Different spot, same menu, same two chuckleheads. Have at it and share your thoughts.
Michael Salfino: Some things on my mind as we wrap up NFL 2007 on Sunday:
What's with the posters in the newspapers here of various Giants? I assume they do the same thing in New England for the Patriots. Kids don't read the newspaper anymore and I can't imagine this will entice them. I also wish it was 25 years ago and kids delivered the afternoon paper and made their collections while secretly wishing the
one hot mom on their route would come to the door in a bathrobe and have a Penthouse Forum letter ensue. Ah, good times!
What's with Ron Jaworski and others breaking down Patriots-Chargers like the Zapruder film trying to find out where, exactly, Tom Brady's
high-ankle sprain occurred. He's not running the 40-yard dash on Sunday, is he? Maybe one year we could just determine the champ by how each team runs through combine drills.
I'm very tired of human interest stories on all the players. "Plaxico Burress learned to be a man in the military academy." "Tom Coughlin is so beloved by the Giants that they won't talk to Tiki." "Eli Manning is a humble, sexy beast." (I swear I'm only slightly exaggerating on the Daily News headline for that last one.) Who cares
about these clowns as people? We root for the laundry. When they're playing well and winning, we want to seek substance for our love.
When they suck, we look to rationalize our ill will. It's so transparent and phony. Why treat it so seriously?
Super Bowl line of Giants plus 12 or 11.5 (depending on your casino) has moved slightly in the Giants direction. That was the straight AFC-
NFC line six weeks ago and not near what we would have expected this matchup to be. Why the lack of love for an undefeated team many thought was all-time two months ago? Or are the Giants suddenly legit?
Take us where you want. There's nothing left to hold back. Super Bowl Breakfast is served.
Scott Pianowski: Quarterback injuries are generally overblown. It's not a running position. Tom Brady's forever probable on the wink-nudge injury report, but we all know he's going to play. Next question.
My laundry-rooting has a limit - I wouldn't support Bonds in Boston, Rivers in New England, Bob Huggins anywhere. There has to be a likability present. Brady has always been an easy sell for me, from the days where Lloyd Carr misjudged him on through the humble push-off in Foxboro.
Mostly, like any writer, I'm a sucker for the good story. The Cleveland Browns charmed me early in 2007, playing the most exciting (if flawed) football in the league. Forget the Patriots pasting another team 49-10, I wanted to see the Browns win or lose on the final snap. As a transplanted Michigander I've been raised to hate everything Ohio, but I couldn't help but adopt the Browns as the season went along.
The two-week waiting period blows. On with the game, already. I feel like the Xs and
Os have already been tossed around pretty well, but I guess we can do that here. How much of an advantage does Belichick gain from the extra week? Will the Giants get to the pocket with any consistency? Will the Patriots drop Eli Manning's
interceptions, or will his "maturation" continue? You know Manning will be hammered into the next decade if he puts up multiple turnovers in a losing effort, but I like how the old guard of hack journalism couldn't bring itself to write a negative word about Brett Favre a week ago.
The line has come down a little and it's still too high. Why can't everyone see the New England investment bubble is history? The Pats are just 1-7 ATS over their last eight, in part because too many players in the back seven wore leather helmets as rookies. David Garrard looked like Johnny Unitas against these guys for three quarters (A.J. Feeley did too), and the Giants hung up 35 a month ago. New York certainly has a puncher's chance, and if the Giants do win, it should be viewed merely as a notable upset, not in the Buster Douglas class or anywhere near the Jets-Colts discussion. (That said, we know how today's 24/7 media and fandom tend to overrate anything current, so if the Giants do win, the importance will swell to a ridiculous degree.)
A Patriots loss would present a classic "Jamoache Test" (it's a New England term, substituted for something stronger). Line up all the Pats fans you can find on Monday. The reasonable ones will shrug and say something to the effect of "helluva season, disappointed it ended that way but we've had so many breaks over the last few years. Kudos to the Giants." The miserable types will bitch and moan, whine and whimper, and throw the entire region under a bad light. You know who I'm talking about.
Reminds me of an exchange from the very underrated "Broadcast News" . . .
Q: What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?
A: Keep it to yourself.
So yeah, I'm already satiated in a way. So much that I'm not going to feel bad about your Metropolitans closing in on Johan Santana.
Let's give em' something to talk about.
Michael Salfino: Are the Patriots the greatest team ever with a win, of any margin?
