There are two ways to approach Super Bowl XLII from a football betting point of view; the spiritual, and the material.
The spiritual point of view centers on the events of the Meadowlands on December 29, when New England arrived with a 15-0 record and a 13.5 point favorite tag, looking to complete the first ever 16-0 perfect season. Win or lose, the Giants were going to Tampa to play the Bucs in the Wild Card game anyway; they had nothing to gain from this game, and cynicism dictated that the Giants play a second string, take their licking, and live to fight another day.
But the Giants did not take their licking. The Giants are a football team, and to be a football team you must not concede ground. The Giants duked it out with New England for sixty minutes, playing for nothing but pride, guts and glory, and even though they lost the game they won a share of glory (and easily covered that double-digit line). The football gods notice that sort of thing – will the Giants get their reward in Arizona?
Some people don’t believe in the football gods. They look at carefully designed schemes, expertly assembled rosters, and player talent and experience. The Patriots are undefeated for a reason, and the reason is because they are easily the best team in the NFL. But if that means they shouldn’t be beat, does that mean that they can’t?
The Patriots arrive at the table with many weapons – they can kill you with long bombs to Walker, Moss or Stallworth, or they can hand off to Faulk and Moroney while their phenomenal lines carves great, gaping holes at the line of scrimmage. Defending Tom Brady and the Patriot offense is like boxing an octopus – you just don’t know where the next punch is coming from.
On defense, the Patriots veterans have belied criticism of their age by always being able to step up when it counted, as Indianapolis or San Diego or a host of other teams can attest. But there is one stat from the NFC Championship that is worrying for the Patriots, and it is this: the New York Giants held the ball for forty of the sixty minutes against Green Bay. Thirty year old Patriots like Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau do not want to spend forty minutes in the Arizona heat getting bashed by the Giants. Bill Belichick does not want to see Tom Brady and the rest of the offense on the sideline for forty minutes because that means they’re not on the field, racking up the scores.
It’s a big ask, of course. Above any team, the New England Patriots can adapt, and Belichick will have learned many lessons himself from that post-Christmas visit to the Meadowlands. But if the Giants can control the clock, and if Eli Manning shows the same composure and command behind center, the New York Giants will replace the New York Jets as the holders of the biggest upset win in Super Bowl history.