Super Bowl XLII

Super Bowl XLII

Giants vs. Patriots: the key matchups

Matchups for the Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots on Feb. 3 at the University of Phoenix Stadium:

When the Giants have the ball

Having scored 35 points in their season-finale loss to New England, the Giants know they can move the ball on the Patriots. Moving the ball is not enough, though. Nor is kicking field goals. New York must reach the end zone several times, while also trying to use up the clock.

That means Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw running often. Both have been particularly effective down the stretch, with the rookie Bradshaw breaking some long runs. New England is most vulnerable in that area, although calling the Patriots' run defense a weakness would be an exaggeration.

Linebackers Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel , Junior Seau and Adalius Thomas  will be kept busy by those running backs. The Giants could be without left guard Rich Seubert , who hurt his knee, which won't help against the assortment of defensive linemen New England uses. The star is Richard Seymour , who missed half the season recovering from a knee injury and has not been particularly dynamic yet. But Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork certainly have been, and Jarvis Green provides depth up front.

New York's blocking has been superb in the playoffs, providing ample protection for Eli Manningand opening wide holes for the running backs. Tackle David Diehl and guard Chris Snee have been particularly impressive.

If Manning gets the same amount of time he's received recently, his hookups with WRs Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, and rookies Steve Smith and TE Kevin Boss will give the Patriots plenty of trouble. Burress is not the deep threat the Patriots' Randy Moss provides, but he's nearly as dangerous because of his size, good hands and athletic ability. Burress also has been at his healthiest recently, which makes him a matchup problem for Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs .

Manning has been at his most accurate, playing the best football of his four-year career. His playoff numbers - particularly four touchdowns to no interceptions and a 99.2 rating - are worthy of brother Peyton, last year's Super Bowl MVP.

When the Patriots have the ball

Unquestionably, the key for New York is slowing Moss, who overwhelmed Giants cornerbacks and safeties in the last meeting. Moss had six receptions for 100 yards and two TDs as he broke Jerry Rice's NFL mark with 23 touchdown catches. While Corey Webster has made some big plays in the postseason, he'll need help from Gibril Wilson and the other safeties. The Giants must be aggressive in their approach against Moss.

Of course, that usually leaves Wes Welker with single coverage, and Welker can be destructive on underneath routes. He had 11 catches for 122 yards in the season finale.

There's also Donte' Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney for New York cornerbacks Webster, Sam Madison, rookie Aaron Ross  and R.W. McQuarters  to deal with. The safeties have to handle tight end Benjamin Watson , who's extremely dangerous in the red zone.

Plus, there's RB Kevin Faulk on screens, flares and other short passes he turns into decent gains, particularly on first down. Faulk also is terrific on third downs for the highest-scoring offense in league history.

Faulk won't do a lot of running with RB Laurence Maroney now a focal point of the offense. Maroney has run for 244 yards and two TDs and is averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

Engineering it all is the league MVP, Tom Brady , who is 3-0 in Super Bowls, twice earning MVP honors. Unless the Giants get ample pressure on Brady with their standout linemen - Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora , Justin Tuck and Fred Robbins - and linebacker Antonio Pierce , Brady might get a third individual trophy.

Brady supposedly has a slight ankle injury. Or maybe coach Bill Belichick invented that to make his superb offensive line even stauncher in their protection. Tackle Matt Light , guard Logan Mankins and center Dan Koppen are the standouts.

Special Teams

Adam Vinatieri played a leading role in all three Patriots Super Bowl victories, and then won a title with Indianapolis last year. Now Stephen Gostkowski does the placekicking, and he's money.

Lawrence Tynes was inconsistent in his first year with the Giants, and he missed two potential winning field goals at frigid Green Bay in the title game. But he made a 47-yarder to send New York to the Super Bowl.

Patriots punter Chris Hanson didn't get used much during the season, and his gross average in the playoffs is 38.0 yards, less than 20-year veteran Jeff Feagles' net. Feagles is appearing in his first Super Bowl despite two decades in the league.

Neither team has dangerous threats on kick or punt returns, although Domenik Hixon has given the Giants a late-season spark. Hobbs had a 108-yard kickoff return, but that was in the opener.

Coaching

A matchup of former colleagues with the Giants under Bill Parcells. Belichick has won three titles with the Patriots and, given two weeks to prepare for a team, he is virtually unbeatable. Then again, his team has been totally unbeatable this season.

The 2007 Coach of the Year despite the Spygate scandal that cost him a $500,000 league fine, Belichick will come up with a variety of defensive schemes to confuse Manning. His offense will be full-throttle all game.

Coughlin's work this season has been very impressive, too. The Giants were 8-8 in 2006 and barely squeezed into the playoffs, where they lost in the first round. Another such performance might have led to his firing.

Instead, he's improved his relationship with the players and, during the postseason, he's developed solid game plans that the Giants have executed magnificently. Coughlin heads to his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a contract extension certain.

Intangibles

New York simply doesn't lose on the road, and the Giants are the designated away team at University of Phoenix Stadium. They've won 10 straight away games, and they have outplayed all three opponents in the playoffs on both sides of the ball.

Don't forget that they tested the Patriots on Dec. 29, even led by 12 points in the third quarter. And all the pressure is on New England.

Not that the Patriots care about pressure. They are the, uh, perfect example of a team that responds to whatever challenge. This is the best version of any of the Pats teams to make the Super Bowl this decade, and their undefeated record has placed them in a glaring spotlight for months.

New England is experienced, well-rounded and incredibly focused on this championship.

Associated Press

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Five Super Bowl stats you should know
Covers.com

With all the hype about this year’s Super Bowl it’s going to be relatively easy to find the obvious betting statistics, like against the spread and over/under records between the Pats and the Giants.

To give bettors a greater edge in their Super Bowl betting, we’ve gone back through 20 years worth of statistics to bring you a few nuggets of information that could help you make some money.

1. Big favorites have mixed results


The Patriots are hefty 12-point favorites to beat the Giants, which is not surprising for a team that is 18-0. But how have big favorites fared against the spread in past Super Bowls?

Favorites of seven points or more have gone 7-6-1 against the spread in the Super Bowl since the 1986 season, while faves of 10 points or more have gone 4-3-1. Ironically, the biggest spread over that time came in the 2002 clash between St. Louis and New England. The Rams were 14-point favorites, but ended up losing 20-17 to the Pats.

In their next two Super Bowl appearances, the Patriots were seven-point favorites. But they failed to cover on both occasions, beating the Panthers by three in 2004 and the Eagles by three in 2005. In fact, the Pats have been to five Super Bowls in 21 years, but have covered just once.

2. NFC wins battle of the East

Recent history is on the Giants’ side if you look back at Super Bowl matchups between teams from the AFC East and the NFC East.

In the five contests between teams from those divisions in the past 20 years, the NFC East teams are 4-1 straight and 5-0 against the spread, with three of those games going over the total. The Giants were involved in one of those battles, beating the Buffalo Bills 20-19 in 1991.

But the only AFC East team to hand an NFC East franchise a Super Bowl loss over that time was the New England Patriots. They beat the Eagles 24-21 in 2005.

3. Giants home record sets a record

The Giants set an unwanted record this season, becoming the only team in history to make football’s showpiece game, despite having a losing home record.

New York went 3-5 at home this season, losing to Green Bay, Dallas, Minnesota, Washington and New England at Giants Stadium. They lost to the Packers and Dallas by a combined 33 points in those home losses, but it’s worth noting that they defeated both teams on the road in the playoffs.

The home loss to New England will also be a source of encouragement for the Giants. They were only the third team this season to take a lead into the final quarter against the Patriots (28-23), but ended up losing 38-35 because of Tom Brady’s pinpoint passing under pressure.

4. Don’t overlook the total

There have only been five Super Bowls in the last 20 years with a total of 50 or more, with two of them going over the total and the other three going under. The Patriots were involved in one of those games – their 2004 win over Carolina went over the 53-point total.

Of more relevance are the total trends in recent matchups between the Pats and the Giants. Three straight meetings between these teams have gone over, but the totals only ranged from 35 to 46 ½ over that period.

In fact, the 53 ½-point spread between the New England and New York is the highest in well over 10 years and is likely the reaction of oddsmakers to the offensive shootout these teams produced in their last meeting.