Considering where we were in November with them, the line for the game is shocking to me. There have been nine teams favored by 12 points or more in the Super Bowl. By the way, they are 6-3 straight up. I would have expected it would be a lock that New England would be at least the 15-plus point favorite that we've only seen twice, the last time in Super Bowl 29 (Niners by 18.5 over Chargers) and, of course, in Super Bowl III (Roman numerals stop at X in the Salfino Style Book).
So either the Patriots stock has fallen significantly or the Giants are getting ample respect. Really, if the Patriots played the Giants even at the Meadowlands in November, the line would have been at least the 11.5 I'm now seeing at some of the big casinos.
To further illustrate your point about the Belichick Bubble, New England has won by 11 points or less in six of their last eight games. They haven't looked dominant since November 18, when they waxed the Bills in Buffalo 56-10.
Tom Brady looked very ordinary against the Chargers and the Patriots defense can't get much props for containing a QB playing on a torn ACL. I love how the Chargers and Rivers (who you have to credit for this) say that it didn't affect his play. Why ever operate on a torn ACL then? Let guys play through it! Really, this has to be the worst coaching move in NFL history. Billy Volek got them into the championship game with that fourth quarter drive at Indy. He should have started. Maybe then the Chargers wouldn't have gone 0-for-4 in the red zone. The other stats in this game all leaned San Diego. The Patriots were ripe for a fall after Brady's ankle started barking.
I don't really know what to make of the Packers, but the Giants earned a double-digit win. When they handed the Packers a chance to pull the game out in OT, I thought they were cooked. But Eli didn't turn the ball over, though you've noted how often they fumbled and recovered in that game. I am buying the Giants pass defense and Corey Webster at this point. Obviously that will be the key against a Patriots team that set the NFL record with 75 TDs and scored four in their late December meeting at Giants Stadium.
Webster is the key to the game. Can he keep Randy Moss from finding the fast lane outside the hashmarks near the sideline? Webster has to sit on Moss's outside shoulder at the snap and direct him inside, where he tends to shy away from contact and shorten his arms. That's the key to the whole game, in my opinion. The Giants can't worry about any other player beating them. If Brady goes 26-for-28 underneath again to Wes Welker and Company, god bless him.
We've run down Plaxico here before, but was that the best game you've ever seen from a wide receiver, considering the conditions (third coldest game ever) in Green Bay?
The huge question for the Giants offense is whether Eli Manning can continue playing cleanly when the pressure is likely going to be on him to generate at least 30 points. Maybe the Giants defense and pass rush (even though their postseason sack rate is about a fifth of what it was in the regular season) shocks us again. But I can't see the Patriots offense doing them in. Only their defense can lose it for them for the reasons you noted. But can Eli make the step up from caretaker to assassin? We haven't seen that from him yet. I'm guessing, "No."
Predictions coming in my next round. That, I guess, means you jump in first.
Scott Pianowski: When looking at New England's legacy for this season, I rank the team separate from the accomplishment. The list of teams they beat, where they beat them, and how they beat them, it easily stands as the most impressive body of work any football team has ever assembled. But is the actual team that special in all facets? Would it beat teams from other eras? I can't rubber stamp that part of it.
Plaxico definitely put on a clinic in Green Bay, that's for sure. Harris had good
coverage on several of the catches, but perfect offensive execution can overcome that. It's scary to think how good Burress can be when he's healthy, motivated, and focused. Of course, the same thing goes double for Moss, who turned in a year for the ages as a re-programmed Patriot.
I'd feel a lot better about Big Blue's offensive chances if I liked their quarterback and coordinator (half of New Jersey probably wanted to go Buddy Ryan on Kevin Gilbride two months ago). If I ran the Giants, I'd inch the backfield rotation closer to 50-50, and I wouldn't ask Manning to do a lot of heavy lifting on the early drives. Have him make some short throws, put him in a rhythm, get the ball out of his hands quickly. I get the idea Manning's confidence is a house of cards ready to collapse if something bad happens on an early possession.
New York's defensive game plan makes for boring football, but there's no disputing it's the way to go. Take away the deep ball, make New England string together 17-play drives, hope you get lucky on a third down, in the red zone, maybe on a tipped pass. Shorten the game. Dare Welker to beat you, don't let Moss kill you. Give Maroney lanes if he wants them.
