When handicapping the Super Bowl, surveying all the info as you figure out where to put your money, watch out. Some analysts are pointing strictly at the QBs. Big mistake. The duel between the New England Patriots' Tom Brady and the New York Giants' Eli Manning is getting way too much attention. It's just part of the picture--and maybe not even the most important part.
There's a mistaken picture many of have imprinted in their heads--of Brady standing behind his line, directing receivers with the calm of a cop directing traffic, while Denver Bronco pass rushers are being manhandled by the Patriots' lineman. Wipe that image out of your mind. That's the way it was in that mismatch. It doesn't apply now. That's the Patriots' passing offense operating at peak efficiency against a slow, scared Denver defense. Even in the Ravens game the following week, that image was outdated. That's not the way it's going to be when Brady is facing the bulls in the rampaging Giants' pass rush.
Keep in mind one thing many forget--that the Partiots are lucky to be in the Super Bowl. The Ravens should have won that game. They were the better team, but were undone by boneheaded errors. Two Ravens' blunders opened the Super Bowl door and swept New England right in. First was the pass--what would have been the winning TD--that Lee (Butterfingers) Evans had in his hands before strip out of his grasp. No self-respecting receiver lets that happen. Then, a few minutes later, kicker Billy Cundiff choked big time, hooking a chip-shot attempt wide left that would have sent the game into OT, with momentum on Baltimore's side.
That's not all. The Patriots' record is deceiving, built on a cozy schedule that allowed them to get fat on the weaker AFC teams. That's how they managed to get so far with a lousy defense. Their biggest bit of luck was Denver capitalizing on the Tebow magic, home-field advantage and Steeler injuries to take down Pittsburgh. Not having to contend with the Steelers was a huge bonus for the Patriots.
When assessing the Patriots' passing game, look beyond Brady. That attack is only as good as the receivers--and the wide weceivers are a problem. Wes Welker--small, slow Wes Welker--is a relentless danger, but the rest of the Patriots receiving corps isn't much to worry about. Deion Branch is a has-been, so is Chad Ochocinco. Mediocre Matthew Slater won't scare even the worse secondary--and the Giants' secondary isn't bad.
The real threats among the Patriot's receivers are the tight ends--Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
While Hernandez can do some damage, Gronkowski--the best tight end in the AFC--is nursing a banged-up left ankle. He'll play, but won't be 100%. That means the Patriots' passing game will suffer. With his speed compromised, Gronkowski is just another big tight end--and therefore very manageable, probably by a linebacker rather than a safety.