For those of you who have been hibernating in a cave, this upcoming weekend marks the 35th anniversary of the most precious of national holidays: Super Bowl Sunday.
This year’s rendition features the New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens in Tampa, Florida. While both teams have their eyes set on being crowned World Champions, only one will be going to Disneyworld. Being a native Angeleno, it pains me to say it, but the football gods have already destined it – this year, it’s all about New York, New York.
Few people could have imagined such an improbable matchup at the beginning of the season. Neither team features a marquee quarterback like Peyton Manning or Kurt Warner. Neither team has a game-breaking playmaker on their sidelines. What both teams bring to the table are tough, fearless defenses that should make this Super Bowl resemble a barroom brawl.
Baltimore (15-4, 10 straight wins) got here on the shoulders of a defensive unit that talks the talk and then walks the walk. But that’s all they’ve got. Everyone says that defense wins championships, but the Ravens are the one exception to this rule. You need to have an offense to put some points on the board, period. Remember that their quarterback is Trent Dilfer, the same Trent Dilfer who lost his starting job in Tampa Bay to then-rookie Shaun King. This is the same team that went a stretch of five games without scoring an offensive touchdown. Their offensive game plan revolves around 3 and out, then punting. It’s true – they are trying to recreate the type of football played before the advent of the forward pass.
The Giants (14-4, seven straight wins) don’t play with the same flair as Baltimore, but will succeed because they can play a complete game of football on both sides of the ball.
Their defense, ranked fifth in the league overall, shut down the NFL’s most versatile player, Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb, three times this year and silenced Minnesota’s three-headed monster of Randy Moss, Chris Carter and Robert Smith in the divisional championship game. They surrendered a meager 15.4 points a game in the regular season. Additionally, they were second in the NFL in run defense, which could create problems for a Ravens team that might have to rely on Dilfer’s ability to make a play.
From an offensive standpoint, the Giants aren’t dynamic, but they are solid. Sure, the 41 points against the Vikings was an aberration, but with a balanced passing and running game, they can wear a defense down. QB Kerry Collins threw for over 3600 yards and 22 touchdowns and didn’t even make the Pro Bowl, and the Giants had a potent inside-outside running attack with Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne. All three will need to be on top of their game to have a chance against the suffocating Raven’s defense.
The last time the Giants played in the big one, Super Bowl XXV, it was also in Tampa. They won that one with a lot of luck. This time they won’t need it. The Ravens won’t even smell pay dirt.
Prediction: Baltimore attempts to become the first team to win on field goals. In retaliation, New York serves up a heavy dose of thunder and lightning to bury the Ravens and their pathetic offense. G-Men hoist up the Lombardi Trophy this Sunday, 13-9.
The author maintains that next year, definitely, the Buffalo Bills will win it all.