Super Bowl News and Notes

Super Bowl News and Notes

Super Bowl analysis, prediction, more

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All season long, the offense had run around Tom Brady, who set an all-time record for passing touchdowns with 50. But his prime target, Randy Moss, has been missing in action down the stretch, and the team has been carried by running back Laurence Maroney. His back-up, Kevin Faulk is a big third-down receiver. Wes Welker is a great possession receiver. Big pressure is on the Pats’ great offensive line against the Giants’ front seven. Defensively, safety Rodney Harrison will do something big, and corner Asante Samuel is most likely to pick off Eli Manning. The linebacking corps is old and a bit slow, but no one’s smarter than Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi.


Halfway through the season Giants fans had all but lost patience with quarterback Eli Manning. But down the stretch and on the road, he’s been playing almost mistake-free football. He’s reached the Super Bowl in his fourth season — far ahead of his famous brother Peyton’s schedule, and now he’s playing with house money. He’s got two great receivers to throw to, Plaxico Burress, a big target in the mold of the Pats’ Randy Moss, and Amani Toomer. The Giants can also run the ball behind bruiser Brandon Jacobs and breakaway threat Ahmad Bradshaw. But the Giants live on their defense. Corners R.W. McQuarters and Corey Webster will be under huge pressure and the Giants will be hoping starter Aaron Ross can return for the big game. The front seven, led by defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan have to get serious pressure on Pats’ quarterback Tom Brady. Giants fans will prefer that the game not come down to a field goal. Their kicker, Lawrence Tynes, badly missed two gimmes before hitting from 47 yards in overtime to beat Green Bay to get to Glendale.

The Patriots win if

It comes down to how the offensive line plays. If they keep the pass rush off Brady and give him time, the Patriots are going to be hard to beat. Defensively, they need to shut down Burress and bottle up the run. That should put enough pressure on Manning to force him into the mistake that sinks the Giants.

The Giants win if

The first order is to score seven and not three when they get in the red zone. That was the main reason San Diego lost the AFC Championship Game — they settled for field goals while the Pats were getting touchdowns. The second order is put enough pressure on Brady to force him into some bad throws. And the Giants have to win the turnover battle to win the game. Mix in a big play on special teams — most likely a return by Domenik Hixon — could spell the biggest upset ever.

The Pats lose if

New England is not invincible. If Moss doesn’t get untracked and the running game also falters, the Pats will really have their hands full. If Brady gets sacked and battered, they can lose this game. If the offensive line is beaten, the Pats can be, too, but it will take a great performance on the other side of the bal by Eli to finish the deal.

The Giants lose if

It’s no secret by now that there’s very little margin of error against the Patriots. Lose the turnover battle, fail to put Brady on the ground and don’t take advantage of trips to the red zone, and the Giants can’t win; nobody can against the Pats.


The Patriots are capable of blowing out any opponent, but I don’t see that happening here. The Giants played them tough in the season’s final game and believe they can win, and that’s a big part of the battle. I see both teams having trouble running the ball and the war coming down to which coaching staff can make adjustments on the fly the best. And no one does that better than Bill Belichick. The Patriots have discovered a way to win all year. I have to assume they’ll do it again, but they’ll probably have to come from behind to finish off the greatest season in NFL history. I see New England winning on a late touchdown in a relatively high-scoring game — thanks to perfect weather and field conditions. Patriots 34, Giants 30.

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Right now, Giants look better than Patriots

We've found the team that will stop Bill Belichick. I sense it. I know it.

I didn't feel it before Sunday's two conference championship games, but I sure feel it now, communicated to me by the grace and gumption of Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress, Michael Strahan, Corey Webster and the rest of the New York Giants.

Belichick will be stopped. (And he must be stopped!) Randy Moss will lose. (And he must lose!) The 18-0 New England Patriots will finish 18-1. (I must stop writing in exclamation points!)

No need for screaming. It's just NFL karma: The New York Giants will ensure that there will be no perfect season.

The only regret I have is directed toward Junior Seau, Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi and the other honorable Patriots, though that is not a lengthy list.

They're going to lose - at last - in Glendale, Ariz., two Sundays from now in Super Bowl XLII, to the New York Giants. Crystal ball says 27-24 final.

It sounds silly, of course. It sounds irrational to pick against New England, which already has been established as a 13 1/2-point favorite over the Giants and touted as one of the greatest teams in sports history.

It sounds wrong. But I saw what I saw. You saw what you saw. Don't run away from it.

Everybody saw it Sunday: The Giants are playing better than the Patriots, have the sharper quarterback, have endured and overcome much more adversity, and have the closer arrangement with the destiny of this moment.

In other words, the Giants are blazing hot, the Patriots peaked two months ago, and nothing else matters.

The records don't matter. Belichick . . . well, he still matters, and so does Brady, since they're 3-0 together in Super Bowl trips so far. (Though they've won by only three points in each trip.)

But they've never faced a Super Bowl opponent as ideally - and cosmically - aligned to defeat them as the Giants are right now.

How could you come to any other conclusion if you watched and weighed New England's choppy home victory over battered San Diego and then the Giants' stirring, stunning overtime victory in Green Bay on Sunday?