And then you have the pass rush, the enigmatic pass rush. It got overrated in the Winston Justice game, took a midseason siesta, but it's been legit for a while now. Generating a pocket push with just 4-5 guys is rare in this league, and this unit can do it. I don't think you can stop an offense as creative and smart as New England's, but the Giants should be able to at least disrupt things enough . . . to cover. Patriots by seven.
You didn't want to touch Santana last time, so I'll say it again. C'mon Jersey, let a little spring fever in.
Michael Salfino: Carlos Santana? Santana Moss? Seriously, I'm half rooting for the
Mets to blow the Johan extension for the story it would be. We have to wait and see what Jimmy Rollins thinks about the trade before
we're allowed to comment.
The funny thing about the Giants backfield is that Bradshaw has been getting all the big, late action. And he looks so much better than
Jacobs. I'd just make Bradshaw the starter and look to exploit those slow Patriots linebackers, especially in pass coverage. Jacobs is the kind of guy they can run straight into and contain.
It's rare that a QB could have Manning's post-season resume this year (three road wins) and not really ever have been forced to bounce back
from adversity. Maybe we can count the overtime, but that was set up by the interception, of course. Manning did nothing on that winning
drive. You can count the first quarter against Tampa Bay, when it looked like Manning and the Giants were going to get run right out of
the building. But there was no disaster there, just some sloppiness.
So, I'm with you here. Odds are, something bad is going to happen to Eli early. Then what? We can only guess.
I'm with you generally on the Giants defense. They have gotten pressure that hasn't translated into sacks. But they can't send five to get heat. Anyone can do that. They need to do it with four
rushers, keep the safeties deep and get right in the face of Welker and Moss. Welker will handle that better, but for short gains. Moss will get frustrated if the Giants force him to the middle of the field. He doesn't like contact, which isn't meant as an insult. Really, who does? If you aren't afraid of contact in the middle of
the field, you don't last long in the NFL. All receivers protect themselves to some degree.
What about Tom Petty as the halftime show? I like Tom Petty, but have we run out of A-listers among the geriatric set? Billy Joel and Phil Collins are waiting by the phone. I'm ticked that the late kickoff messes with The Wire just as Prop Joe has been taken out and Omar is hunting for vengeance on the mean streets of Balt'more. Marlo
Stansield is one dude who would not be afraid to go over the middle.
We're not giving the score now, just the margin? Are the Pats going to win 7-0? 35-28? 14-7 after Stephen Gostkowski fumbles while attempting to throw a pass after a late blocked field goal?
Tom Brady is a Hall of Famer playing at the top of his game. But we could have said the same thing about Brett Favre in Week 20. I don't think the Giants will have enough offensive horsepower to overcome him. But the outcome should be in doubt come the fourth quarter. Patriots 30, Giants 24.
Scott Pianowski: Timing is everything in life. The Mets certainly had it with the Santana deal. The Yankees and Red Sox were all but played out, a deadline was in play, Minnesota was worried about getting nothing, moving him out of the league made sense, etc. I can't imagine the New York front office will drop the ball on the contract stuff. Maybe there's a case for Santana not being the same guy we've seen in recent years, but there's such a decent shot that he's got dominant seasons left. The give-up was modest. Enjoy your ace, when Josie comes home.
I guess Plax didn't get the memo that you're supposed to lull the lion to sleep, not rattle the cage. The angle is getting the typical Super overhype, but it was funny that he attached just 17 points to the most prolific offense in NFL history. Let's hope the New York corners don't pull a Eugene Robinson on Saturday night/Sunday afternoon.
Moyer's going to egg my house for saying this, but U2 should play the Super Bowl every 2-3 years. It's an A-list event, superstars should be on the bill. Petty to me has always been a Ricky Proehl type - nice to have around, you forget him when he's gone. Other than the overlooked live gem "Pack Up the Plantation," he's never given me anything to get excited about.
Hockey players like contact - the bios on half of those guys say "likes to hit and be hit." Receiver divas, not so much. I'm surprised we haven't seen more thuggery from defenses against the Patriots this year - only the Ravens really embraced that theme. In a perfect world, no one would ever play dirty, but maybe the G-Men should. Get Reggie Dunlop in the building. Let em' know you're there. Old time football.
We see the same sort of game, competitive, in doubt late, fairly high scoring, but there are too many angles that favor the Patriots. Someone sedate Mercury Morris before he jumps off the Tallahassee Bridge. Hey Nineteen 34, Deacon Blues 27.
Posted by pianow at 1/31/2008 10:14:00 AM