Rob's Raw NFL Recap – Conference Championship & Super Bowl Pick

Like most sequels, expect an alternate ending.

Rob Woodfork checks in yet again, this time to dispel the aura of inevitably surrounding the 2011 Giants.

What’s old is new again.

In what appears to be a new Leap Year tradition, the New York Giants and New England Patriots are once again hooking up for the Super Bowl, just four years after they got together for one of the greatest Super Bowl games ever played.

Already folks are assuming this one plays out just like the first one. Tom Brady is beaten to a pulp by the swarming Giants pass rush, the Pats D leaves a couple big plays on the field, and in the clutch, Eli Manning pulls a miracle out of his ass to win the game.

Not so fast there, Speedy. It’s a very different dynamic this time around.

First of all, this isn’t the prolific, down-the-field passing attack you saw in New England back in 2007. This team is way more geared toward the underneath routes and utilizing Wes Welker and the tight ends. There’s no Randy Moss. No major deep threat that requires the QB to drop back seven steps. It’s all about the quick-hitters with this incarnation of the Patriots offense–and that helps when playing a pass rush like New York’s.

Secondly, I seriously doubt that the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady duo is going to lose to the same opponent twice. They just played (and lost to) the Giants in the regular season. They lost to them in Super Bowl XLII. While I view Belichick/Brady as human, and far less deserving of the seemingly endless benefit of the doubt they get from everyone based on shit they did 7 years ago, I still think they’re one of the greatest coach/QB combos the league has ever seen. I wouldn’t bet against them if they’ve got a shot at some form of redemption after shitting away the perfect season.

Third, the circumstances are different this year. In ’07, the Giants were heavy underdogs that lost in the head-to-head regular season matchup. This time, they got the better of the Pats in the regular season…and everybody’s expecting them to do it again.

It’s one thing to play balls-to-the-wall when nobody’s giving you a snowball’s chance in hell at winning. It’s a whole ‘nother when David’s shown beating Goliath is basically routine.

If nothing else, this game is going to be far more compelling than the first one–or at least leading up to it. Eli Manning is definitely in the realm of the elite now, and the Giants have a better arsenal of weapons on offense than they did four years ago. And while the Pats defense left much to be desired in the regular season, there’s no doubt this unit is playing much better in the postseason. (Seems to me like someone drew the parallel to the ’06 Colts a few days ago. Brilliant soul, whoever that was.)

So while I’m not a big fan of either team, I am looking forward to seeing how this wild and crazy 2011 NFL season concludes.

Can’t wait.

And for the final time this season…your recap:

Ravens 20
Patriots 23

Sorry Baltimore fans…this was your last, best shot at a Super Bowl. The Steelers were dispatched long before they could get to you, Peyton Manning and the Colts are at the bottom of the NFL dumpster, and all you had to do was beat Tom Brady in his own home. Again. The cruel irony, of course, is that it wasn’t Joe Flacco and the offense that Ed Reed needed to call out…it was the sorry special teams unit.

Tip your cap to New England. Anytime you can get to 5 Super Bowls in a 10 year span, that’s special. For that reason, I was kinda hoping San Francisco would be Brady’s Super Bowl opponent–not just because he was a Niners fan as a kid, but because it would be pretty cool to see Brady clinch his spot as the best QB of all-time at the expense of the former holder of that title: Joe Montana.

Giants 20
Niners 17 (OT)

Great year for San Francisco. They were leaps and bounds better than they were last year, and that’s without a top-flight QB or even a full offseason to prepare. It looks like the groundwork has been laid for a resurgeance by the Bay…now to find out if they can get an upgrade at QB. If they had even a guy a cut below elite (like Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, or Philip Rivers) they’re probably in the Super Bowl right now. Alex Smith was a nice story, but you can’t win 2 or 3 playoff games to get to the Big Dance. Time to start looking for the next great Niner QB.

Speaking of great QBs…as I alluded to earlier, there’s no more question over whether Eli Manning is elite. He’s gone into Lambeau Field twice and won in the playoffs. He’s taken a beating from a brutal San Fran defense and still stood up and delivered. He’s putting up prolific passing numbers that calls to mind his big brother Peyton. And this year, he’s shown himself to be mighty clutch. The debate is over…Eli is in.

So with that, we conclude this year’s recaps. I’ll put together something in the aftermath of the Super Bowl, but it’ll probably read more like a column. So thanks for a great year and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for next year’s batch of the good shit. But until then…my Super Bowl pick:

Patriots 24, Giants 20.

I picked New England to be in this game before the season started and I’ve got no reason to back off ‘em now. Eli will get his, but this game is all about Brady’s revenge.

Book it.

Rob Woodfork writes for TheFanManifesto. Follow us on twitter

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