There are dozens of reasons to believe this, and here are just a few:

• In the NFC championship game, Eli Manning outplayed Brett Favre on Favre's home turf. Which came after Manning outplayed Tony Romo on Romo's home turf. As Manning has done in an amazing 10 consecutive Giants road victories.

In fact, Manning (Eli Manning!) has outplayed everybody in the playoff tournament - zero turnovers and four touchdown passes - including his big brother Peyton.

• In more benign weather conditions, Brady threw three interceptions against San Diego in Foxborough, Mass.; Brady is incredible, but he almost single-handedly kept the Chargers in this game when their QB was limping and LaDainian Tomlinson was sidelined.

Brady, of course, was due a chilly streak. He threw 45 TD passes and only five interceptions in the first 13 games of the season; in the past five games, including two playoff games, he has thrown 10 TD passes and six interceptions.

• Playing against Al Harris and Charles Woodson, Green Bay's excellent press-coverage cornerbacks, the Giants struck deep and struck often, with Manning hitting Burress 11 times for 154 yards, including receptions of 21 and 32 yards.

• Playing against Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer, San Diego's excellent press-coverage corners, the Patriots did not have a pass play longer than 18 yards.

Moss, by the way, caught one pass for 14 yards and has a total of two catches for 32 yards in the playoffs.

• In the regular-season finale, the Giants, whose playoff matchup was already determined, came within a smidge of destroying New England's bid for 16-0. The Giants had a 28-16 lead in the third quarter but wound up losing 38-35.

They can play this team.

• The Giants lost six games in the regular season and gave up more points (351) than any other playoff team.

But in the playoffs, the Giants have given up only 14, 17 and 20 points. (Bet on defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo landing that Atlanta job now.)

• The Patriots lost zero games and scored an NFL-record 589 points (36.8 average) in the regular season, but have averaged only 26 in two playoff victories.

• The Giants did all this in brutal sub-zero conditions and while enduring two R.W. McQuarters fumbles and two missed Lawrence Tynes field-goal attempts.

When Tynes finally knocked in the winner from 47 yards - the longest opponent field goal in Lambeau Field playoff history - it only lent a greater weight to the proceedings.

The Giants are the horse for the course. They are the perfect long shots, rising at the perfect time to ruin the perfect season. They are Seabiscuit, champing at the bit for another shot at War Admiral.

I didn't think so until Sunday, but now I know it.

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Patriots are beatable

Nothing hides imperfection quite like perfection.

So the New England Patriots and their 18-0 record will head to Glendale, Ariz., site of Super Bowl XLII, with an air of invincibility and hailed as the greatest team of all time.

Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but the Patriots are leaking oil as they try to complete their amazing marathon.

Sunday afternoon in the AFC championship game, the injury-hampered San Diego Chargers took a good run at the unbeatable Patriots, falling 21-12 primarily because Norv Turner’s red-zone play-calling was atrocious, quarterback Philip Rivers played on one leg and LaDainian Tomlinson’s knee failed to hold up.

With a healthy Rivers or Tomlinson, the Chargers pull the upset. If Norv calls better plays, the Chargers put a legitimate scare in the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

Yes, it’s easy to play the “if” game. But the truth is the Patriots haven’t been really dominant since midseason. They win now because they know more about winning than their opponents. They win now because it’s habit.

Halfway through the regular season, New England was beating its opponents by an average margin of 25. In their last 10 contests, including two playoff victories, they’re winning by an average of 13.

The Colts (24-20), Eagles (31-28), Ravens (27-24), Jets (20-10), Giants (38-35), Jaguars (31-20) and now Chargers (21-12) have all had chances to end New England’s improbable winning streak.

Don’t be surprised when the streak ends in the Super Bowl.

Oh, the Patriots are still a great team, probably the best we’ve ever seen. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Laurence Maroney deserve all the hype and accolades they’ve received. But the burden of winning is wearing on them. You can’t find a new way to win every week.

Against the Chargers, the Patriots won even though Tom Brady was awful. America’s quarterback threw three interceptions, never got Moss involved in the passing game and overthrew several receivers.

Brady completed 22 of 33 passes and threw for just 209 yards. San Diego’s defensive alignments bailed out Brady, leaving running back Kevin Faulk uncovered along the sideline on numerous plays. In the second half, New England discovered its running game, unleashing Maroney for more than 100 yards on the ground after the break.

Hey, I’m not disrespecting what the Patriots did. Great teams find ways to win when their stars are ineffective. The Patriots do that better than any team we’ve ever seen.

It just has to end at some point. You don’t win in this league forever. You have down weeks and the opposition takes advantage. The Patriots don’t have to come out “flat” to get beat. Maintaining emotion and energy is easier than maintaining focus and precision, especially when your head football coach demands perfection every week, every quarter, every play.

Chasing all those offensive records is catching up with the Patriots. Remember when Belichick was running up the score every week and letting Brady play and throw well into the fourth quarter of blowouts? That takes a toll. The Patriots haven’t exhaled since September, since Spygate.