5. Successful road teams in the Super Bowl

The New York Giants have won 10 straight road games (a single season record), including three straight in this season’s playoffs. Only five wild-card teams since 1970 have reached the Super Bowl.

The two most recent were the 1986 New England Patriots and the 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers. The Patriots went on to lose the ‘86 final to the Chicago Bears – a 46-10 blowout loss. But the Steelers continued their momentum, defeating Seattle 21-10 as four-point favorites.

Although the Super Bowl is technically at a neutral venue in Arizona, the Giants have been designated as the visiting team.

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Intangibles - Ground Game
By Matt Fargo

It’s pretty common knowledge in football that winning the rushing battle usually means winning the football game. That is the case throughout the regular season, the playoffs and ultimately, the Super Bowl. Obviously, picking which team is going to win the rushing battle is not the easiest of tasks since if it was, everyone would be likely winning money on sports’ most wagered-on game. Let’s do some breakdowns and see who has the best shot to win the line of scrimmage for Super Bowl XLII.

The Rushing Game

Let’s take a look at some history first. Winning the rushing game usually means winning the Super Bowl but what exactly is the likeliness of that? Of the first 41 Super Bowls, the winning team had more rushing yards in 34 of those games which is pretty significant. More importantly for us and for the purpose of this article, the team with the greater rushing yard total is 30-11 ATS (73.2 percent). So not only predicting the rushing winner gives us the outright winner but it likely gives us a spread cover as well.

The Super Bowl winner has averaged 152.7 YPG through the first 41 big games while the losing team has averaged just 88.1 YPG. It can be argued that the winning team is likely sitting on the lead and piling on meaningless rushing yards while the trailing team is forced to abandon the run. Sure that is the case some of the time however looking at YPC averages strengthens the rushing theory. The winners have averaged over 4.01 YPC while the losing team has averaged 3.65 YPC.

The Super Bowl winner has been held to fewer than 100 yards only five times in the history of the big game, most recently Super Bowl XXXIV winner St. Louis. Seven times has seen the winner gain over 200 yards and its no surprise that the average margin of victory in those games was 20.3 PPG however this has not taken place since Super Bowl XXII in 1988. The most yards ever gained by a Super Bowl loser were 166 yards by Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV against the Giants.

Now on to this season. New England finished the regular season ranked 10th in rushing defense, allowing 98.3 YPG. However, if there ever was a season that skewed this average, this was the one. The Patriots did not lose this year and they were ahead the vast majority of the time in the second half which forced almost every team to abandon the running game. A better indication of how the rushing defense performed is to look at average per rush and New England surrendered 4.4 YPC which was tied for 26th.

The Giants used a strong running game for their success this year. They finished 4th in the league with 134.3 YPG and the fifth game of the season against the Jets was the turning point. New York rushed for 188 yards in that game and suddenly there was no slowing down the running game. The Giants averaged 99.3 YPG through their first four games prior to that breakout and 146 YPG in their final 12. They also finished with a 4.6 YPC average, good for 3rd best in the league.

As good as the offense was, the defense was nearly as dominant. New York allowed 97.7 YPG during the regular season which was 8th in the NFL and its 3.8 YPG average allowed was good for a tie for 4th with five other teams. New England averaged 115.6 YPG on the ground which was middle of the pack while its 4.1 YPC average was right there as well. The Patriots offense was successful around the passing game with no need for a running attack but it has been a turnaround during the playoffs.

The Patriots have averaged 147 YPG in their two playoff games and an even more impressive 4.9 YPC. However, the efforts did come against the 11th and 16th ranked rushing defenses to take it for what it’s worth. Lawrence Maroney is averaging 122 YPG during the playoffs and has been huge for the Patriots offense as he is averaging 5.2 YPC. If the Patriots can get that sort of production, it will be a huge accomplishment considering New York is allowing 83.7 YPG and 3.6 YPC during the playoffs.

The Patriots rushing defense has stepped up in the postseason as it has allowed just 92 YPG against two very good rushing offenses. However, the Jaguars had success with the passing game and stuck with that while the Chargers were without LaDainian Tomlinson, who rushed the ball just twice. They have allowed 4.18 YPC so it really hasn’t been complete domination. The Giants numbers have gone down considerably, averaging 108 YPG on 3.5 YPC in the three playoff games so that is a concern.

This is one of those rare occasions where we can actually look at a matchup from an earlier meeting in the season and this one happened to take place in the final regular season game. The Giants only rushed for 79 yards in the first meeting this season but they ran it only 19 times the entire game. They put up a solid 4.16 YPC average and if not for losing the time of possession by over 12 minutes, the running game could have been more vital. New England rushed for just 44 yards on 26 carries (1.69 YPC).

These comparisons are quite similar to what we saw last season. Chicago had the clear cut advantage in the running game during the regular season but that shifted in the playoffs to the Colts side and that edge carried over into the Super Bowl. Will we see a similar outcome? The shift of the rushing edge to the New England side during the postseason is not as significant and we will have to wait and see what effect this has on Super Bowl XLII. My opinion of that will be part of the winning side released soon.

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Brady vs. G-Men's secondary
By Brian Edwards

Of all the important matchups for Super Bowl XLII, you can make a valid argument that Tom Brady against the Giants defense is the most pivotal. Why, you ask? Well, quite simply, because no defense has shut down New England’s passing game all season, resulting in an 18-0 record for the Patriots.

Can New York’s defense become the first to stymie the NFL’s best quarterback, who has the league’s best set of wideouts in Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney? That’s the burning question in Gotham, where the Giants gave up a pair of long touchdown passes to Moss in the regular-season finale, when New England rallied for a 38-35 victory.

The key to New England’s aerial attack starts with the boys up front on the offensive line, who have mostly kept Brady’s uniform clean all year (with the game at Baltimore serving as the notable exception). This o-line unit will square off against a pair of outstanding defensive ends in Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.

Strahan is past his prime, but we’re still talking about a guy who is fifth on the NFL’s all-time sacks list with 141 ½. He had nine during the regular season. As for Umenyiora, we’re talking about one of the game’s best pass rushers right now. He has tackled the QB 33 ½ times in his last 43 regular-season games.

The Giants sacked Brady just once in the regular-season meeting, when Brady completed 32-of-42 throws for 356 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions. The G-Men’s secondary can play great coverage all night, but it won’t matter one iota if the defensive front can’t get pressure on Brady.

New York has used a slew of cornerbacks this year, partly due to ineffectiveness and injuries. Corey Webster, a third-year pro from out of LSU, was deactivated for a pair of games and demoted after starting the season as a starter.

Sam Madison, the 33-year old veteran, has started 16 games (including the playoffs) and given up just one touchdown. Aaron Ross, a rookie that started 11 games, gave up seven TDs but has improved as the season has progressed. R.W. McQuarters has only started one game, but he was the hero at Dallas with his game-clinching interception.

Madison missed the first two playoff games, but he has recovered from an abdominal strain and played in the win at Green Bay. Webster got burned by Donald Driver for a 90-yard TD, only to bounce back and make the play of the game when he intercepted Brett Favre to set up the game-winning field goal in overtime.

Former Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis played a lot of zone coverage, a scheme Madison and Webster struggled with in 2006. Remember, Webster played mostly bump-and-run coverage under Nick Saban in college, while Madison came up with Jimmy Johnson in Miami, where he and Patrick Surtain were two of the NFL’s best at man coverage.

Current d-coordinator Steve Spagnuolo goes with more man coverage, and that’s why New York’s pass defense is vastly improved from the 2006 unit.

Now let’s get back to talking about Brady, who produced record-setting numbers in 2007. The Michigan product posted an incredible 50/8 touchdown-interception ratio. However, he threw an uncharacteristic three interceptions in the AFC title game win over San Diego.

Brady’s mistakes cost New England backers – including yours truly – as the Pats failed to cover the double-digit number against the Chargers.

A surprising development in the playoffs has been the lack of production from Moss, who enjoyed a stellar bounce-back season with 98 receptions for 1,493 yards and 23 TDs. But Moss had only one catch for 14 yards against the Jags (granted, it was a huge play to convert a fourth down en route to a TD), and San Diego limited him to one grab for 18 yards.

But he was huge against the Giants in the first meeting, hauling in six receptions for 100 yards, including a gorgeous 65-yard bomb from Brady for the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter.

