Beating the Book
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
We backed both favorites last week, thinking at least one of them would come through, and we were wrong. But that's mitigated by two factors: (1) We didn't feel strongly about either game as the lines seemed pretty good to us, and (2) the Giants won outright, which of course I was rooting for even though we picked Dallas. The Super Bowl is even worse on that front for me because I don't want to back my team blindly, but if I go against them, I'm stuck hoping to be wrong. Of course, this is a problem, I'm happy to have.
SUPER BOWL XLII
Giants +12 vs. Patriots
Maybe it's because I'm a Giants fan, and maybe it's because this is just a tough game to read, but literally until Wednesday morning, I hadn't committed to a pick. On the one hand, the two-week layoffs between the conference title games and the Super Bowl typically result in blowouts - give Bill Belichick an extra week to prepare and the Giants an extra one to regress to the mean, and we could see this one getting ugly. On the other, the Patriots have covered only one game (Pittsburgh) since midseason, but the oddsmakers and public have not entirely adjusted to that reality - consider that this line opened at 14, before moving down to 12.
The Giants lost by just three to the Patriots a month ago, and while that was a home game, it's unclear who that benefitted as the Giants are 10-1 on the road this year and just 3-5 at home. Another reason one might pick the Patriots is that unlike last week's game against the Chargers, bad weather conditions aren't going to slow down
New England's unstoppable offense. But in the Giants-Pats game, the conditions were unseasonably good, and New England was down 12 before eventually winning by only three points.
Looking then at the Patriots' play over the second half of the season, and the Giants' confidence and overall level of play the last few weeks, 12 points seems like an awfully big line. But we're quite sure the 1985 Patriots, who got in as a Wild Card, and also won three games on the road, were feeling pretty good about themselves, too - that is, until they faced one of the NFL's all-time great teams and lost 46-10 to the Bears. Is that game not a good comp for this one? It's all well and good to beat the favored Wade Phillips-led Cowboys and Mike McCarthy-led Packers, but now they're dealing with perhaps the greatest team in NFL history with arguably the best quarterback and coach in league history. Who are the Giants - whose best player is probably Osi Umenyiora or Plaxico Burress - to match up to that? In retrospect, to expect the Tony Eason/Stanley Morgan/Irving Fryar/Craig James Pats to stack up against the '85 Bears defense was silly.
But there are two significant differences between the '85 game and this one - first, that New England didn't roll through the playoffs the way the Bears did - both the San Diego and Jacksonville games were close for much of the way in contrast to the Bears' shutting out the '85 Rams and Giants for a combined score of 45-0. Secondly, the Bears were great because of their defense, while the Patriots are great because of their offense. When looking at recent Super Bowl history, the great defensive teams almost always win - and by wider margins than their offensive counterparts. The 2000 Ravens and 2002 Bucs both rolled, despite being defense-heavy. The 1999 Rams barely beat the wild-card Titans, the 2001 Rams lost to the Patriots, and the 2006 Colts won, but wouldn't have covered this line. (Also, the 2006 Bears defense was a shell of its former self in January, while the Colts' defense was actually playing well - not unlike the situation between the Patriots and Giants this year).
In the end, we could see this game going either way - the Giants move the ball consistently, get some pressure on Brady and keep it close all game. Or the Patriots strike for a big play or two, the Giants press, Eli Manning throws some picks, and the wheels come off. On balance, that the Patriots' defense is beatable makes us think that the Giants will stay in this game. Back the Giants who come close to capping off the most improbable postseason run in the history of the league, but fall just short.
Patriots 28 - 24
We went 0-2 against the spread on the divisional games last week, to put us at 5-5 for the playoffs. We were 127-120-9 on the regular season. We were 139-108-9 last season. From 1999-2006, we were 1057-898 - not including ties - (54.1 percent).
Article first appeared 1/30/08