They have less to give than the Giants. New England isn’t ascending; it’s desperately trying to hang on. The Pats aren’t Lance Armstrong wrapping up the Tour de France. Armstrong always had more left at the end than any of his opponents.

The Patriots are a cocky, world-class American sprinter headed for the Olympic 100-meter final after twice breaking the world record in the prelims.

They don’t award the Lombardi Trophy in September and October.

Again, I’m not down on the Patriots. What they’ve accomplished is incredible, and it’s been fun to write and talk about. I hope they do it again next season. But I just don’t see them surviving this marathon race that was run at sprinter’s speed the first 13 miles.

The Chargers should’ve scored 24 points on Sunday. Instead, they settled for field goals four times, including the three times they drove inside the 10. San Diego’s offense kept throwing the ball short of the goal line. Norv’s play-calling had Rivers throwing sideways much too often, particularly when you consider that receivers Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers played well.

San Diego’s corners, Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie, turned in brilliant performances. They shut down Moss and picked off Brady. Cromartie thwarted a New England TD drive with an end-zone interception. Jammer gave San Diego great field position with a pick.

The Patriots are vulnerable right now. I expect the Giants to take advantage.

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'Dogs barking in recent SB's

Last week I warned of the success of road teams in conference championship games. Although it seems logical to expect the home teams to have the upper hand given the tough travel situations faced in the playoffs, at least one road team has won a conference championship game outright in ten of the last eleven years now, with the Giants delivering last week. The Super Bowl provides a neutral field but there have been some trends to look out for in the big game.

Favorites dominated the Super Bowl between 1985 (Super Bowl XIX) and 1995 (Super Bowl XXIX) with favorites covering eight of the eleven games including several blowouts delivered mainly by the 49ers and Cowboys. Things have changed in recent years however and there has been a shift towards underdogs in recent years. Since 1996 (Super Bowl XXX), underdogs have gone 6-3-2 in the big game. With the current spread set at close to two touchdowns another blowout could be in the works but the underdog shift has occurred with the big favorites as well. Double-digit favorites went 4-0 against the spread from 1986 to 1995 but have not won since, going 0-3-1 in four instances since 1996. The last two double-digit favorites, the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI and the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, both lost outright.

Given the surprise run of the Giants, it is interesting to examine how teams have done in the Super Bowl when they were not expected to be there. Teams that won outright as underdogs to advance to the Super Bowl have gone 10-6-1 against the spread in the big game since 1981. In the last four instances, those teams have covered in all four of the Super Bowls (New England in 2002, Carolina in 2003, Tampa Bay in 2004, and Pittsburgh in 2006). The last three teams that had to win twice in a row as an underdog to advance to the Super Bowl (like the Giants have had to do) are also 3-0 against the spread in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh in 2006 also had to win on the road three times to get to the Super Bowl but unlike the Giants, the Steelers were favored in the first playoff game that year at Cincinnati.

Twice in the last ten years has the Super Bowl been a rematch of a regular season game. In both of those games the team that lost the regular season game ended up getting revenge and winning the Super Bowl. The Patriots beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI after losing 24-17 in the 2001 regular season at home and the Rams beat the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV after losing at Tennessee 21-24 in the 1999 regular season. The Patriots defeated the Giants on the road 38-35 in the nationally televised Saturday night game in the final week of the regular season. That game occurred just over a month prior to the Super Bowl rematch and was one of the most memorable games of the regular season.

Obviously we overanalyze the Super Bowl and try to come with any angle that we can. Unfortunately there are just too few instances to come up with anything truly meaningful. It is fun to dissect the game with an eye towards history, and judging by the recent trends listed above the Giants may have a better shot than most will give a chance.

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Opening Line Report
By Stephen Nover

LAS VEGAS – The dream Super Bowl matchup probably was New England against Green Bay and Brett Favre.

Still, a New York Giants-Patriots Super Bowl game could draw a record betting handle in Nevada. Las Vegas bookmakers are anticipating their first $100 million betting Super Bowl.

The most money wagered on a Super Bowl game in Nevada was $94.5 million set two years ago when Pittsburgh beat Seattle, according to state Gaming Control Board figures.

There’s tremendous interest with New England trying to become the first 19-0 team, while the Giants bring heavy East Coast financial backing to the game.

Anticipating there would be more New England money, the oddsmakers at Las Vegas Consultants opened the Patriots -14. Early action, however, has been mostly on the Giants. The number has dropped to -12 at many places after opening 13½.

The lowest number any of the six LVSC linesmakers made on the game was -13. Some had it New England -15. So they split the difference with an opening line suggestion of 14.

“I’d rather be on the high side with New England,” said LVSC senior linesmaker Mike Seba.

There aren’t many left, though, blindly just playing the Patriots. Dealing with bad weather and inflated lines, the Patriots are just 2-8 against the spread in their past 10 games.

The weather figures to be perfect in Arizona for the Super Bowl. So could the Patriots. New England has had a tendency during the second half of the season to play up or down to the level of their competition. That’s fine for winning games, but it doesn’t cover many pointspreads.

The Giants nearly upset the Patriots on Dec. 29 as a 13-point home ‘dog, before blowing a 12-point third quarter lead in a 38-35 loss. That was one of the Giants’ best efforts of the season.

