Welcome to Kai and Steven’s second annual sidepodcast Superbowl preview. As you will know if you were paying attention last weekend, the New York Giants who are the champions of the NFC (and Kai’s favourites) play the AFC champion New England Patriots at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in Superbowl 46. This is a repeat of Superbowl 42 which, against the odds, was won by the Giants. The game takes place on Sunday February 5th and kicks off at 6:30pm Eastern / 11:30pm GMT, and there will be a live event available for commenting on during the action.
If you are new to American Football you can read about the basics of the game in last year’s preview post featuring badgers and mascara for reasons I can’t remember. You can also check out last year’s live post to give you an idea what to expect. We are always happy to answer lots of questions from people who are new to the sport so don’t miss out because you think you will be a pest. There is also lots of good info on the official NFL site as well as the sites of the Patriots and the Giants.
The Superbowl is a huge event with all sorts of activities surrounding it, including companies that save up all year to advertise on the network broadcast during the game. The cost per minute for a Superbowl commercial this year? $7 million. But with 163+ million people watching the game, it may be worth it. Another important component is the half time show which attracts the top music talent in the world. In recent years we have had U2 and Paul McCartney and this year we have Madonna. Quite how the players cope with the prolonged break I don’t know but it must be a great help to the coach of any team that is doing badly because it gives him time to figure out what he is going to do to sort the problem.
For more about the NFL, here’s an interesting piece about how the National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell works and how the NFL functions.
New England Patriots
How They Got There
The Patriots comfortably won their division and had the best regular season record in the whole AFC with 13 wins and 3 losses from 16 games. This record gave them a bye in the first round of the play offs and in the second round they totally destroyed the Denver Broncos by 45 points to 10. In the American Football Conference playoff they had a very close game beating the Baltimore Ravens 23-20. That win gave them a place in the Superbowl.
Players To Watch
Offence: There is no doubt who the star player is on the Patriots team. Like most NFL teams it is the quarterback (QB) Tom Brady. Brady is rated by many as the best QB in football and has been at that level for many years. He has been the starting QB for the Patriots for ten years and they have been to the Superbowl in half those seasons winning three of them. His ability now is indisputable but despite that he was the 199th player chosen in the draft of the year 2000. I wonder what happened to the 198 players who were better than him. Brady has had yet another stellar season and his back up QB Brian Hoyer has only thrown one pass all season which he completed for a 22 yard gain giving him better statistics than Brady in several categories. It would be a major surprise to see Hoyer set foot on the field during the Superbowl.
Receivers: Brady has thrown passes to 12 different receivers this year. His favourite targets are Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Deion Branch who between them have caught 342 passes for over 4500 yards. One interesting aspect is that all four of them are averaging over 10 yards per carry. So when the Patriots pass the ball they move up the field quickly.
Rushers: Although the Patriots are primarily a passing team they have a useful rushing game. Their leading running back has one of those names you only get in America. BenJarvus Greene-Ellis is the main rusher with 181 runs for 667 yards. He is backed up by Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead and the Patriots 4th leading rusher is none other than QB Tom Brady who has made 109 yards in 43 attempts. When the Patriots need short yardage on third down they let Brady go for the quarterback sneak and put his head in where it hurts. We saw in the AFC championship game that he tried to burrow head first into a pile of bodies and when that failed he launched himself over the heads of the players of both teams to score a touchdown.
Defence: While the Patriots offence is amongst the best, the defence would never be described as stellar. Frankly it would be a struggle to describe them as average. A lot of ink or whatever the internet equivalent is has been used this year to describe how bad they are. Some sports journalists have done a far better job of nailing the defence than the defence has of nailing their opposition. The nature of the defence means the offence has to play well or the Patriots could get slaughtered. It is quite incredible that the Patriots have achieved what they have with such a bad defence. Where the offence is the second best in the NFL behind only the New Orleans Saints the defence is the second worst in the entire NFL with only the Green Bay Packers being worse.
Special Teams: There are two players to keep an eye on who must perform if the Patriots are to have a successful day. The kicker Stephen Gostkowski has been a consistent performer all year but as we saw in the last game when Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed an ‘easy’ kick that would have tied the game there can be a lot of pressure on the kicker and while they are often criticised for losing games they rarely get credit when they kick a winner or make a difficult kick. If the Patriots offence is unable to make progress it falls to punter Zoltan Mesko to give the Giants the worst possible field position to mount their attack from and to give the Patriots suspect defence the best chance of stopping the Giants scoring.
New York Giants
I’ve been watching New York sports teams since I was little, watching games with my grandparents from their home in Great Neck, Long Island. I have a distinct memory of buying sneakers in blue when I was about 9 to support the different teams. I’m sure that’s why they’ve done well over the years.