One reason for the lack of opportunities for Moss has been increased attention from opposing defenses, who have given him nothing but double-coverage looks. With that in mind, Brady has taken what the defense has given him, resulting in more chances for Welker and Gaffney.

Welker had 11 receptions for 122 yards in the previous meeting in the Meadowlands. Gaffney had three receptions against Jacksonville and had a TD grab against the Chargers.

Finally, we can’t ignore Brady’s brilliant check-down option in Kevin Faulk, who is a Dave Meggett/Joe Washington clone who always produces in big games. Brady loves to look for Faulk in medium-range third-down situations, and the LSU product rarely disappoints.

The Giants face a formidable task against this high-flying offense that will get to play in a warm environment for the first time in months. If Tom Coughlin’s team is going to pull the upset, you can bet that the G-Men’s pass defense will be the catalyst.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Not a huge fan of CBSsports.com’s Clark Judge’s work, but I’ve got to give him credit for this awesome stat: Before Bill Belichick had Tom Brady as his starting QB, his overall record as an NFL head coach was 42-58. With Brady under center, Belichick has a 100-26 record.

--Did I fail to mention Brady’s ankle in this column? Well, until now I did. His ankle might have played a small role in his three picks against San Diego, but it is such a non-issue this week. It’s unreal how much publicity non-stories get leading up to the Super Bowl. His ankle is fine and will be a non-factor on game day.

--Faulk had eight catches for 64 yards in the first game against the Giants.

--Eli Manning has zero turnovers in three playoff games this year. As previously noted, Brady had three turnovers in New England’s last game, including his first pick in the red zone in several years.

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Intangibles - Turnovers
VegasInsider.com

This is one of those topics that can be hit or miss since turnovers are usually so unpredictable in the NFL. Interceptions are more likely to be determined or “called” but fumbles, while contagious throughout a season, can happen when least expected and vice versa. Turnovers play significant roles in every game and the Super Bowl is no exception. In the first 41 Super Bowls, teams that win the turnover battle are 38-3 SU and 32-6-3 ATS. So pick the turnover winner and you likely have a winning ticket.

Turnovers

It is easier said that done however to try and determine who will win the battle of the turnovers. Looking at the regular season cumulative results will give you an indicator of which team is most likely to take the margin but if it were that easy, we’d all be rich. That aspect definitely plays a part in trying to make a prediction but it is just a piece of the pie that needs to be looked at. Looking through the most recent results will work better as will what the teams did during the playoffs.

New England finished third in the AFC during the regular season with a +16 turnover margin and that also happened to be third in the entire league. This was successful based on an efficient offense more so than a ball-hawking defense. The offense gave up the ball only 15 times the entire season, which was four times fewer than the Colts who were second with 19. The Patriots were the only team in the league to finish in single digits with both fumbles and interceptions.

The defense grabbed 31 turnovers which was 5th in the AFC, certainly a very good amount. The Patriots started the season with a +9 turnover ratio through their first eight games and that was one of the main reasons they started out 8-0 against the number. The margin came down after that as they were +7 though the final eight games (not including playoffs) and although it did not come down much, it came down enough in certain games for them to finish 2-6 ATS. New England is +1 in the playoffs.

The Giants meanwhile were not so good in the turnover department. They finished the regular season -9 in turnover margin which was 14th in the NFC and along with Washington, they were the only team in the entire league to make the playoffs with a negative margin. New York gave it up 34 times, fourth most in the conference and grabbed 25 turnovers, fifth least in the conference so it was a mixture of both sides not getting it done.

The postseason has been a complete turnaround however. The Giants are +5 in turnover margin in their three games and most important, they have turned it over only once in the postseason. A team that turns it over only once in three playoff road games will make it through as the Giants have. Eli Manning has been the main reason for this. He has not thrown an interception in the playoffs after tossing 20 during the regular season. His TD/INT ratio over the last seven games is 10/3.

We could see the old Manning come out but he is saying the right things and stating that he is the most comfortable that he has ever been. However, this is the biggest game of his career and the nerves and stress could cause a relapse. His counterpart Tom Brady has been here before, three times in fact, so he certainly is not going to let the pressure get to him. Brady tossed three interceptions against the Chargers and while we can normally chalk that up to just a bad game, his injury could make that come into play again.

New England has the advantage in turnovers coming into this one but it is not as big as it looks on paper. The recent success of New York’s turnover margin is huge because it has come at the right time. Conversely, the Patriots are +1 in the playoffs after finishing dead even in their final five regular season games. If New England wins the turnovers here, they win the game but it won’t be a guaranteed win for New York if it does. The Giants will likely need to be at least +2 to win outright and no worse than even for a cover.

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Coaching

The Super Bowl has progressed from just another game on the sporting landscape to an American institution. When Green Bay won Super Bowl I back in 1967, it was called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. The trophy was originally named the World Championship Game Trophy, but in 1970 was renamed the Vince Lombardi Trophy in honor of the legendary Packers coach who won the first two Super Bowls.

This game makes players and coaches icons who win the game, and there is no other contest with such a huge difference between winners and losers. Dallas, Pittsburgh and San Francisco all have five Super Bowl victories, and all have reached that number under different head coaches.

There are currently no teams with four Super Bowl victories, but there are four organizations that have three Vince Lombardi trophies. New England, Green Bay, Washington and the Oakland Raiders are on that list, but only the Patriots can record their fourth Super Bowl victory this weekend.

New England’s Bill Belichick currently has as many Super Bowl victories as legendary coaches Bill Walsh with San Francisco and Washington’s Joe Gibbs. The highly esteemed Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Tom Landry and a couple other coaches have two Super Bowl wins. Only Pittsburgh’s Chuck Noll has four Super Bowl victories, but that could all change after Super Bowl XLII.

Belichick is also trying to become just the second coach in the Super-Bowl era to preside over an undefeated team. Shula guided the 1972 Miami Dolphins to an undefeated record after capturing Super Bowl VII over Washington. New England is gunning for its fourth Super Bowl victory the past seven seasons after winning Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX.

The Patriots’ head coach just secured his second NFL Coach of the Year award after guiding his team to a 16-0 regular season. Belichick also maintains an incredible 15-3 postseason record, going 1-1 with Cleveland when he coached the Browns from 1991 to 1995. His closest setback concerning the Super Bowl occurred when he was an assistant head coach to Bill Parcells when New England lost to Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI.

Belichick then went to coach the New York Jets for a couple seasons before taking over the head-coaching duties in New England for the 2000 campaign. Ironically the man he succeeded was Pete Carroll, who has since enjoyed incredible success in college with Southern Cal. The Patriots are a solid 91-37 since Belichick has taken over, and have won the last five AFC East Division titles.

The 55-year-old coach was embroiled in some controversy earlier this year dubbed ‘Spygate.’ New England was caught filming the Jets defensive signals, and the league fined Belichick $500,000 and the Patriots $250,000. The league also docked the team a first-round pick in next year’s draft, but New England will still have the seventh pick due to an earlier trade with San Francisco.

New York head coach Tom Coughlin doesn’t quite have the pedigree of Belichick, but not many coaches do. Probably the lone common denominator between these coaches is that they were both mentored by Parcells. Coughlin won a ring as the Giants’ wide-receivers coach for the Super Bowl XXV victory over Buffalo.

The 61-year-old head coach is 103-89 in the NFL, including a 7-6 postseason record spanning tenures with the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars. Coughlin got his first NFL head-coaching gig with expansion Jacksonville, and the team reach the AFC Championship Game in just the second year of existence. He coached the Jaguars to the AFC title game twice, but never advanced to the Super Bowl.

Coughlin stumbled to a 19-29 ledger his last three seasons in Jacksonville, finishing his eight-year career with a 68-60 record before getting fired. The Syracuse grad was out of football for the 2003 campaign before being named the Giants’ 16th head coach.

His New York tenure has been highlighted by the rise of quarterback Eli Manning. Coughlin gave the rookie plenty of playing time during the 2004 season which eventually paid dividends the next year when the Giants won the NFC East. However, New York was blanked by Carolina, 23-0. Coughlin’s tenure with the Giants has been marred by player criticisms, and he was almost given the pink slip after the 2006 campaign that ended with a first-round loss to Philadelphia.

Instead, he was given a one-year contract extension and the Giants promptly dropped their first two games this season. New York then won six games in a row and remained ahead in the wild-card chase since the team could never catch Dallas in the NFC East standings. The Giants made their third consecutive postseason appearance, and recorded their first playoff victory in seven years by beating Tampa Bay.

