"SWEET REWARD"

The final, and most important day of the NFL season is finally here. Surprisingly, my love for the game has not caused me to radiate to every second of coverage of the “big game”. Everyone keeps calling this game “The Rematch”, but this is nothing near the 2007 match-up. The hype around these two teams is completely different. The expectation that either of these teams would be playing today is completely different. But as Oleta Adams sung, “I DON’T CARE HOW YOU GET HERE…GET HERE IF YOU CAN”. It doesn’t matter what the non-Patriot/Giants fans have to say, they both earned their way there.

Looking at this match-up, I honestly believe that this will be a good game. Both teams have strengths and weaknesses that could easily play a big role in this game. The easiest way to pick a winner is by analyzing each team at each position.

OFFENSE
As long as New England’s starting quarterback position lists Tom Brady as the starter, you know what they bring to the table. Wide receiver Wes Welker is as quick and slick as anyone on the underneath route, and the tight end position is deadly. Regardless if TE Rob Gronkowski is 100%, or not, they won’t lose much with Aaron Hernandez stepping into the starting role.
New York is no slouch on offense themselves. Regardless of what the critics say, QB Eli Manning has proven that he can lead a team, and win the big game. The Giants receiving core is arguably the beat in the business, with Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Mario Manningham catching everything else that’s left. And with a duo threat at running back, you have to respect every part of their offense. OFFENSIVE ADVANTAGE: NEITHER.

DEFENSE
It’s been no secret that both teams have had a tough time on defense this season, so how can you argue for either team in that aspect? So we have to look at Looking at their playoff games, the Patriots did a phenomenal job shutting down a tricky Broncos offense, and completely halted the Ravens running attack. Regardless of where this defense ranks on paper, they have proven over the past two weeks that they are able to win championships.
The Giants “D” had their own set of doubters during the season, but have silenced them all through the playoffs. They completely embarrassed the Atlanta Falcons, who were equipped with a good, young QB, a powerful running attack, and a talented receiving core. Next, they went up against the defending Champion, Green Bay Packers. They faced one of the most dangerous players at the quarterback position in Aaron Rodgers….and again, proved their dominance. They have played road games throughout the entire playoffs, and have showed up in each occasion. Their D-line has the ability to only rush four, and still pressure the opposing QB. Not to mention, on paper, they are the #1 team at defending opposing TE’s. They will need that against New England. DEFENSIVE ADVANTAGE: GIANTS.

COACHING

Giant’s Coach Tom Coughlin is beginning to develop a track record as being the coach who was “about to be fired” more than any three NFL coaches put together. Through all the criticism and rumors, he has always kept a business-like composure, and continued to do his job. And the reason why he still hasn’t been fired is because in most cases they end up exceeding all  expectations of that season. With New England’s Bill Belichick we know exactly what they are going to give us on offense….in most cases. I remember a few seasons back when he completely remodeled his teams’ entire offensive scheme in preparation for a match-up with the rival New York Jets…..in the regular season. It hurts my brain to imagine what he has had time to conjure up in these past 2 weeks. No matter who is on the opposing sidelines, this guy just always seems to be in a class of his own. COACHING ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

INTANGIBLES
I already mentioned a few intangibles that could help the Giants out greatly in this game. Their defense has the ability to rush only four defenders off the line and still put significant pressure on the quarterback. By doing so, they are able to drop an extra man in coverage, which explains their ability to effectively pick up that TE position. Again, they will really, really, really need that to go their way of they want to handle New England’s offense.
As for New England, the importance of “motivation” could play a big role. I will discuss New York’s motivation later, but this game could be a huge motivational boost for New England as well. I am sure the revenge card has been thrown in their faces over a million times in the past 2 weeks. And I believe they definitely want it.

MY COUCH SPORTS EXPERT PICK: NEW YORK GIANTS
One resemblance that I do see in the 2007 season and now is the Giants’ level of motivation. It’s almost as if they need all the doubters, and that big challenge against the undefeated team, to get them motivated for the season. And once they get that motivation, they begin playing like a Super Bowl caliber team. This season, that level of motivation was reached in Week 13, when they initially faced the undefeated, defending Champs. They have had a few setbacks since that point, but have played good, consistent football for the most part. I expect them to come out and do the same today. I think the “GIANT-KILLER” motivation will supersede the “REVENGE” motivation in this game.

Regardless, it should be a great game for football fans. We’ll watch it, even if we have sworn that we will boycott the big game this year.

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