Amidst the frantic hype surrounding buzzy commercials and the halftime spectacle Madonna is reportedly planning, it's easy to forget that a football game will be played on Sunday. But it stands to be a great one. The New York Giants and New England Patriots are facing off in what's being heralded as "the perfect Super Bowl rematch." The two teams met in the 2008 championship, when the Giants spoiled the Patriots' undefeated season with a crushing come-from-behind drive in the final minutes of the game. This time around, Vegas bookies are still favoring Tom Brady and the Patriots to defeat Eli Manning and the Giants. But who do the pundits think will win — and why? Here, three arguments for each team:
1. They're hungry for revenge
"Pride is a great motivator," says Don Banks at Sports Illustrated. No matter how much they downplay it, Brady, coach Bill Belichick, and the rest of Patriots are undoubtedly fired up by the opportunity to avenge their deflating Super Bowl four years ago. Given how evenly matched the Patriots and Giants seem to be, "motivation can be the edge that matters." Expect New England's squad to come out with fire in their eyes and payback on their minds.
2. Tom Brady is an all-time great
It's not wise to bet against Brady, says Branden Fitzpatrick at Bleacher Report. He already has three Super Bowl rings — a fourth would tie him with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana for the all-time lead. And he's joining John Elway as only the second quarterback to start in five Super Bowls. At 34, Brady knows what's at stake: Retribution and legacy. "He may never get the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl again," and he has the chance to beat the only team that's ever topped him in the big game.
3. Their offensive line is unbeatable
The Giants may have some of the best pass rushers in the NFL, but "keeping Brady upright and clean in the pocket" has been one of New England's biggest strengths this season, says Banks. The Patriots' offensive line has only given up one sack during the postseason. Four years ago, the Giants managed to sack Brady five times and harass him throughout the game. There's no way they'll be able to put anywhere near that kind of pressure on him this year.
1. They have momentum
The Giants were never supposed to make it this far, says Bryan Kolesar at The Washington Times. The team barely clinched a playoff spot after a mediocre 9-7 regular season record, but then dominated the Atlanta Falcons and the heavily-favored Green Bay Packers in the postseason's first two rounds. Next, they beat the San Francisio 49ers in "heroic fashion" to win the NFC championship. The Giants are on a "convincing roll," making them awfully hard to stop.
2. Eli Manning is "red hot"
Peyton's little brother "is playing like he is the best quarterback in the NFL right now," says James Reagan at Bleacher Report. And let's give him his due: He's "one of the most clutch quarterbacks in NFL history." His stellar 7-3 playoff record includes six road victories, the most by any quarterback. This postseason he's thrown for more than 270 yards per game, eight total touchdowns, and has only fumbled once. And remember, the Patriots have one of the worst pass defenses in the league. "Manning has got to feel good about his chances."
3. The defensive line is monstrous
The Giants' defensive line is a killer, says Jeffri Chadiha at ESPN. In 2008, the Giants pass rushers rattled New England's record-setting offense. Since, New York has added yet another first-rate player, Jason Pierre-Paul, and affirmed the notion that "the best way to contend for championships is through relentless, unforgiving defense." The Giants' front four are poised to give Brady hell on Sunday. "If their defensive line goes off, the Giants go home with another Lombardi trophy."