“It helps the Giants that they have played them,” Seba said. “But I don’t think they saw New England’s best game. They’ll definitely see it this time.”

The Patriots didn’t play that well Sunday against San Diego, particularly Tom Brady, who threw three interceptions. Nonetheless, the Patriots prevailed, 21-12. They didn’t cover the spread, though, for the fifth straight time.

The LVSC oddsmakers recommended an opening ‘over/under’ of 55. The total was at 53 ½ or 54 depending on the sportsbook Monday afternoon.

The Patriots have gone ‘over’ in 12 of their 18 games this season. The Giants went ‘under’ during their first two playoff games, but went ‘over’ the closing 41-point total against Green Bay when the game went into overtime. The Giants beat the Packers as a closing 7 ½-point underdog, 23-20.

Seba anticipates the total and side to come back up again. Usually there’s a lull in the Super Bow betting action after an initial flurry when the number is first released. But around 90 percent of the money comes during the final 48 hours before kickoff.

“The number went down, but I could see it going back up,” Seba said. “I’m not sure if it can reach 14, but it could.

“I’m surprised the total went down. But I could see that, too, coming up as the game gets closer.”

New England covered its first eight games this season. Yet the Giants have the better pointspread mark at 13-6. The Patriots are 10-8 against the number.

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History doesn't favor Giants in Super Bowl

Not that they don't have a chance, but judging by what happened to them seven years ago, an awful lot would have to go right for them to beat Patriots.

And on the day after, the country rested, needing time to de-ice from conditions so cold in Green Bay that football fans required parkas and mittens just to watch on TV at home, needing time to warm to a concept that might take all of the next two weeks to fully comprehend:

Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin have qualified for the Super Bowl.

In the same year.

On the same side.

The nation -- and that includes Wisconsin as well as considerable portions of New York and New Jersey -- isn't quite sure what to make of it, which helps explain the early landslide of a betting line: the New England Patriots over the New York Giants by as much as 14 points in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz.

Worth pointing out:

* Those billboards and newspaper ads featuring a decapitated Statue of Liberty are not graphic predictions of what New England is going to do to New York on Feb. 3. They are advertisements for a horror film of another kind, "Cloverfield," in which a monster (not wearing a hooded sweat shirt) is caught on hand-held camera (not technically a spy-cam) terrorizing citizens in Manhattan (many of them presumably Giants fans).

* The Giants have been here before. And their most recent Super Bowl experience is worth re-examining before getting carried away, one way or another, about Project Eli/Coughlin: Mission Improbable.

Seven years ago, the Giants also were underdogs to a team being flattered by best-of-all-time talk. Or half a team, anyway. The 2000 Baltimore Ravens arrived in Tampa for Super Bowl XXXV with a defense that had given up a record-low 165 points during the regular season, basking in media hype that dared to call the Ravens a better defensive outfit than the mid-'80s Chicago Bears, the Steel Curtain-era Pittsburgh Steelers or the Doomsday Dallas Cowboys of the 1970s.

Meanwhile, the Giants showed up with Kerry Collins as their starting quarterback.

Many initially suspected a rout, but then Super Bowl week lurched forward, the Giants gave a few good news conferences, and writers started sitting around and thinking way too much about how it could fall apart for the Ravens. (Granted, Trent Dilfer starting at quarterback for the Ravens sparked a lot of that thinking.) By kickoff, many had talked themselves into not only thinking the Giants had a chance, but that they would win the game.

Then Collins went out and had four passes intercepted and the Giants lost, 34-7.

These next two weeks could go very much the same way. Pundits, experts and oddsmakers will rethink the Giants, who have spent the last three weeks giving the country some strange new food for thought. Such as:

* The Giants have won their last 10 road games. No other team in NFL history has done that.

Of course, six of those victories came against Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia and Buffalo. But the last three were playoff games at Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay.

The Giants defeated the NFC's two best hopes on their home fields, including the Packers on Sunday in the league's third-coldest championship game on record. Regardless of how you feel about the NFC, the Giants deserve to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.

* Manning has not had a turnover during the postseason.

Breaking down that amazing sentence into statistical bits, Manning has thrown 85 passes this postseason, completed 53 to Giants and none to opponents. This is a better stretch than New England's Tom Brady, who had three interceptions during the Patriots' 21-12 AFC championship game triumph over San Diego.

Maybe it was youth, maybe it was metabolism, maybe it was adrenaline, but Manning handled the brutal Lambeau Field conditions better than Brett Favre, who had far too many minutes of inactivity on the sideline watching the Packers defense turn Manning-to-Plaxico Burress into an incredible simulation of Bart Starr-to-Boyd Dowler.

Burress, who finished with 11 catches for 154 yards, had it right when he yelled at the Packers' bench that Green Bay cornerback Al Harris "can't cover me!" End result: Manning is headed to Arizona, Favre could be headed into retirement.

* Final score from East Rutherford, N.J., Dec. 29, 2007: Patriots 38 Giants 35.

