By Glen Farley, Brockton Enterprise staff writer
The folks in Las Vegas who make a living educating us on such matters have established the Patriots as three-point favorites to defeat the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
It's not a Super Bowl XLII déjà vu (when the-then perfect Patriots were installed as 12-point favorites heading into the big game), but at the moment, I find the odds to be odder than Bruins netminder Tim Thomas.
I suppose they're understandable, what with a 13-3 team (during the regular season) meeting a team that had to win its last two to finish 9-7 and get in the playoffs, but even with the Patriots in the midst of a 10-game winning streak I don't see them playing a better brand of football than the Giants are at the moment.
When speaking of streaking, the Patriots get the advantage in quantity while the Giants get the nod in quality.
Facing a series of elimination games stretching back to the regular season, the Giants have burst from a .500 team to one that's won five straight, four by double figures, by a cumulative score of 141-67. Their average margin of victory during that span has been 14.8 points.
Give credit to the Patriots for defeating the Baltimore Ravens, 23-20, in last Sunday's AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium for that marked their first win of the season over a team with a winning record.
Meanwhile, the Giants' three postseason wins have been over an Atlanta Falcons team that was 10-6 at the time (24-2) and at the NFC's top two seeds — the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers (37-20) and the San Francisco 49ers on a Lawrence Tynes field goal in overtime (20-17).
What should be most concerning to the Patriots, however, is the sense that these Giants are poised for a Super Bowl XLII redo.
As is so often required at this point in the season, the Giants are doing it with defense, allowing 20 points or less in each of the games during the drive to five that will have them in Indianapolis on Feb. 5.
With the talent they boast up front — Jason Pierre-Paul (16½ sacks during the regular season), Osi Umenyiora (nine) and Justin Tuck (five) — there is no need for the Giants to resort to gimmick defenses to exert pressure on opponents.
With the Giants, it's mano-a-mano, allowing them to drop seven defenders back in coverage.
At the same time, they're able to shut off running lanes, the body of their work reminiscent of their performance in Super Bowl XLII when they limited the Patriots to 45 yards rushing and sacked Tom Brady five times en route to their 17-14 win.
Offensively, Eli's coming.
The "other" Manning no more, he is enjoying a consistent stretch with his 8-to-1 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio during the postseason far better than Brady's 6-to-3. Even while throwing 58 times and taking a pounding (sacked six times) in the Giants' NFC title game victory over the 49ers, Manning was turnover-free.
Giants' special teams contributed two fumble recoveries, Devin Thomas picking up one that Kyle Williams deflected, the other that Williams put on the ground during a punt return, latter leading to Tynes' gamewinner.
Then there's this: The Giants know how to beat the Patriots.
Since dropping the 2007 regular-season finale to them, 38-35, the Giants have beaten the Patriots once with their last-minute drive at University of Phoenix Stadium on Feb. 3, 2008, then again at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 6, 2011 (24-20) when their most productive running back (Ahmad Bradshaw) and second wide receiver (Hakeem Nicks) were both out with injuries.
Brady was able to complete 28 passes for 342 yards in the teams' first go-round this season, but he also turned the ball over three times on a day when the Patriots lost it on four occasions.
That hurt, but it may not be as painful as Rob Gronkowski's left ankle is at the moment, a situation that must be monitored (yeah, the Patriots will be very forthcoming about that) as game time approaches.
The game's still a week-and-a-half away so, to quote a former Giants and Patriots head coach, "I reserve the right to change my mind."
At the moment, though, the odds look like the numbers I'll soon be entering on my tax return.
They don't add up to me.
Glen Farley covers the Patriots for the Brockton (Mass.) Enterprise, a GateHouse Media newspaper.