Here are 16 reasons that the New England Patriots will beat the New York Giants tonight to cap off the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history.
1) Although the Giants are 10-5, they have only outscored their opponents by a total of 25 points. The Giants fattened up their record with wins against weak teams like the Jets, the Falcons, the Dolphins and the 49ers.
2) Although neither team has "anything to play for," as the cliche goes, the Patriots have shown consistently during this season that they will keep their starters in and play aggressively in situations when many other teams would not do so.
3) The Patriots and several of their key players are close to setting all-time NFL records in various categories, most of which have to do with touchdowns and points scored. No matter how much the Patriots publicly downplay such things, they will do their best to make sure that all of those records fall. The toughest one will probably be the single-season touchdown receiving mark; the Giants may be able to deny Randy Moss from getting that but only at the expense of leaving someone else open, enabling Tom Brady to get the single-season mark for touchdown passes.
4) Tom Brady--enough said.
5) Randy Moss--enough said.
6) Bill Belichick versus Tom Coughlin--enough said.
7) The 1972 Miami Dolphins could not beat the New England Patriots--at least, according to Bill Parcells, whose last duty for ESPN was to choose the five best teams that he has seen (excluding ones that he coached) and assess their chances to beat this New England team. Parcells says that the Dolphins' defensive backs would not have been able to cover the Patriots' receivers (this will be a recurring theme, both in this list and in tonight's game).
8) The 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers could not beat the New England Patriots--again, according to Bill Parcells, who says that of all the teams he looked at this one would have the best chance. I agree with him on that score; you could open a small wing of the Hall of Fame with that Steelers team. While some of the earlier Steelers' teams relied more on the running game, this team had a more dynamic passing attack due to the liberalization of the NFL's rules to open up the passing game.
9) The 1985 Chicago Bears could not beat the New England Patriots--Parcells points out that in the one game that the Bears lost, the famous Monday Night Football showdown with the Miami Dolphins, the Bears had trouble defending against three wide receiver formations, a staple of the Patriots' attack. Mike Ditka, who of course coached those Bears, agrees that the famed "46" defense would not work against New England but he says that teams win because of players, not schemes, and that, man for man, his Bears match up with anyone. The Bears won two of their three postseason games by shutout and outscored their playoff opponents 91-10 but I agree with Parcells that they would have struggled to cover New England's deep wide receiving corps.
10) The 1989 San Francisco 49ers could not beat the New England Patriots--Parcells says that of all the hypothetical matchups this is the one that most likely would have been a shootout but he still likes the Patriots because (stop me if you've heard this before) the 49ers would have trouble covering New England's wide receivers.
11) The 1993 Dallas Cowboys could not beat the New England Patriots--Parcells likes Dallas' overall balance and huge offensive line but says that New England would prevail. Speaking in general terms about all of the hypothetical matchups, Parcells concludes, "It's 2007. They're bigger and they're faster and their quarterbacks are better schooled."
12) The New York Giants are not better than the 1972 Dolphins, 1978 Steelers, 1985 Bears, 1989 49ers or 1993 Cowboys.
13) Against common opponents this year, New England went 9-0 with a point differential of 222 (360-138), while New York went 6-3 with a point differential of just 21 (207-186)
14) Bill Belichick is unparalleled in his ability to devise the correct game plan to use against each opponent; two of his game plans--the one he came up with as a defensive coordinator for the Giants in their Super Bowl XXV win and the one he used as New England's head coach in the Patriots' Super Bowl XXXVI win--are on display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
15) Belichick only keeps around players who have the mental ability/physical capability to not only implement his masterful game plans but to incorporate in-game adjustments to those plans if necessary.
16) This whole season has been one seek and destroy mission by a highly intelligent, highly skilled and highly motivated Patriots team that is not about to let up with the finish line (at least in terms of the regular season) in sight.
Prediction: Patriots 38, Giants 14; Brady, Moss and company will not leave the game unless they are injured or the Patriots have at least a three touchdown lead in the fourth quarter--and possibly not even in that case.