There is video evidence, captured fairly recently, that proves the Giants are capable of playing with the Patriots for four quarters, even leading them by 12 points with five minutes left in the third quarter. Manning threw four touchdown passes in that game, and seemed to develop new confidence -- almost a whole new on-field personality -- with the performance.

These are factors that will be weighed and played in the media in the bloated buildup that unfortunately awaits us all. So, too, will the fact that the Patriots won each of their three Super Bowl titles by three points.

Then again, Bill Belichick will have two weeks to game-plan, and Manning will have two weeks to wonder "Is this really happening?" so you never know.

The Giants can draw inspiration from a team that began the 2002 Super Bowl as a 14-point underdog, yet came away a winner on a last-second field goal.

That team was the New England Patriots.

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A Super Rematch

Editor’s Note: Marc Lawrence finishes up the pro football season strong with hard-core analysis and expert predictions. Don’t miss out his winners on Super Bowl XLII. Click to win!

Hide your heart, girls…Eli’s coming. Forget about Peyton. Suddenly he’s old news. Eli Manning and the record-setting Giants take on Tom Brady and his record-setting 18-0 Patriots in SB XLII.

New England’s quest for perfection is superseded by the AFC’s dominance in the Super Bowl, where they’ve captured eight of the last 10 games. In fact, they’ve also held the upper hand over the NFC throughout this decade, posting a 246-193-1 SU & 233-192-15 record entering this season, including 66-8 SU & 44-28-2 ATS as favorites of seven or more points.

This year, however, the NFC manned up and battled its brethren toe-to-toe, going 32-32 SU - including 17-15 SU & 15-15-2 ATS with teams that sported a record of .500 or better.

Hmmm. Before we knee-jerk on that thought alone, let’s closely examine what it is that each team brings to the table in this contest.

For all intents and purposes, New England’s season was galvanized when Bill Belichick was called out in the ‘Spygate’ scandal. It served as the impetus they were looking, rallying around the incident and bursting out of the gates with eight wins and covers during the first half of the season, by an average win margin of 25.5 PPG while beating the spread by +117.5 points.

Since then though, while still managing to remain undefeated, they enter the Super Bowl on a dismal 2-8 ATS slide. In the process their average win margin dipped to 12.2 PPG and its net-spread fell faster than Britney’s panties at a posh Vegas club, closing out -40.5 points. Not exactly endearing numbers for a team installed as two touchdown favorites against a ‘dog that refuses to believe it doesn’t belong.

The Giants incredible run to Glendale occurred despite a 0-2 start (losses to Dallas and Green Bay). Since then they have won an NFL record 10 straight road games, going 9-1 ATS while beating the spread +83.5 points in those games away from the Big Apple. They also handed Green Bay QB Brett Favre his first-ever home loss in games from December out against an opponent off a win in which the Packers entered with a win percentage of .640 or more (now 17-1 and 16-1-1 ATS).

In addition, they become only the third team in NFL history to make the ‘big game’ by winning three consecutive playoff games on the road. They’ll have two weeks to refuel while dissecting a season-ending 38-35 loss to the Pats, as 13.5 point home dogs, a game in which the Giants lead 28-16 in the second half.

From a coaches perspective it’s hard to refute Bill Belichick’s sterling record, especially in the post-season. 15-3 SU (12-0 as a favorite), but only 9-8-1 ATS. And Over/Under fans should take note that his teams are 7-11 UNDER in the playoffs.

For what it’s worth, Belichick is 13-1 SU in his career in games when the Over/Under total in the game is posted at 49 or higher. He also owns top-notch numbers against NFC opposition as a head coach in the NFL, going 36-15 SU & 30-19-2 ATS against the confederates.

Inside those numbers is a 14-5 SU/ATS mark when his team is off an ATS loss and also a 25-10 SU/ATS record if they scored less than 28 points in their previous game.

His counterpart, Tom Coughlin, answers with a bevy of good numbers, too. Included is a 6-2 ATS mark as a dog of 11-plus points and a nifty 17-11 ATS log in games off a SU dog win (6-1 SUATS the last seven). Coughlin is also a very dangerous 8-7 SU & 9-4-2 ATS in his NFL career in games against undefeated teams!

Sure-shot Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady’s numbers speak for themselves. He’ll enter SBXLII with a career record of 100-25 SU & 76-45-4 ATS (but only 11-11 ATS as a double-digit favorite). Included is a brilliant 14-2 SU mark in the post-season with three Super Bowl rings to show for his efforts.

Giant QB Manning is just beginning to create his own legacy. As a starter in the NFL, Eli is 32-27 SU & 35-24 ATS, but 19-9-1 ATS away from home. He’s also a noteworthy 29-12-1 ATS in games after the Giants scored more than 17 points the previous game.

In closing, some SUPER BOWL FACTS to ponder:

# The last 12 Super Bowls have seen the favorite go 9-3 SU & 4-6-2 ATS
# The last 14 favorites to score 30 or less points are 2-11-1 ATS
# Teams who score 27 or more points are 23-1 SU & 21-2-1 ATS
# Teams who score less than 20 points are 0-23 SU & 3-19-1 ATS
# Since 1980 teams who won a playoff game in overtime are 5-10 SU & 7-8 ATS in their next game, including 0-2 SU & ATS if the next game had Roman Numerals attached to it.