Many years later I was fortunate to have some friends with connections to tickets so I got to sit in the front row in the end-zone for one of Lawrence Taylor’s last games as a NY Giant. Watching him and running back Dave Meggett play up close in December while I was wrapped in layers and layers of blankets, coats and hand and feet warmers, seeing just how BIG some these guys are... it’s a great memory. So, these guys are near and dear to my heart. It’s great to see them in their second Superbowl in 5 years.
How They Got There
The Giants started the season off with a reasonable record in the National Football Conference, but when they lost 4 games in a row through November and December, things were pretty grim for the “G-men”. I thought it would just be a ‘better luck next year’ kind of season. But they hung in there and won a few more games, including beating the Patriots at their home stadium and breaking the Pats’ 23 game winning streak at home that had lasted the last 4 seasons. Very interesting.
In the end, the Giants managed to scrape together enough wins to get them into the Wildcard playoff game, which means that with 9 wins and 7 losses they got to play for the one spot left open in the playoffs against the Atlanta Falcons. The point is, the Giants barely made it into the playoffs at all. But they won that game, then went on to beat the Green Bay Packers and then the San Francisco 49ers in a dramatic battle that went into overtime with Lawrence Tynes kicking a field goal to get them to the Superbowl.
Coach Tom Coughlin models his coaching style after Vince Lombardi. He’s adaptable, tough, he can be kind, but he is always extremely competitive and knows how to motivate his players.
Players To Watch (complete with American spellings)
Offense: Quarterback Eli Manning, age 31, has stepped into his leadership role through his performance, calm demeanor under pressure and his maturity. He’s leading his team and giving them advice on how to handle this week leading up to the big game. The true sign that he’s firmly in that role is that they’re listening. I guess that’s what happens when you get the 8th ranked offense to the big game. The Manning brothers have each won a Superbowl. It makes you wonder what Mr. and Mrs. Manning fed these kids. Big brother Peyton, who played for the Indianapolis Colts, missed this whole season after a neck injury and subsequent surgery. Will Eli pull ahead in the quest for more mantle space than his big brother Peyton in the Manning household?
Receivers: Victor Cruz is having one hell of a year. He averaged 18.6 yards per catch during the regular season! That is incredibly high. Maybe that’s why the crowd yells “CRUUUUUZ” when he completes a pass. He seems to be a jovial guy enjoying life and his teammates. I love that. Tight End Jake Ballard will probably be catching passes in the middle of the field. He likes it there. I have special admiration for Tight End Receivers because they get hammered once they catch the football. The middle is a dangerous place to be. Hakeem Nicks is another one you’ll see a lot of on the receiving end. He caught 76 passes for 7 touchdowns this season.
Rushers: Lead rusher Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 659 yards and 9 scores, which is about even with the Patriot’s leading rusher. Brandon Jacobs will be another option for Manning to hand off to in the hopes that he’ll keep finding holes in the poor Patriot defense. Both of these guys should eat their Wheaties because Manning may use them quite a bit if the Patriot line is soft.
Defense: Well, they started out 26th in the NFL for points allowed against them. That’s bad. Very bad. But not as bad at the Patriots! Maybe the guys were so focused on sacking the quarterback that they forgot to stop all the other guys out there from scoring, because the Giant defense still managed to rack up 48 sacks. Jason Pierre-Paul (“JPP”) is a rookie this year, but no one told him, because he’s playing like a veteran. He leads the team with 16.5 sacks. That means he ripped a quarterback in half. Not really. It means he got .5 credit and another tackle got .5 credit for a sack.
You may notice that this defensive line is very versatile, unlike most teams. They practice and train in various positions so they can move around throughout the game. This may keep the Patriots off balance a bit because they may be looking at different people coming at them in the course of the game. Any one of them could be on a roll at any moment and break on through to the other side.
Special Teams: If Special Teams mess up they can completely change the face of a game. Just look at how the Giants got here, by that Lawrence Tynes field goal. But the Giants have struggled with their punt returns all season, with a dismal average of 6.1 yards per return. Peee-yew! Aaron Ross and Will Blackmon will hopefully get that elusive 20+ yard return that has eluded them all year so far.
Right now the Giants and the Patriots are in Indiana for this week. The word is the Giants are looking relaxed and loose, and every Giant is doing exactly what they did the last time they won the Superbowl, from the choice of meeting times to what they eat. We’ll see how that helps them... or not.
For a position by position comparison of the two teams, this is a handy link.
I found this to be like an encyclopedia for this game, so for more details than we could possibly list here, including storylines and subplots on and off the field, check it out.