season.  The only defense the Patriots played all year that had a statistically better defense was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were 1st in both yards and points per game.  The Pats only managed 17 points against them.  There’s been a myth perpetuated in the last few weeks that the Broncos had a good defense because they had two guys that racked up a lot of sacks..  They were 20th in yards per game and 24th in points per game.  In other words they weren’t very good.  The other team they faced in the last 4 games was the Buffalo Bills who were 26th in yards per game and 30th in points per game.  Meanwhile the team that they didn’t score 40 points against, the Miami Dolphins, were 15th in total yards and 6th in total points.  The point is despite the offensive proficiency throughout the season the Pats’ production seemed to drop off against better defenses.  A lot of people are expecting big numbers for the Pats offense this Sunday.  I am not.  Does that mean that I am picking the Ravens to win?  Not necessarily.  How for real is the Patriots defense that we saw last week against the Broncos?  Let’s go back to the numbers.  The Broncos’ offense was 23rd in yards per game and 25th in points per game for the regular season.  Contrast that with the Ravens who were 15th in yards per game and 12th in points per game.  The Ravens are a far more versatile team on both sides of the ball.

Terrell Suggs has been a thorn in Brady's side

Obviously the key for the game is Ravens running back Ray Rice.  The Ravens were 10th in rushing yards per game during the regular season.  The Patriots were 17th in rushing yards given up per game.  It will be a tough match-up and Rice has had success against the Pats in the past.  Receiver Anquan Boldin will be a tough match-up for the Pats as he is a superior route runner and the Pats DB’s have struggled in one-on-one match-ups with receivers like Boldinall season.  Joe Flacco can’t make mistakes, if he turns the ball over he might lose the game for the Ravens.  Obviously the way to neutralize Tom Brady is to put on a pass rush and make him uncomfortable in the pocket.  Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has had a great deal of success against Brady and the Pats.  The Ravens are strong up front so one of the more intersting match-ups will be the middle linebackers and safeties of the Ravens vrs. the tight ends of the Pats.  Brady had better watch out if Ed Reed is shadowing Rob Gronkowski all game because, as T.J. Yates found out last week, if you keep throwing it Ed Reed’s way he’ll eventually get his hands on one.  Like Flacco Brady will have to play flawless football because a turnover may gave the Ravens offense the extra opportunity that they need to make a play to win the game.  The receivers will be important this game for Brady as they may have to use the outside of the field more.  That means they need big games from Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco.  The x-factor for the Ravens defense may be safety Bernard Pollard (yes, that Bernard Pollard).  He is the weak link up the middle for the Ravens but he is still pretty good.  Ultimately this game will come down to turnovers and pressure on the quarterback.  Flacco was harassed all day by the Texans front 7, but they are a much superior to the front 7 than that of the Pats.  Brady had all day to throw last week but the Ravens are much more stout than the Broncos on defense.  This game is going to be close.  I don’t see the Patriots scoring more than 24 points in the game.  The question is can the Ravens score 24 points or more in the game?  I am going to go very conservative with this pick and say that both teams play a clean game and Brady makes at least one more play than Flacco for a Pats win.  I can see it going the other way too though.  Maybe whoever has the ball last.  Either way I am expecting a good game, not a blowout this Sunday at Gillette.

Prediction: New England Patriots 24, Baltimore Ravens 21

NFC Championship Game: New York Giants (11-7) at San Fransisco 49ers (14-3), 6:30 PM (FOX)