Whew. A lot of numbers to digest, to be sure. The bottom line is that the pressure is squarely on New England to become the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to escape a season unscathed from start to finish. The problem is they are leaking oil (point-spread) badly while their opponent is super-surging. Yes, Eli’s coming and the cards say… check back next week for more super fodder on Super Bowl XLII.

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Super Bowl matchup expected to break betting records

The story lines behind the game between the undefeated New England Patriots and underdog New York Giants push many into the pool.

No one will be surprised to see this year's Super Bowl break all kinds of betting records because of the story lines connected with the New England Patriots and New York Giants.

For bettors who like heavy favorites, you have the undefeated Patriots, who have attracted big money for their games throughout the season.

Then there are the Giants, who have grown into the role as longshot underdogs through their impressive late-season run and the playoffs.

Patriots versus Giants. It's a matchup that's expected to shatter the Nevada state record handle for a Super Bowl, set two years ago at $94.5 million when Pittsburgh defeated Seattle.

Even though this year's Super Bowl is 11 days away, action for the game has already had an effect on the point spread.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants Inc. recommended the Patriots as 14-point favorites and most boards opened with them at 13 1/2 points. But by Tuesday afternoon, the line had dropped to 12 points in many places as a result of major support given to the Giants.

"The early wagers are from the professionals," said Ken White, chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sports Consultants. "The line is overinflated, due to the success of the New England Patriots this season.

"The general public will not wager until a couple of days before the game, which represents 80% of the money. . . . Look for the line to go back up to 13 or higher."

Another reason for the decline in the point spread could be the reaction to New England quarterback Tom Brady's foot or ankle injury. New York supporters probably jumped all over the news about Brady wearing a medical boot Monday.

But White said that may be a reach.

"If there was anything seriously wrong with Brady," White said, "he would've been on crutches."

More Super Bowl: This year's game has a good chance to become Nevada's first $100-million handle for a Super Bowl. And if Internet betting, private pools and street bets were added in, the matchup could easily generate more than $1 billion in wagering.

Last Super Bowl note: A total of $93 million was wagered on last year's game when Indianapolis defeated Chicago, 29-17. The Colts were seven-point favorites and the total was 47.

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Odds are Vegas not pleased

Although the rest of the sporting world may look at the Patriots as being one win away from completing a perfect season, Las Vegas views them through a much different prism.

To the oddsmakers on the Strip, the 18-0 Patriots are really 10-8.

"As far as the pointspread goes, that's correct," said Chuck Esposito, director of the race and sports book at Caesars Palace, where the Patriots were installed as 14-point favorites over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII Feb. 3.

"Granted, it's a lot of points," Esposito said, "but we looked for a number that would draw good two-way action [an equal number of bets on both teams]. We're not predicting who is going to win or lose, but it's a pointspread that we feel is going to draw good two-way action."

Since its initial release, however, the pointspread has gone down to 12, which, oddsmakers say, is not so much a reflection of the recent news about quarterback Tom Brady's right ankle sprain as it is of the Patriots' 2-7 record vs. the spread in their last nine games.

"[Brady] would probably affect the line more than anybody in the NFL; maybe Peyton Manning could rival him," said Tony Sinisi, odds director at Las Vegas Sports Consultants. "But it might be a 10-point drop if it went from Tom Brady to Matt Cassel. It would probably go down to New England 3. But there's not any feeling out there that Brady won't play."

Before news broke about Brady's ankle, "I think the betting public was looking for value and felt that, at 13 or 14, there was just too good a value on the Giants," Esposito said. "They have covered nine out of 10 road games and have won 10 straight road games and covered all three playoff games."

It has prompted many bettors to take the Giants and the points.

"We opened the Super Bowl line at 14 and it quickly moved from 14 to 13 1/2, and ever since then, it's been dropping little by little," said Jay Kornegay, executive director of the race and sports book at the Las Vegas Hilton, who estimated that 70 percent of the early action has been on the Giants. "It's a little odd, because the favorite in the Super Bowl is always inflated and in this case, it's no different. This is one line that we make that's geared toward the general public, because the general public's money always dominates the action in the Super Bowl. When we put that line out, we expected a little bit more support on the Patriots and we haven't seen that yet, but we're hoping it comes out later."

At the beginning of the season, the Patriots were a sure bet after they trampled not only their opposition en route to an 8-0 start, but the Vegas sports books as well, beating the spread in those wins. Their perfect record (against the spread, that is) was blemished when they failed to cover as a 5-point favorite in a 24-20 triumph at Indianapolis Nov. 4.

"Actually, the Patriots all season long have been a thorn in our side," Kornegay said. "It's a team we just cannot figure out. We took it in the shorts for pretty much two-thirds of the season. The last game that we won - one of the games that we won - was the Eagles game [a 31-28 Patriots triumph]. That was the last game we saw this huge snowball effect of support for the Patriots.

"Ever since then, it's kind of been a lukewarm feeling from our gamblers."

