Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Giants. Patriots. Super Bowl. Eli Better Than Brady?

Who would have thought Week 9 was a preview of Super Bowl XLVI, huh? Sure, record wise you would think two 5-2 teams was a good match-up, but the Patriots hadn't beaten anyone with a winning record and the Giants first half schedule was as easy as it gets and also included losses to the Redskins and Seahawks. Well they were both different teams back then, Patriots still figuring things out coming off a loss to Pittsburgh and the Giants having huge problems both running the ball and stopping the run. Another problem for the Giants at the mid-way point was that they hadn't had a consistent pass rush because of injuries to Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, leaving Jason Pierre-Paul to fend for himself - had it not been for his overly rapid development, who knows where the Giants would be right now.

The Giants won the game 24-20 on another Eli Manning game winning touchdown drive, which I'm sure Pats fans are sick of seeing by now. They also did it without starting RB Ahmad Bradshaw and #1 WR Hakeem Nicks. The Patriots could have folded up shop, but instead reeled off 10 straight wins. The Giants, lost 5 of their next 6 games before catching fire flames when it counted, including narrow losses to the last two teams they knocked out of the playoffs. Giants entered that game in Foxboro 9 point underdogs, they'll enter the Super Bowl somewhere in the range of 3 point dogs.

The Patriots are finding different ways to win each week. At the start of the season, it was Tom Brady looking like he was going to throw for 10,000 yards and another 50 TD's and the offense was going to be 2007 all over again. Rob Gronkowski (the greatest 6th round fantasy draft pick of all-time, fuck it though because my team still missed the playoffs thanks Darren McFadden, never mind) decided to put together one of the nope actually THE greatest season for a TE in the history of the game. Guy was an absolute machine, straight up uncoverable. Giants won in Week 9 yet Gronk put up 8 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. That's about the best you could hope for against him. Once teams keyed on Brady and the passing game, The Law Firm, Woodhead and some other no name backs started to run the ball on teams. Last week in the AFC Championship, that's exactly what they did to the Ravens. With the Ravens using mostly Nickel packages, the Pats went no huddle, not allowing the Ravens to substitute and match personnel, and the Pats ran it on a softer group than we're used to seeing. Not only did the Ravens not have the matchups they wanted, the main cogs out there (Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata) were gassed by the non-stop movement. The mix up in game plans is what won the Pats that game, and will pose a serious challenge to a Giants defense that likes to mix up personnel along the defensive line to keep their defensive line fresh and their pass rush constant. Without them being able to sub in and out, it could render their entire defensive scheme useless.

The Giants are a completely different team than they were when these two teams met. Eli Manning has been playing at a high level all season, but has taken it even higher in this postseason. Whereas Tom Brady has looking pretty human after throwing for no touchdowns and two picks last week against the Ravens - being outplayed by Joe Flacco. The Giants are as healthy as they've been all season long, they'll have the two starters they were missing in Week 9, Bradshaw and Nicks. And their defensive line is fully healthy, which is a main reason they are where they are. The regular season stats are a bit misleading, listing the Giants 32nd out of 32 teams running the ball, averaging just under 90 yards/game. That's changed since the regular season, and Manning now has a running game to work with which makes it easier to pick apart opposing defenses. He'll be going against an uncharacteristically bad Bill Belichick defense in Indy, the Pats ranked 32nd against the pass and were just shredded by Joe Flacco. Manning will have his weapons on a turf field in a controlled environment, unlike last week in San Francisco where they dealt with dreadful field conditions and constant rain and wind. Scary to think what they can do on a speedy surface against a suspect pass defense. If this does turn into a shootout, advantage has got to go to the Giants.

Eli Manning. Guy has been an absolute monster in this postseason. Big reason? 3rd downs. In situations the Giants have faced a 3rd and 6 or longer - The Giants converted 15 of 25 times (60%). Eli in those situations? 18 of 21 (86%) for 287 yards with a TD and no INTs, calculate that out and that's good for a 134.6 QB rating.

Against Atlanta: 7/7, 113 yards.

Against Green Bay: 5/5, 79 yards.

Against San Fran: 6/9, 95 yards and a TD.

That's just fucking nuts. The guy is widely praised for being a certifiable film junky, and he shows it with his adjustments at the line. He reads the defense and goes through his progressions like he knows exactly where the defenders are going to be. That wasn't the case his first 7 seasons, this comes with experience, and he has it now. This isn't a case of him being hot, this is Eli now, this kind of performance and level of play is here for good now. There's nothing he hasn't seen in this league, and going into a game in which he's already won (against a much, much better version of the Patriots) there's no reason he doesn't have an absolute field day against their awful pass defense. The Giants don't even need the run as they proved against the extremely solid SF defense. He threw the ball 58 times in piss poor conditions while getting hit and bullied on nearly every single snap, and it never phased him. Late in the game, he stood in the pocket on a 3rd and 15 and threw a fucking laser to Mario Manningham in the end zone against an 8-man coverage for the TD. Another huge 4th quarter play to put the Giants in position to put the game into OT and put them into the Super Bowl. This guy plus a dominating pass rush should have the Patriots extremely nervous going into this game, Week 9 I said this was a terrible matchup for the Patriots, and now? It's much worse. Because calling Eli Manning "elite" is becoming borderline disrespectful.... But it's okay, he's used to it.

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