Coughlin has guided his team to an incredible 10-1 straight up and 9-2 against the spread road record. That’s quality coaching, but it doesn’t quite measure up to what Belichick has done this year or postseasons in the past.

EDGE: New England Patriots

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Super Bowl action report: Oddsmakers tell all
COVERS.com STAFF

Wondering what’s going on at the sportsbooks a few days before the Super Bowl? Covers.com checked in with a couple books to see what their handle’s been so far and what they are expecting in the coming days.

What’s the action been like so far? Are you seeing increased betting as we get closer to Sunday?

Bill Nevin, BetUSA.com oddsmaker: I would say 95 percent of the action is on the day. Generally the only people betting now are sharps or people who are going to be away from their computers or phones at the weekend. Most people only start to think about a Super Bowl wager at about lunchtime on Sunday.

Francis Doyle, Sportsinteraction.com oddsmaker: The action has been fantastic. A team going for the first perfect season since 1972 against a team from the biggest city in the USA. What’s not to like there?

Where’s most of the action coming in on, the points or the chalk, over or under?

Randy Scott, Sportsbook Manager, BetEd.com: The early action has been based on the pointspread. When the line opened at -13 the early bettors came in heavy on New York and there was only light betting on the New England side. That made the line drop to -12 ½ , then -12 and now -11 ½. This week is different, New England bettors are beginning to get down - and with confidence. The per-bet volume ratio for this game is 2:1 in favor of the Giants, yet the bet amount per-side is almost even - that means Patriots backers are betting more money.

Bill Nevin: All the early money was for the Giants but as the week has gone on the support has all been for the Pats. At 10 a.m. today 81 percent of the pointspread wagers are on New England -12, and 56 percent of the cash has been on the over.

Francis Doyle: The line was set high initially on the basis that squares would eat up the chalk. This has not happened, and the Giants are proving quite a popular pick. Even the general sports media are giving the Giants far more of a chance than they gave the Patriots themselves against the Rams six years ago. People believe in the Giants. So far.

How much action are you expecting for game day?

Randy Scott: Sunday will draw 50 percent of the overall expected action. Meaning our action will double in volume on that day.

Bill Nevin: We expect to be up about 10 percent on last year. It’s not a total glamour tie but it’s good to have New York represented as it boosts handle. It is always best when it is two big city teams (e.g. Bears vs. Cowboys) in terms of handle but I think this is an interesting matchup so the handle will be reasonable.

Do you think the line will hold firm until kickoff? If not, which way might it move and why would that be?

Randy Scott: I think we'll see a steady increase in action stay on the Patriots as the weekend approaches. That should raise the line back up to the opening number, maybe more come Super Bowl Sunday.

Bill Nevin: Twelve seems like a pretty solid line unless there is any injury news. Our linesmakers would be reluctant to move off that unless the public became really caught up with the Pats.

Francis Doyle: We’re expecting action all the way to the kickoff and beyond, but we expect the line to hold steady. We’ll be doing live betting during the game which we expect to be popular too.

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Super Bowl XLII Props
VegasInsider.com 

While the media was obsessed over Tom Brady’s now infamous walking boot, visible as the pedal pushing Patriot QB was observed seeking refuge in the Manhattan love shack of model Gisele Bundchen, bookmakers were looking to generate some action of their own.

The vast majority of Las Vegas and offshore oddsmakers spent the better part of Monday and Tuesday concocting a virtual smorgasbord of proposition wagers which have now been made available to the betting public as Brady’s Patriots will take on the scrappy New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

The game, featuring the three-time champion Patriots and the Giants, winners of 10 consecutive road contests, including a trio in these playoffs, will be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale Arizona, a state of the arts facility with a retractable grass field that is rolled into the venue only on game day.

Long gone are the days in which the betting action was confined to strictly the point-spread and over/under. Today the proliferation of proposition wagering options has turned the Super Bowl into a gamblers’ dream, with enough options to make Pacman Jones rap sheet read like Cat in the Hat.

‘Prop’ bets originated in the early 1980’s as a whim and now provide an expansive wagering menu which ties in to individual players, team performance, and specific events that occur within the game, or in the case of the coin toss or duration of the national anthem, ones immediately preceding it. Variations of the point spread and total are also available.   

For example, while the Pats have settled in as a 12-point favorite, a bettor that anticipates a New England landslide victory could opt to lay more points in exchange for better odds.

In recent years, prop wagers have taken on such a creative flavor, that they now link other sporting events taking place in and around the Super Bowl to players, stats, and events in the big game itself.

Last year, one casino went so far as to offer props that pitted players of the then present day Bears against those of the Mike Ditka coached 1985 team that ran off 46 consecutive points en route to their annihilation of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX.

In a game that will tip off less than four hours before the start of Super Bowl XLII, the NBA will showcase a pair of title contenders from each conference as the Dallas Mavericks take on the Detroit Pistons from The Palace of Auburn Hills in a potential preview of the NBA Finals.

A few props have sprung up to titillate bettors’ fancies by pitting player stats from that contest versus numbers in the gridiron battle from Glendale on Sunday evening.

As props vary from venue to venue, and are often times created by innovative managers striving to set their book apart from the competition, the number of props that are available cannot be pinpointed to an exact number due to the extensive number of betting shops around the globe, though it is safe to say that it easily surpasses 500.

The sheer size of the prop menu will create betting opportunities, as the more options that the lines makers make available, the more prone he is to an oversight or miscalculation.

A classic example of that occurred in Super Bowl XXXVI as an ‘over/under’ prop for then Rams receiver Ricky Proehl, opened at 14.5 yards, which was inexplicably low based on the numbers which he compiled during the regular season.

Proehl played in all 16 regular season games that season and rang up 563 yards, an average of some 35 per contest and more than twice what the ‘over/under’ opened. Gradually the yardage moved up, eventually closing at 16 ½, as did the ‘money’. By game time, one had to lay 150 to win 100, or 3 to 2, to wager that Proehl would exceed 16 ½ in terms of receiving yards . In the end, Proehl proved to be a bargain at any number. Kurt Warner found the recently retired 16 year veteran 3 times for 71 yards and delivering ‘over’ bettors some easy cash.

Those rare miscalculations are just that, rare, but there are other keys to enjoying success in proposition wagering.

Keying in on any lingering injuries is obviously essential, but not to be overlooked is dissecting a coaches’ game plan, which often times can spell the difference between cashing a ticket and hurling a few choice obscenities towards anyone that may care to listen.

That knowledge may provide insight as to how a player is utilized, for example, in the case of a tight end, whether for blocking purposes, or for going out on pass patterns.

At first glance, the ‘over/under’ for catches on Giant tight end Kevin Boss appears tempting at 2, if you happen to be of the opinion that the first year player out of Oregon can replicate his four-catch, career best performance against these same Patriots in the regular season finale, a 38-35 win by New England. The Giant game plan will weigh heavily on the outcome on this one as Boss has had five starts since the injury to Jeremy Shockey in Week 15 and exceeded the 2 in only that one contest.

If the 6 6” Boss ends up in the pass patterns on the majority of the snaps as opposed to becoming a designated blocker, and the Patriots elect to double team Plaxico Burress, the over could be easy pickings at +125 for every 100 wagered especially if Amani Toomer lives up to form by allowing an early Manning pass to elude his grasp, which may inspire the Giant QB to look in Boss’ direction. Toomer appears determined to become to football version of Panamanian boxing legend Roberto Duran, known affectionately by his admiring fans as ‘Hands of Stone’.

Two years ago, the impending retirement of Jerome Bettis had odds makers in a tizzy, as it stood to reason that head coach Bill Cowher would spoon feed the ‘Bus’ in an attempt to send the 13-year veteran out a high note, especially if the Steelers opened up a comfortable lead, which is exactly what took place.

Those supporting that theory were rewarded as Bettis finished with 43 yards on 14 carries, in each case roughly twice his season average. However, those that wagered that ‘the Bus’ would reach the end zone were frustrated as he was stuffed short of the goal line on a pair of attempts, as Vegas bookmakers breathed a collective sigh of relief.