That was likely because the Patriots have been performing poorly against the spread since midseason.

"The Patriots really are an incredible team and our lines reflect their excellence," Sinisi said. "Earlier in the year, they were covering the spread at an inordinate rate. So what we do is we always adjust off the results and the betting action each week, and those lines would continually go up and up and up.

"They've kind of reached a point where the Patriots are continuing to win, but they're not covering, which is lessening the pain on our end."

The only games in which the Patriots beat the spread in their last nine were against Buffalo (favored by 16, they won, 56-10) and Pittsburgh (they won, 34-13, after the line dropped from 15 to 10 1/2) when "a lot of money came in on Pittsburgh," Sinisi said).

"Last week against San Diego [a 21-12 win], it was 14 and there was a little fluctuation back and forth, but it closed at 14," Sinisi said. "The previous week [a 31-20 win], we opened them at 11 1/2 against Jacksonville and they closed at 13 1/2, so there was New England money. Even though they have cooled off spread-wise, they are still the glamour team and the numbers are still big because of a) performance and b) they still draw money."

And money, as everyone knows, follows money.

"It's been very difficult to book these games," Kornegay said. "They're 18-0 and the books have won maybe four of those games. The rest of those games, we've lost on. During the course of the year, the Patriots games have been like mini-Super Bowls for us.

"In most cases, it's been the game of the week. It's the game that has the most action on it, and whether you bet against them or for them, everybody's watching the Patriot game. And in most cases, the book wound up on the short end of the stick when the results came in.

"I can't say that we've really 'loved' the Patriots, but I can say this: It's been an exciting year and the Patriots obviously have been a big part of it. The electricity and the atmosphere in the sports books every time the Patriots play has just been tremendous; however, the sports book results haven't been in our favor most of the time."

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Re: Super Bowl News and Notes

Matchup of big-market teams may mean Super bets

The New York Giants vs. New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII pits two big-market teams against each other. Nevada's 176 legal sports books are hoping a double-digit point spread, heavy betting from the two teams' huge fan bases and the game's location in neighboring Arizona will create the first $100 million "handle," or betting total, for a Super Bowl game.

"This could be the biggest-bet game ever," predicts Chuck Esposito, assistant vice president of race and sports book operations at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. But Jay Kornegay, executive director of the Las Vegas Hilton's race and sports book, counters the only game that would generate $100 million in "action," or betting, would be Tom Brady's Patriots vs. Brett Favre's Green Bay Packers.

Some sports books thought the Indianapolis Colts vs. Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI would crack $100 million last year. Instead, the $93 million handle fell $1.5 million short of the record $94.5 million bet on Super Bowl XL between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, according to Frank Streshley, senior analyst at the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Both Caesars and the Hilton installed the Patriots as 14-point favorites as soon as Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes drilled his game-winning field goal Sunday (The Fox NFL Sunday crew even quoted the 14-point opening line by sports analyst Danny Sheridan). Heavy betting on the Giants led the two books to drop their lines to 12 points by Wednesday.

The favored Patriots failed to cover the point spread at home in their two playoff victories, against the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers, says Sheridan.

Eli Manning's Giants, meanwhile, beat the spread in all three of its road playoff wins, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys and Packers. The Giants also covered the spread in their 38-35 home loss to the Patriots in Week 17.

There's been "a non-stop flow of Giants money; 80% of the bets have been on the Giants," says Kornegay. Things could change quickly. Esposito predicts the spread could fall further, inducing more Patriots fans to bet their cash. Most Super Bowl bets are placed in the final 72 hours before kickoff. "Twelve is kind of a dead number," Esposito says.

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Re: Super Bowl News and Notes

Super Bowl Betting Shows Support for Giants: Joe Saumarez-Smith

The bookies have got the Super Bowl match up they wished for.

While most neutral fans would agree that a Packers versus Patriots meeting would probably have been a more competitive game, the bookies are delighted to have a New York team in the final. Any time a team from a big metropolitan area makes the final of a major sporting event -- be it the World Series, NBA finals or the Super Bowl -- the amount bet on the game will be substantially more than ever could be generated by the loyal fans of Wisconsin or a similarly populated state.

Immediately after the conference finals, the linesmakers put up a point spread of the Patriots -- 13.5, meaning they expect New England to win by just under two touchdowns. The betting public's immediate reaction was that the line was too high and the money on the Giants forced the line down to the current -12.

My guess is that there are three reasons for the early support for the Giants. The first is that the two sides have recently played each other, having met on Dec. 29 when the Patriots narrowly edged it 38-35, thanks to 15 fourth-quarter points. Bettors figure that if the margin was only three points on that occasion, why is it likely to be much bigger five weeks later? The second is that lower-seeded teams have a surprisingly strong record in the Super Bowl; in the last decade, six of the lower-seeded teams have won, three have lost and on one occasion both teams were seeded equally.

Bad Record

The third is that the Patriots have an appalling record against the point spread, having failed to cover in their last seven games. That suggests that the books and the public are putting too much store in the ``perfect season'' and that coach Bill Belichick doesn't mind by how far his team wins, only that they win.

