As he usually does, ESPN's Steve Young provided excellent and concise analysis when he gave his take on the upcoming Super Bowl XLVI showdown between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. Young said that he is surprised that the Patriots are favored because if you break down the individual matchups objectively the Giants have the edge on paper--but Young added that the Patriots do enjoy two important advantages: Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. Young meant no disrespect to Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning, who both played important roles when the Giants upset the Patriots four years ago in the Super Bowl to ruin New England's attempt to complete an unprecedented 19-0 season, but Young stated that he believed that somehow the Patriots will find a way to beat the Giants this time.
I agree with Young on both counts: the Giants look better on paper but Belichick and Brady will find a way to get it done. Coughlin is an excellent coach and Manning may very well be a future Hall of Famer but Belichick and Brady will be remembered as the avatars of early 21st century NFL football much like Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw owned the 1970s by winning four Super Bowls in a six year period. The key matchups tomorrow will involve Brady versus New York's pass rush and New York's wide receivers versus New England's suspect secondary. I think that Belichick's offensive adjustment will involve using a heavy dose of no huddle and/or hurry up offense to prevent New York from making situational substitutions and to wear New York's defense down mentally and physically. Look for Wes Welker to have a big game in the slot--10 or more receptions--and while most of his plays will likely be for less than 15 yards he may have one long play that could prove to be the gamebreaker in a close contest. Defensively, the Patriots will have to rely on formation shifts, gimmicks and stout run stopping at the point of attack to keep New York off balance. Turnover differential is always an important statistic and it will be critical in the Super Bowl; Brady has been unusually interception prone in his last few playoff games and he must be "clean" on Sunday if the Patriots are going to win.
I predict that the Patriots will survive a tough battle that is not decided until the final possession, emerging with a 27-24 victory.