On the injury front, with the severity of Brady’s wounded wicket in question, prop bets relating to the Patriot quarterbacks’ productivity have to be considered somewhat of a crap shoot, especially given New England’s tendency to rely almost solely on the passing game this year, even while sporting double digit leads.

A heavier dose of Laurence Maroney appears to be in order, as was the case in the two prior Patriot playoff wins as the second year pro out of Minnesota racked up 122 yards a piece in each of those contests. The Giants figure to use a front seven to create intense pressure on Brady in an attempt to test that tainted ankle, as an early exit by Giselle’s love toy would put the Patriot chance of an undefeated season in severe jeopardy due to the precipitous drop off to their back up QB, Matt Cassel, who has thrown all of 39 passes in his career. Look for Brady’s receivers to run shorter routes and behind that front 7, thereby allowing for a quicker release, and thus minimizing the opportunity for of a game ending hit from the ferocious Giants’ pass rush.

As Devin Hester high tailed it into the end zone after running back the opening kickoff 92 yards in last years Super Bowl, won by the Colts by a score of 29-17, groans of pain and screams of pleasure was the order of the moment as no less than five props were decided, including a 20-1 payoff to those that corrected wagered Hester would score the games’ first touchdown.

Exposing yourself to elimination on the strength of one play can be dicey to say the least, and may result in an early cold shower, as was the case for those that wagered the longest touchdown during that impending Colt victory would be less than 43 yards.

Fours years ago, in Super Bowl XXXVII, those that chose to go under 15 ½ yards on Deion Branch’s longest pass reception found themselves doing just that, as Tom Brady found the then Patriot receiver for a 16-yard reception on the games fifth play from scrimmage..

It’s easy to overlook all of the factors that may affect your wager. When the Steelers grounded the Seahawks by a count of 21-10 two years ago, the final score might lead one to believe that Ben Roethlisberger easily out gunned Matt Hasselbeck in terms of passing yards. Not so fast.

The Seattle signal caller more than doubled the productivity of Big Ben, who managed only 9 completions in 21 attempts in tallying a meager 123 yards. Hasselback, in a losing effort, generated 273 yards while completing 26-of-49 passes.

Nothing unusual here as it is common for a losing QB to pass for more yards than their victorious counterpart, as coaches tend to sit on leads on top of going into prevent defenses, both of which will statistically benefit the signal caller of the team that is trailing. In this spot, the injury to Brady may work itself in to this equation.

If your motivation is merely to enhance your viewing pleasure, then finding a choice amongst the bountiful buffet of options should be fun. If your goals are more financially driven, you will want to dismiss 80-90 percent of these prop bets as merely a flip of the coin, and seek out the best lines, which vary a great deal from shop to shop on these types of wagers.

Speaking of the flip of the coin, the prior 41 Super Bowls reflects a 21-20 edge to heads though tails has been known to play well from behind. And if that is too long a wait to decide your fate, there is always the National Anthem, this year to be sung by American Idol Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks, which sports an over and under of 1 minute and 44 seconds.

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Manning vs. Brady Prop Bets
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The game of football simply doesn’t break down in such a way that the two quarterbacks go head-to-head. Indirectly, yes they compete against each other, but it’s not a mano-a-mano battle like we see with cover corners and wideouts, or along the line with a D-lineman vs. one of the O-line.

But they do compete and with the magic of Super Bowl prop bets you can wager on them in a head-to-head format. Who will outdo the other on the stats sheet? Can Eli Manning hang in and answer whatever Tom Brady delivers for his side?

Let’s look at the prop bets pitting this year’s two quarterbacks against each other and see which way bettors are leaning.

1) Most Completions

Eli Manning +5.5 (-125)
Tom Brady -5.5 (-105)

Brady’s legendary accuracy is playing a role in the wagering on this prop, as the betting public are backing him at a clip of 80%, with baby brother Manning picking up the scraps at 20%. But Manning backers are getting 5.5 completions to work with before either pivot even takes their first snap…that’s enticing, but obviously still not enough when you’re going head-to-head with arguably the best QB of his generation.

Worth Noting: In his three previous Super Bowl appearances, Tom Brady only had more pass completions than his counterpart once. In Super Bowl 38 vs. Carolina, Brady recorded 32 completions to the 16 tossed by Carolina’s Jake Delhomme. Both Donovan McNabb and Kurt Warner outdid Brady in this category in their matchups.

2) Most Pass Attempts

Eli Manning +2.5 (-115)
Tom Brady -2.5 (-115)

Interestingly, Eli Manning is holding his own in this category. He is receiving 54% of the volume so far on this prop play. We have to believe the thinking behind those wagers is that the Giants will fall behind, which means they’ll have to rely on the passing game more than the running game, resulting in Eli having to drop back more often.

When you combine the wagering results from this prop to the one above (Most Completions), you get a picture of how bettors feel this game might play out. While they think Manning will attempt more passes, they don’t believe he’ll end the day with more completions.

Worth Noting: In previous Super Bowls, Brady has thrown the ball more than the other QB one time, and again, that was vs. Carolina, in which he recorded 48 pass attempts to Delhomme’s 33.

3) Most Touchdown Passes

Eli Manning +1.5 (-185)
Tom Brady -1.5 (+150)

Manning is receiving a +1.5 in this prop, which when you think about it, is quite a healthy head start, considering how many TD passes QBs throw in a typical game. It’s hard to get away from the Brady mystique, well deserved as it is, and that shows in the betting numbers. Only 26% of bettors have found the +1.5 with Manning to be attractive enough to put up their money behind it, with 74% backing Brady. The fact the New England offensive captain broke the all-time TD passing mark this year has obviously helped.

Worth Noting: Brady would not have cashed this ticket for any of his backers in his previous three Super Bowl appearances. He threw one less TD than Donovan McNabb, tied Jake Delhomme with three apiece and also split with Kurt Warner at one each.

4) Player to Throw First Touchdown Pass

Eli Manning +180
Tom Brady -240

The underdog is getting enough action in this one to keep things very interesting when either team has the ball in the first quarter (and perhaps well beyond). Manning has received 42% of the action so far, as his recent performance, particularly in the playoffs, appears to have inspired confidence. And the fact this isn’t a wager dependent on Manning outdueling Brady over the course of an entire game, makes it attractive. Brady is still the favorite amongst the betting public with 58% of the action.

Worth Noting: In Brady’s three previous Super Bowl starts, he threw the first TD pass of the game in two of those appearances.

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Top five Super Bowl prop bets and picks
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If you’re half as excited about the Super Bowl as we are, you’ll want to do a little more than the usual pointspread and over/under betting. The Vegas and offshore books are offering a range of interesting prop bets for Sunday’s showpiece game and the informed bettor can cash in on some hidden value.

We’ve spoken to oddsmakers at several big books to find out what the most popular Super Bowl props are and we add our picks for each one.

1. First touchdown scorer

The consensus among the books is that this is most popular prop bet for the Super Bowl. The far and away favorite is New England’s Randy Moss (+330), who had 23 touchdowns this season. But even the books admit there is better value in this market.

“People are betting on Randy Moss and the reason for that is because he’s such a potent deep threat,” says Francis Doyle of Sports Interaction. “But if you’re looking for a value bet, I would think about New York’s Plaxico Burress (+700) – they’re both very similar players”

Two things are worth noting before betting on Randy Moss or any New England player: Moss is without a touchdown in the playoffs and the Pats have given up the first score in three straight games.

For that reason, we’re going with Giants running back Brandon Jacobs (+600). That pick is reaffirmed by the fact that he scored the opening TD the last time these teams met (Dec. 29).

Pick: Brandon Jacobs (+600)

2. Player to win MVP

Again this is a market dominated by an obvious candidate: Tom Brady. The books are reporting a heap of action on the two-time Super Bowl MVP and he’s priced accordingly at -225.

“There have been some shocks in MVP choices in the past, like Desmond Howard, maybe, but generally it goes to the winning team’s star player,” Doyle said. “So it’s no great surprise that Brady is such a short price. The bettors are just eating it up.”

By that standard, Eli Manning (+500) is a sure thing for the award if the Giants manage to win the Super Bowl. But the Patriots have a few darkhorses. Randy Moss (+800) could be in the running if he can break out of his recent slump, while Laurence Maroney (+800) comes into Sunday in great form and could be a surprise pick.

The nature of this market is that the team who wins generally has the MVP, so we are going to make a pick for each team. You can decide who you think will win the game.