Patrick Willis will have to keep the Giants ground game in check

21 years ago these two teams faced off in a great showdown between Bill Parcells’ Giants and George Seifert’s 49ers.  The Giants won that game without even scoring a touchdown on Matt Bahr’s game winning last second field goal.  The Giants won that day by a score of 15-13.  While I expect a few more points to be scored this weekend look for defense to reign again in San Fransisco.  The Niners were consistently good all season on defense.  They finished 4th in the NFL in yards given up per game and 2nd in points given up per game.  The Giants were a mess on defense most of the year due to injuries and underachievement.  They were 27th in yards given up per game and 25th in points per game.  The Giants defense has heat up in the last month however.  They got one of their injuries linebackers, Michael Boley, back for the playoffs and might get another, Mark Herzlich, back for this game.  Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Uymeniora, and Mathias Kiwanuka have all stepped up their games considerably these past few weeks.  They always had the talent to do it and now it’s showing.  They match up well against the 49ers.  The Niners receivers are nothing special, there are no Jerry Rice’s on this team.  That’s good for the Giants because their weakness on defense is on the edges.  Frank Gore is key for the Niners, much like Ray Rice is for the Ravens.  If Gore gets going that will open up play action and Alex Smith will be able to use the middle of the field with Vernon Davis.  The Giants need to get pressure on Smith and force a mistake.  Smith is a game manager, much like Joe Flacco, and if he turns the ball over then he is not doing his job.  Look for the Giants to bring heavy pressure early.

Victor Cruz went from Zoomass to the NFC Championship Game

On the other side of the field it is all about Eli Manning.  Much like his brother and Tom Brady he will pick you apart if you don’t get pressure on him.  Manning has three dependable targets in Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham, and Hakeem Nicks.  He likes to use Bear Pascoe and Jake Ballard in the middle of the field.  The Niners have to get the Smith brothers from another mother going quickly.  Justin Smith can get pressure from any spot on the line and Aldon Smith is one of the best hybrid end/linebackers to come into the league in the last few years.  The 49ers secondary is pretty good but you can beat Donte Whitner with your tight ends and their top cornerback Carlos Rogers is a gambler.  If a Nicks or a Cruz can get behind him then it’s off to the races.  The 49ers will key in on stopping running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.  They will try to make Eli Manning beat them on his own.  Not that he can’t do it, but it will make it easier for the Niners to game plan for just Eli and not Eli and the running game.  Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman were key in stopping the run and keeping everything in front of them last week against the Saints.  They will need to do the same thing this week against the Giants offense.  Still, this Giants run looks eerily similar to the one of 2007.  If you don’t remember they beat Green Bay in Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game and went on to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.  But this is a new year and the Niners are a different opponent.  I need to apologize to Alex Smith for expressing doubt in his ability to lead the Niners deep into the playoffs.  He played a hell of a game last weekend against the Saints, particularly in the 4th quarter, but I have to admit that he has not totally swayed me.  The Giants represent a different kind of challenge than the Saints.  They will bring more pressure.  Last week Gregg Williams had to dial up blitz after blitz to generate pressure on Smith which led to more favorable one-on-one match-ups down the field for the 49ers.  The Giants will put pressure on you with a 4 man front which means they can double team and put a shadow on tight end Vernon Davis.  Eli Manning will face a far tougher test this week when he faces the 49ers but Eli has proven himself to be a big game quarterback.  I know people in New England are dying for a 2007 re-match and I hate to appease the masses but I think that Eli and the Giants will be too much for the Niners who will turn the ball over at least twice.  Like I said earlier, I can see the Ravens winning and likewise I can see the 49ers winning this one, especially in their home stadium but I have to go with the Giants on this one with a gun to my head.

Prediction: New York Giants 27, San Fransisco 49ers 20

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NFC Wild Card Round Preview

Usually the AFC is the main course of the first round of the playoffs with the NFC having a laugher thrown in there, usually with the NFC West involved.  The 49ers put an end to that and left us with two good match-ups this weekend.  Here’s my preview:

Detroit Lions (10-6) at New Orleans Saints (13-3), Saturday, Jan. 7, 8:00 PM, NBC