The current betting action, as reported by online sports betting giant, shows that 83 percent of the betting on the point spread has been on the Giants and 17 percent on the Patriots. Expect this number to be much closer to 60-40 in favor of the Patriots by kickoff as generally only the really serious bettors get their money down more than a week before the game is played. Every sportsbook manager will tell you that 95 percent of the action booked on a sports contest comes on the day the game is played.

Bookies are also offering odds on the total points scored in the Super Bowl. The line opened at 55 but has been bet down to 54. Again, expect this to increase before kickoff as the public loves to combine the favorite and the ``over'' in the Super Bowl.

Bookies Need Giants

Chris David, sports editorial director for the online sports betting information site, says the bookies are praying for an unlikely New York Giants win: ``The books have a lot of bad long-term positions. The Patriots opened up as 4-1 favorites and have been the worst long-term result since the start of the season. The Giants were 200-1 in Week 2, and there have only been a handful of bets on them. So the bookies really need the Giants.''

David also says that, surprisingly, most sportsbooks hate the Super Bowl: ``Historically, it has been a losing event for the linesmakers and because of the huge amounts bet, it hurts all the harder. Most bookies would be happy to shut up shop today and come back for March Madness, but that's not the way the business works.''

Value Bets

Next week I will look at the thousands of novelty and gimmick bets (known as proposition bets) on the Super Bowl. The linesmakers are currently working overtime to create unusual bets on the game, whether it be the number of times they use the chain to measure a first down or how many times the coaches challenge a play.

The good thing about these markets is that the bookies tend to put relatively little time into researching them because their main concern is the final score. Most bookies I know are happy if they break even on their proposition bets and offer them to their customers as part of their betting service. This tends to mean there is lots of value in betting on them, so I hope to unearth some nuggets of value.

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Re: Super Bowl News and Notes

Super Bowl Bets in Vegas May Exceed $100 Million for First Time

The allure of a perfect season for the New England Patriots or a historic upset for the underdog New York Giants may boost Super Bowl wagers at Las Vegas sports books above $100 million for the first time.

Last year's National Football League championship game between Indianapolis and Chicago resulted in $93.1 million in legal bets at Nevada's 176 sports books, down from the record $94.5 million wagered on the Super Bowl in 2006.

The 18-0 Patriots are favored by 12 points for the Feb. 3 game in Glendale, Arizona. Most Las Vegas sports books opened the line at 13 1/2 points and then lowered it as the majority of the early betting was on the 13-6 Giants, who have won three straight playoff games as underdogs.

``I do expect wagering to exceed $100 million,'' Art Manteris, vice president of race and sports book operations at Station's Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas, said in a telephone interview. ``The Patriots are very popular and their quest for an undefeated season causes a lot of interest. And having a major-market team like New York involved is a big plus.''

The Patriots have won three of the past six NFL titles and are seeking to join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the second team in league history to cap an undefeated season with a Super Bowl win. The Giants, in the championship game for the first time since 2001, are attempting to become the second team to win a Super Bowl after logging a 10-6 regular-season record.

``This is a unique game and we're expecting a record handle,'' said Jeff Sherman, assistant manager of the Hilton Race and Sports Book in Las Vegas. ``You're going to have people that probably don't normally get involved in the wagering aspect of it getting caught up in the hype and saying, `Let me put down a bet since everyone else is doing it.'''

`Big Money Bets'

Frank Streshley, a senior gaming analyst for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said he thought Super Bowl wagering might reach $100 million last year, when Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was trying to win his first title against a popular Bears franchise that's been a cornerstone of the NFL for 86 years.

Because of last year's slight decline, and due in part to a slowing economy, Streshley said that the total amount legally wagered on this year's game may not reach the milestone. He said it would also depend on whether sports books get the ``big money bets,'' or wagers in excess of $100,000.

``I think it'll get a good handle,'' Streshley said in a telephone interview. ``If we surpass $100 million, I might be a little surprised there. Again, it depends on if the big bettors come in or not. With New England, we've had some of the better handles in the past 10 years in terms of amounts wagered.''

Nevada is the only U.S. state in which sports betting is legal. Hundreds of millions more dollars are bet on the Super Bowl at online sports books located outside the U.S.

Previous Matchup

The Patriots beat New York 38-35 at Giants Stadium in the final week of the regular season.

The Giants haven't lost since, beating Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay in the playoffs, and have covered the point spread in their past five games. That includes the first matchup with New England, in which the Giants were 14-point underdogs and held a 28-16 second-half lead before quarterback Tom Brady, the NFL's Most Valuable Player, rallied the Patriots for their 16th straight win.

New England, after covering its first six games of the season and outscoring opponents by an average of 23 points, has failed to win by more than the point spread in the past five games. The Patriots beat Jacksonville by 11 points in their playoff opener and San Diego by nine in last week's AFC championship.

``The money so far has been decidedly on the Giants,'' said Manteris. ``People saw the Giants play the Patriots real tough a couple of weeks ago and have seen the run that they're on. The Patriots haven't been covering the spread now for the past two months. They were on a tremendous roll the first half of the season, covering the point spread easily every week, but now the tide has turned.''

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