Pick: Eli Manning (+500) or Laurence Maroney (+800).

3. Which team will record the first QB sack?

This is a market that seems tailor made for the Giants’ dominant defense, so it’s surprising to find that the Patriots are favored at -150. The Giants are currently priced at +120 to record the first sack on Sunday.

These two teams were miles ahead of the rest of the NFL in sacks this season. The Patriots had 47, while New York had a league-high 52. The Giants had three players inside the top 25 in sacks – Osi Umenyiora (14.0), Justin Tuck (9.5) and Michael Strahan (9.0).

That form seems to have carried over into the postseason for the Giants defense, which had two sacks against Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and one against Bucs QB Jeff Garcia. If Tom Brady’s ankle injury slows him down a step or two, the Giants could get at him early.

Pick: New York Giants (+120)

4. To score a touchdown anytime

While the ‘first touchdown’ market is somewhat based on luck - like who gets the ball first - the anytime TD prop is a great opportunity for bettors to make the books pay.

Based on the fact that the Patriots have the most powerful offense in the NFL, their big offensive weapons are priced pretty short. Randy Moss is at -300, Laurence Maroney is currently at -200, and Wes Welker is at -140.

But there is value in tight end Ben Watson (+150), who has six touchdowns for the season and two in the recent playoff game against Jacksonville.

On the New York side, the betting is led by Brandon Jacobs (-140), while Plaxico Burress (-130) and Amani Toomer (+150) are available at slightly more tempting odds.

This is a market in which it easy to fall into the trap of chasing the bigger odds. It’s best to stick with players who have scored consistently throughout the season, so for that reason we’re going for Giants receiver Plaxico Burress.

Pick: Plaxico Burress (-130)

5. Team to score first and final outcome

This is one of the most interesting props we’ve seen and it has some very tempting odds. The Giants to score first and win is priced at +700, but for them to open the scoring and lose is available at +250.

New England to score first and win is currently offered at around -550 and for the Pats to score first but lose the Super Bowl is way out at +1000.

Based on what the Pats have done so far in the playoffs, one option stands out. New England has given up the first score, but recovered to win, in both of its postseason games so far. It also did the same in its only regular season meeting with the Giants.

Pick: Giants to score first but lose (+250)

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

New knee woes for Plaxico Burress

CHANDLER, Ariz. - With just two days to go until the Super Bowl, neither Plaxico Burress' ankle nor his mouth is the biggest issue anymore.

Now it's his knee.

The Giants receiver's left knee swelled up on him Thursday afternoon, forcing him to abort his attempt to practice with the Giants at the Arizona Cardinals' facility in Tempe.

According to the pool report, Burress was dressed for practice, loosened up and even ran a few pass routes.

But swelling and soreness in his knee forced him to the sidelines early, and he spent almost all of the one-hour, 50-minute session in the training room getting treatment.

"He has an ankle that always has been a problem, but he also has some issues with a knee that off and on in the past has bothered him," Tom Coughlin said after practice. "That's the thing right now. Between the two of them, that's why he's not working. He comes out and tries to go and can't go."

It was the second straight practice Burress has missed, which isn't surprising considered he's hardly practiced all season since spraining his ankle on Aug. 2. He tried to practice Wednesday, but stopped when his ankle felt "a little sore," even though earlier in the day he said the ankle was at "97%."

"It's pretty tough," Burress said before practice. "I go through ups and downs. They ask me how I feel every day. I test it out. If it is a little sore, there is no need to beat it up and make it more sore going into the week. We take all the precautionary measures. I want to be as close to 100% as I possibly can. We all know I won't be 100%. I haven't been all year."

Coughlin said Burress' knee issue, which flared up earlier in the season, "may be related" to his chronically sprained ankle.

Coughlin also said he was "hopeful" that Burress would feel better today when the Giants hold their final practice.

"It's a matter of how fast the swelling goes down so he can deal with it," Coughlin said.

Meanwhile, left guard Rich Seubert, who sprained his knee in the NFC Championship Game, and nickel back Kevin Dockery, who has missed the entire postseason with a hip flexor injury, both were able to practice fully. They were on the field for about half the snaps in Wednesday's practice.

After today's practice, all that's left for the Giants is a walkthrough tomorrow morning at the University of Phoenix Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played Sunday night.

Burress had stirred up Super Bowl week by guaranteeing a Giants victory on Monday, even predicting a score, 23-17. That "riled up" the Patriots Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tom Brady, Burress' old Big Ten rival from Michigan, said somewhat tongue in cheek he was surprised Burress didn't give the Patriots' offense and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was a grad assistant at Michigan State in 1999 when Burress helped beat Michigan, more credit by predicting just 17 points. "Is Plax playing defense?" Brady said Wednesday. "I wish he had said 45-42 and gave us a little credit for scoring more points."

nydailynews.com

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Umenyiora added to injury report with thigh injury
February 1, 2008

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -There is no guarantee New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress will play in the Super Bowl.

Ankle and knee problems caused Burress to miss his third straight practice Friday, leaving coach Tom Coughlin hoping his star receiver can continue his yearlong trend of playing every week without the benefit of working with his teammates.

``He's improved,'' Coughlin said after the Giants finished their final practice for Sunday's NFL title game against the New England Patriots. ``He's done it all year under all kinds of circumstances. We've just got to be hopeful he can do it one more time.''

While Burress did not practice because of a sprained right ankle and swelling in his left knee, he did participate in part of the individual portion of the 80-minute practice at the Arizona Cardinals' headquarters.

Burress, who guaranteed a 23-17 win over the Patriots earlier in the week, stretched and loosened up with his teammates. The 6-foot-5 veteran who led the team with 12 touchdown catches, ran a few routes in drills to test his legs, the first time he has done that this week.

``He ran a couple of slants,'' Coughlin said. ``He took a play in the `green' zone and that was about all we did with him.''

Burress stood on the side during the team portion of practice holding his helmet.

``Obviously, if we felt he could go, he would have gone the whole time,'' Coughlin said

Burress injured his ankle in training camp and he has barely practiced all season. He has played in all 19 games, catching 70 passes for 1,025 yards. He set a postseason franchise record with 11 catches for 151 yards in the NFC title game against Green Bay.

His left knee has bothered him at times this season.

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who had 13 of the Giants' league-high 52 sacks, missed Friday's practice with a sore thigh. He is listed as probable.

Starting left guard Rich Seubert and backup cornerback Kevin Dockery each had his second full day of practice.

Seubert sprained his right knee in the fourth quarter of the NFC title game. Dockery missed the last two playoff games with a hip injury.

Coughlin felt the team was enthusiastic in three days of work in Phoenix.

``It was a good solid work week,'' he said. ``We talked about coming over here and having a solid six hours together. We had that each day we worked.''

The Giants will have a walkthrough here on Saturday.

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Props - NFL vs. NBA
By Josh Jacobs

Moving through the various sports involving cross-over props for Super Bowl XLII, we turn to the National Basketball Association. Two games in professional hoops are slated to fill up the afternoon timeframe. With a plethora of possible prop bets to select, let’s explore my favorite picks and the reasoning behind them.

Patriots’ WR Wes Welker’s Receptions or Lakers’ Kobe Bryant’s Free Throws Made?

L.A. Lakers’ Kobe Bryant has been his usual self. Tearing up nets for 36.4 points per game in his last five outings, Bryant has traveled to the charity stripe in bunches. In just the last five games, 64 total attempts from the free throw line have translated into 50 points scored (that’s 10 points per game). Almost 10 attempts from this point on the court in January reinforces the fact that Bryant gets to the line with great consistency.
   
Since the season began in the Association, the Lakers’ superstar has seen five games per month where his attempts from the free throw stripe have been in the double-digit neighborhood.

What can we expect from New England’s wide out Wes Welker on Super Bowl Sunday?

For starters, Welker has pulled in a total of 128 catches (including the two playoff wins). This averages out to a little over seven catches per game. In 18 of this season’s games, Walker has worked for double-digit receptions in three. Six contests have witnessed the four-year pro snagging five catches or lower.

While it does seem like a bit of a crap shoot (and to be honest, which one of these exotic prop bets really isn’t a dice roll?), remember that the Patriots are averaging 21.4 PPG in five Super Bowl appearances. Three of those big game showings have resulted in scoring less then 25 points.