Brees hopes to add a Super Bowl title to his historic season

The Lions have not been to the playoffs since 1999.  They face a tall task in their first appearance back as they must go up against the team with the best record playing in the round, the New Orleans Saints.  The Lions had a chance to play out of this game if they had beaten the Packers and their back-up quarterback Matt Flynn last weekend.  Instead they lost by a score of 45-41 and Flynn threw for 480 yards and 6 TDs.  Imagine what an offense led by Drew Brees can do to their pass defense?  The Saints offense obviously matches up well with the Lions defense.  They have so many weapons to account for – Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, Darren Sproles – how can Detroit possibly account for all of them.  On defense the Lions rely on their front 7 led by star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.  Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch is very active in the middle.  Their secondary is the weak spot of their defense and that obviously does not bode well for the Lions in their match-up against the Saints offense.  Offensively the Lions are explosive themselves with quarterback Matthew Stafford and all-world receiver Calvin Johnson.  Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, and Tony Scheffler add some horizontal threats to Johnson’s vertical threat.  The Saints are not much better than the Lions against the pass.  They are better in the front 7 with Jonathan Vilma and Sedrick Ellis manning the middle of the field.  Jabrari Greer and Tracy Porter are opportunistic corners and will take advantage of mistakes if Stafford makes them.  These two teams are both tougher against the run but obviously the others offense doesn’t rely on the running game as much as the pass.  The question will be can the Lions offense keep up with the Saints?  When it’s all said and done I think the Saints will pull away from the Lions but not before the Lions light up the scoreboard a little bit themselves.  The Saints will use the home field advantage to create some turnovers that will be the difference in a Saints win.

Prediction – New Orleans Saints 45, Detroit Lions 31

Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at New York Giants (9-7), Sunday, Jan. 8th, 1:00 PM, FOX

Gonzalez is searching for the 1st playoff win in his long career

This might be the best game of the week and it might end up the closest.  The Giants could be one of the better teams in the league when they put their minds to it.  The Falcons will be desperate for a win.  Matt Ryan would love to shake the stigma that he is not a postseason quarterback and Tony Gonzalez would love to win at least one playoff game in his Hall of Fame career.  Eli Manning has done it before and he leads an offense that is explosive when healthy.  UMass product Victor Cruz has been a revelation for the Giants offense and Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham make great compliments when healthy.  The running game is key for the Giants as they need to get the trio of Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Derrick Ward off and running.  Atlanta is another defensive disappointment.  Defensive end John Abraham can still get to the quarterback.  Cornerback Dunta Robinson is a punishing and sometimes dirty hitter.  If they let Manning sit back in the pocket it could make for a long day for the Falcons defense.  On offense Matty Ice and Gonzalez will look to win their first playoff game.  Their best player on offense is Michael Turner who may be the most underrated running back in the league.  Roddy White and Julio Jones can both stretch the field but both are prone to drops.  Defensively the Giants are all about the pass rush.  They are weak at LB and incredibly weak at cornerback.  It’s up to the guys up front, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Jason Pierre-Paul.  That trio can give opposing quarterbacks nightmares.  Their linebackers have suffered injuries but they get outside linebacker Michael Boley back for this game.  Him and Mathias Kiwanuka give them a good duo of outside linebackers.  Cornerbacks Aaron Ross and Corey Webster are underachievers but they will get plenty of help over the top from safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle.  The key though will be stopping Turner.  If he has a big day that will open things up for Ryan and the Falcons’ passing game.  I don’t think this will be much of a defensive game so again turnovers and quarterback pressure will be key.  I like the Giants pass rush more and they’ll have the hometown crowd behind them in the first playoff game at the new stadium.  I say the Giants take this one by a touchdown.

Prediction – New York Giants 31, Atlanta Falcons 24

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Thoughts on Giants/Patriots

All good things must come to an end but for Patriots fans the long standing home winning streak for the Tom Brady-led end thanks to a nightmarish deja vu experience at the hands of the New York Giants.  The Giants stunned the Pats in near identical fashion as they did back in the Super Bowl 4 years ago.  It was eerily similar but the fact is the Pats have now lost two in a row and have moved into a three way tie with the Jets and the Bills in the AFC East.  Some thoughts on the game:

  • Tom Brady is just a bit off this year.  I’m not sure what it is.  Lack of chemistry with some of his newer receivers…maybe the offensive line isn’t giving him enough time…I’m not too sure.  One dangerous quality that Brady is starting to show, one that he has lacked and it’s separated him from virtually all other QBs in the league, is that he is starting to only trust two guys – Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski.  INT numbers go up when you only fixate on so many guys.
  • Speaking of Brady and his INTs, it’s no coincidence that so many defensive linemen are tipping Brady passes.  It’s a design by defenses to slow down the quick and efficient Brady attack.  All it takes is a little bit of ball and some luck to make a big play for your defense.
  • Julian Edelman shouldn’t have been benched because he got arrested last week, he should be benched because he is simply not that good at football.
  • Defensively the Pats were not bad, obviously playing a half of shutout football is doing your job, but they seemed to have lost some steam in the 2nd half.
  • Haynesworth made a few plays Sunday so it was somewhat of a surprise hearing that he got cut today.  I guess there was more going on than what he was doing on the field for him to be cut like that.  There are rumors of a sideline altercation with Pepper Johnson.
  • What to say about the last few minutes of this game?  It was almost an exact replica of the Super Bowl a few years ago.  After Brady threw that late touchdown to Rob Gronkowski how many Pats fans quickly thought back to the Super Bowl game?  Then the drive by the Giants.  An amazing catch by Jake Ballard then the Giants catch a break with pass interference (a legit call by the way).  Then faced with the last possible chance to score that game winning Touchdown Eli Manning comes through in the clutch and beats the Pats.  Again.    Like I said, it’s rather eery to think about the similarities but at the end of the day, the Giants won and are 6-2 and the Pats fall back into the AFC East pack at 5-3.

So now we are set up with a three horse second half race.  The two mainstays, the Patriots and Jets, will do battle this weekend in a huge AFC East tilt that may set the pace for the rest of the way.  Either way I am looking forward to seeing how this race plays out.  It’s almost shaping up to be like a good pennant race in baseball.  I’ll have my All-AFC first half teams the next two days and then we’ll preview the games for this weekend towards the end of the week.

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Whiteout at the Ralph day is upon us

The anticipation has been building up for a week and the day is finally here.  The biggest game of the year to date for the Bills and the Jets and the Bills fans decided to go old school, like back in your college days old school, by staging a whiteout at the game against the Jets.  I’ve never seen a whiteout before in the pros and am quite looking forward to it.  I’m not sure what impact it will ultimately have on the outcome of the game, if any, but there is one thing that you’ve got to admit – there are no fans like Buffalo Bills fans.

As for the actual game, I expect this to be one of the more lower scoring games of the years for the Bills. I’d be shocked if the Bills were able to run up and down the field on the Jets like they did at times against the Chiefs, Raiders, and Pats.  I do expect a big game for Freddie Jackson and that may open things up underneath for a David Nelson or a Scott Chandler.  Conversely, with a week of inactivity I don’t believe that Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense will exactly come out guns blazing.  The Bills defense will be playing with confidence in their own house, coming off of a dominant performance against the Redsins a week ago.  The bugaboo for the Bills in the past two years against the Jets and I don’t think the Jets will see anything close to the numbers that they’ve seen in the past 4 games rushing-wise against the Bills.  It will be a close game but I give the edge to Buffalo 24-17.

Over in Foxboro the Patriots play host to the Giants in the first match-up between the two teams since the Giants broke up the Patriots perfect season in the Super Bowl back in 2007.  I can’t help but shake the feeling that Bill Belichick will be out for blood, but Eli Manning matches up great with the Pats defense.  It’s like mind of matter when picking the outcome of this one.  Do you believe in Belichick’s dark magic or believe that Eli can play with these guys.  I’ll go with a little bit of both – Manning moves the ball on the Pats defense but Brady proves too much for the Giants and they pull away late 38-31.

Over in Kansas City it is formulaic.  The Chiefs have bounced back for a horrid start and are suddenly in contention for the division title.  The Dolphins are hapless and in disarray.  The Chiefs didn’t dig out of their early hole to lose to a winless team.  They win easily Sunday 27-6.

My full slate of picks today, with spread are BUF, DAL, ATL, KC, TB, SF, CLE, CIN, OAK, NYG, STL, GB, PIT, CHI

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