I’m not stepping out on a limb to predict a low scoring affair, but history has shown a cap on high scores and if this may be the case then expect Wes Welker to grab close to those seven catches.

Playing in Washington, Bryant is averaging 7.6 free throw attempts on the road, while drowning 6.4 free throws in those 21 games away from home (.838 seasonal free throw percentage). With the Wizards dropping its last two and a Lakers team setting to welcome newly acquired power forward Pau Gasol, this matchup could result in a high 100-plus scoring affair (giving Bryant plenty of opportunities to make free throw baskets then Welker's receptions).

Note: Wes Welker's receptions are currently at +1/2 in the case of a tie.

My Pick: Kobe Bryant’s Free Throws Made

Margin of Victory in Super Bowl XLII or Mavericks’ Josh Howard’s Total Points Scored?

The second hoops game of the day will involve a scuffle between Dallas and Detroit.

What I find interesting in this prop is past Super Bowl margins involving New England. In their last three Bowl wins, the Pats have only gone on to place an average of three-points in-between those victories. As dynamic and explosive as they are, let’s even go another step further. In New England’s last five contests, a difference of 10.8 points has separated wins from its opponent’s losses.

Bottom line is that the dominating Patriots have kept games pretty close in relation to points scored from an NBA star player.

And that star player, Dallas’ Josh Howard, is posting his best numbers since turning pro in the 2003-04 season. His 20.8 PPG are very enlightening given this situation, but there are some negatives to point out. Howard’s last (and only) showing versus Detroit this season produced a low scoring number of 10 points in 36 minutes of play. However, his last five outings have been sobering to opponents, averaging 22.4 PPG.

Again, these cross-prop bets could seem like a shot in the dark, but with Josh Howard’s dangerous marksmanship coupled with what could be a close scoring game in the Super Bowl, I like my chances with Mr. Howard even if it means coughing up 5 1/2-points (Howard's scoring numbers have a -5 1/2 attached to it so keep this in mind).

My Pick: Josh Howard

Giants’ Points Scored or Mavericks’ Jason Terry’s Points + Assists?


Personally a bit more difficult to pick then the other two props I have listed, will New York score more points then Jason Terry’s points and assists combined?

Almost impossible to handicap, here’s the lowdown on Terry.

Averaging 15 PPG and 3.4 APG on the season, Jason Terry is more or less on a downside when compared to previous seasons. The 30-year-old point guard is averaging 17.5 points combined with assists in January (his highest output since October’s numbers). Just keep in mind that a mean number of around 18 (points and assists combined) is what we can use as a gauge.

The G-Men enter Super Bowl Sunday averaging 23.2 PPG. In its last three playoff wins, New York has been consistent with an average of 22.7 PPG and in the loss to New England in the last regular season game, Big Blue accounted for 35 points. So, where faced with a difference somewhere in the ballpark of plus-four to five points in comparison to Jason Terry’s numbers.

There’s no doubt that this prop bet could be a nail bitter, but if the total of 54 points in this contest linked with New England’s high octane offense are any indications of New York’s willingness to score then this is the spot.

Jason Terry is gettig an extra +3 1/2 on the total points + assists. 

My Pick: Giants Points Scored

All cross-over props where attained through Sportsbetting.com

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

NCAABK-NFL Props
By Brian Edwards

Our friends at Sportsbook.com have a plethora of proposition bets available for Super Bowl XLII, including cross-sports props involving college hoops. Let’s take a look at a few of those and I’ll offer a couple of suggestions.

Indiana will play host to Northwestern in a noon Eastern contest. The Hoosiers, who have lost back-to-back games vs. UConn and at Wisconsin, opened as 19-point favorites.

As most avid college basketball gamblers know, IU sports a pair of stud players in freshman guard Eric Gordon and senior center D.J. White. With that in mind, Sportsbook.com has several wagers involving these players.

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One wager has Wes Welker’s longest reception as a half-point favorite against Gordon’s total points. Gamblers have to lay a minus 115 price either way.

Gordon averages 21.3 points per game, but he was held to 16 this week at Wisconsin, possibly due to a wrist injury to his non-shooting hand that’s bothered him for the last week.

Another prop bet pits White’s points and rebounds as a 6 ½-point favorite compared to Eli Manning’s completions. White averages 17.1 PPG and 10.6 rebounds per game, so that’s an average of 27.7.

If White gets his average in the 27-28 range, bettors backing Eli as the 6 ½-point ‘dog would be hoping for at least 22 completions. In Manning’s three previous playoff games, he completed 20 against Tampa Bay, 12 against Dallas and 21 against Green Bay.

There’s an extra price tag for bettors backing White (minus 125), whereas Manning bets are at minus 105.

The third and final wager related to IU-Northwestern is the longest touchdown of the Super Bowl by either team vs. Northwestern’s total points. The Wildcats average 62.5 PPG. They are also the 9 ½-point favorite for this wager (-115 either way).

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Wisconsin as a 2 ½-point ‘chalk’ for Sunday’s 2:00 p.m. Eastern tip at Minnesota. Sportsbook.com is listing Tom Brady incompletions as a 2 ½-point favorite against Wisconsin’s Brian Butch’s rebounds.

Butch averages 7.7 boards a game. Brady connected on 32-of-42 passes (10 incompletions) in the regular-season finale against the Giants. In playoffs games against Jacksonville and San Diego, Brady had two and 11 incompletions, respectively.

Another prop option features the total points scored by the Patriots and Giants vs. Wisconsin’s total points. The Badgers are 12 ½-point favorites for this bet (-115 either way).

Bo Ryan’s team averages 69.7 PPG, while the oddmakers made the Pats-Giants total 54. Therefore, there seems to be a slight edge here for the Badgers, but I caution gamblers that Wisconsin is on the road and facing a team coaches by Tubby Smith, who preaches defense and coaches it as well as any coach in the nation.

FSN will provide television coverage for a 2:00 p.m. Eastern tip in Tallahassee, where FSU will play host to North Carolina. LVSC opened the Tar Heels as 11 ½-point ‘chalk.’

Sportsbook.com has the Patriots’ total points pitted against UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough’s points and rebounds. Hansbrough leads the ACC in both categories, averaging 21.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.

That’s an average of 31.7 for “Pyscho T” as his UNC teammates call ‘em. As for the Patriots, who are one-half point favorites (-115 either way) for this wager, they have a total of 34 for the Super Bowl at most spots.

Therefore, there seems to be a slight edge for the Pats, especially if a few variables go their way. In terms of factors that could favor the Pats, Hansbrough could possibly get into foul trouble. Also, his minutes could be limited if UNC cruises to a blowout win. I would lean to the Pats’ points for this bet.

The Giants’ total points will square off against UNC’s Wayne Ellington’s points, with the G-Men favored by 3 ½ points (-115 either way). Most books have New York’s total for the Super Bowl at 21 or 21 ½. As for Ellington, he averages 16.6 PPG.

I think the Giants -3 ½ against Ellington is my favorite of these NCAA-NFL cross-sport props.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Northwestern has a 7-1 spread record in its last eight lined meetings against Indiana.

--The ‘under’ is 10-2 in Wisconsin’s last 12 games. On the flip side, Minnesota has seen the ‘over’ go 5-1 in its last six outings.

--For our purposes, FSU has been atrocious lately. In fact, the Seminoles are 1-11 ATS in their last 12 games.

--The ‘over’ is on a 5-1 run in UNC’s last six games with a total.

--On Saturday, I spoke with former VI cohort Jim Lamar, who since leaving VI has been the General Manager of The Osceola and is currently the Sports Editor at the Tallahassee Democrat. Obviously, he's very dialed into FSU sports. With that in mind, he recommends the 'over' for UNC-FSU. He also liked the 'over' for FSU-Virginia Tech earlier this week, and that was a winner.

--Please pardon the self-promo (again), but when you’re hot, you’re hot! Since Jan. 22, I’m cashing college basketball winners at a 23-6 clip. Sign up now for my daily or weekly packages in college basketball.

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Super Bowl XLII Preview

The New England Patriots will be looking to cap an incredible season with a Super Bowl win on Sunday night when they take on the New York Giants in Glendale, Arizona.

And if you've been eager to wager on Tom Brady and company to win this matchup at University of Phoenix Stadium you've been better off waiting until late this week to place your bet. The Pats opened as two-touchdown favorites at many online sportsbooks two weeks ago, but that line has fallen to 12 points on the eve of the championship contest.

When then Giants hosted the Patriots back in Week 17 of the regular season New England had been listed as a 14.5-point road favorite, and of course they didn't come close to covering that big spread. In fact, before the Pats surged in the fourth quarter in that game it looked like they would be entering the playoffs with only a record of 15-1.

New England has had a hard time covering the spread during the postseason as well. In their opener against the Jaguars the Patriots were listed as 13.5-point home favorites, but they won by just 11 points (31-20). Against the Chargers in the AFC Championship Game the Pats were favored by 14 points, but the final result was just a 21-12 victory.

New York, on the other hand, was a road underdog in each of their first three playoff games, so they've managed to pick up against-the-spread victories in each of those contests. The Giants were 3-point underdogs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round, 7-point underdogs against the Dallas Cowboys in the second round, and 7-point underdogs versus the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago in the NFC title game.

The total for this year's Super Bowl is pegged at 54 points, which is higher than any total for any Patriots or Giants playoff game so far in 2008. New York and Tampa Bay played UNDER the 39.5-point total, while the Giants/Cowboys game was an UNDER result as well (with the total at 47.5 points). New York's only OVER result in the playoffs came against Green Bay, when the combined 43 points exceeded the 40.5-point total.

The high-flying Patriots have surprised with UNDER results in both of their games so far during the postseason. The total for the New England/Jacksonville tilt was set at 51.5 points, and the teams combined for just 51 points. That was a close call, but the 46.5-point total for the Pats/Chargers game was never approached. Back in Week 17 the total was set at 46.5 points, with New England and New York combining for 73 points.

Those who like to bet on the OVER were probably spooked by Tom Brady's tender ankle, with every site on the internet posting pictures of him in various stages of hobble throughout the country. However, there is no mention of a sprained ankle for Brady on the Pats' official Super Bowl injury report - he's listed as PROBABLE with a sore right shoulder (as he is almost every week). No other Patriots player was listed on the report.

The surprise on the Giants' injury report this week was wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who missed some practice time with ankle and knee ailments. Burress was spotted warming up and doing drills on Friday, but he's officially listed as QUESTIONABLE for Sunday. Three other New York players were listed as PROBABLE for the Super Bowl: CB Kevin Dockery (hip flexor), G Rich Seubert (knee), and DE Osi Umenyiora (thigh).

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Facts, figures and matchups for Super Bowl XLII

The New England Patriots seek a perfect season, but the New York Giants will have something to say about that Sunday afternoon.

FACTS
* Who: New England (18-0) vs.New York Giants (13-6)

* Patriots rushing offense vs. Giants rushing defense: The Patriots passing game gets all the attention, but running backs Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk have been the keys to their playoff run. Maroney has 244 yards rushing in two playoff games and the Patriots are averaging 147 yards on the ground in the postseason. Giants tackle Fred Robbins is the run stopper on a line more known for its pass rush. Middle linebacker Antonio Pierce heads a bruising linebacker crew that hits hard, but doesn't have a lot of speed. The Giants gave up 97.7 yards a game rushing during the regular season, but that's down to 83.6 in the postseason. Edge: Giants.

* Patriots passing offense vs. Giants passing defense: Tom Brady and Randy Moss put up the gaudy stats that made the Patriots the most prolific offensive team in NFL history with 589 points scored. They scored 50 of their 67 offensive touchdowns through the air. A key was an offensive line with three All-Pros that gave up only 24 sacks. Also, Faulk is an excellent pass-catcher out of the backfield and sure-handed Wes Welker tied for the league lead with 112 receptions. The Giants rely on a pass rush that led the NFL with 53 sacks. Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan must get quick pressure because the Giants' secondary is average. Edge: Patriots.

* Special teams: Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes has been solid this season, making 23 of 27 field-goal attempts, including all eight from more than 40 yards. New England's Steven Gostkowski made 21 of 24 attempts but doesn't have quite the range. Kick returners Ellis Hobbs of the Patriots and Ahmad Bradshaw of the Giants have nearly identical statistics, though Hobbs does have a return touchdown. Veteran Giants punter Jeff Feagles had only 28 of his 71 punts returned. New England punter Chris Hanson punted only 44 times all season and averaged 41.4 yards. Edge: Giants.

* Giants rushing offense vs. Patriots rushing defense: At 6 feet 4, 264 pounds, Giants running back Brandon Jacobs is a load. He's a power runner but also has speed to get outside, which is where he likes to go so he can bowl over defensive backs. The strength of the Giants offensive line is run blocking and the team averaged 134.2 yards rushing this season -- fourth in the NFL. Veteran linebackers Junior Seau and Mike Vrabel are good at reading plays and always seem to be in the right place at the right time. The Patriots held the Jacksonville Jaguars, the AFC's top rushing team, to 80 yards rushing in the divisional round. Edge: Giants.

* Giants passing offense vs. Patriots passing defense: Eli Manning has undergone a transformation in the playoffs, passing for four touchdowns without an interception. Top receiver Plaxico Burress is averaging 12.1 yards a catch in the postseason and his 6-5 1/2 height causes matchup problems. The Giants use a controlled passing attack, but Amani Toomer has the speed to go deep. Pro Bowl-bound cornerback Asante Samuel is one of the top man-to-man defenders in the league. Speedy Ellis Hobbs is also solid, but he's only 5-9, so is a liability against tall receivers such as Burress. Safety Rodney Harrison is as tough as they come.

Edge: Patriots.

* Coaching: Bill Belichick has a 15-3 postseason coaching record and is trying to become only the second coach to win four Super Bowls. He has led the Patriots to an 86-26 record since 2001 and has led his teams to at least the AFC championship game in four of the last five seasons. Tom Coughlin is making his first Super Bowl appearance, though he twice took the Jacksonville Jaguars to the AFC title game. He has a 103-89 career record, including 35-29 in four seasons with the Giants.

Edge: Patriots.

* Intangibles: The Patriots are looking to complete an undefeated season, which may give them extra confidence or cause extra pressure. They committed a league-low 15 turnovers this season. The Giants excel away from home and have won 10 consecutive road games. The Patriots defeated the Giants, 38-35, on Dec. 29. Edge: Patriots.

* Prediction: New England, 34-20.

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Re: Super Bowl XLII

Oddsmakers consider Bradshaw an X-factor

Now that the Super Bowl is finally here, it can't hurt for bettors to take a closer look at the last meeting between New England and the New York Giants.

The Patriots rallied from a 12-point third-quarter deficit at Giants Stadium to win, 38-35, in the final regular-season game for both teams. Quarterbacks Eli Manning and Tom Brady each had strong games and skilled players Randy Moss, Laurence Maroney and Plaxico Burress combined for five touchdowns.

But one player who did not play may have a key role in today's game and that's New York rookie running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

That fact has not gone unnoticed by many experienced bettors, who have factored in Bradshaw for many of their wagers on this year's Super Bowl.

"The Giants' winning percentage is highest when Bradshaw is the primary running back getting 20 carries," said Stephen Oh of AccuScore.com, which simulated today's game 10,000 times with a variety of scenarios.

"Bradshaw is worth around two points on the scoreboard so if the Giants are losing by 10 in the baseline, they lose by just eight with Bradshaw as primary back. Given the Patriots have won three Super Bowls, each by three points, you can see the value of even one additional point."

Although Bradshaw, who did not play against New England during the regular season because of a bruised leg, has carried the ball only 62 times in his career, he has averaged 5.7 yards per rush.

That's why oddsmakers consider him an X-factor for today's game.

At Bodoglife.com, Bradshaw is involved in 13 proposition bets, including: total rushing attempts, over 10.5 (-110) or under 10.5 (-120); total yards rushing, over 48.5 (even) or under 48.5 (-130); total yards rushing on first attempt, over 3.5 (-105) or under 3.5 (-125); player to score first touchdown for Giants, Bradshaw (6-1); and player who will record the longest single reception in the game, Bradshaw (20-1).

With the point spread for today's game at 12 points after opening on most boards at 14, the Giants have maintained an edge in bets at 67% of the action against the spread, according to theSpread.com's betting chart.

But at Wagerline.com, New York's support against the spread was at 60.87% (1,951 to 1,255) after hovering above 65% for most of the last two weeks.

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