Column by Ken Cohen
I was talking NFL playoffs with a friend of mine the other day and he asked me who I like in the Super Bowl. Without hesitation I said, the New York Football Giants and the New England Patriots. That’s right, the same two teams as last year.
The Giants, to me, are the most complete team in the league, solid offensively, defensively, special teams and, perhaps most importantly, coaching. Yes, they will probably throw in a couple of more clunkers this year as they are wont to do, but come playoff time, there is no team better prepared to win a big game.
Eli Manning is quickly becoming the Joe Montana of our era as far as making pivotal plays. And what separates the Giants from every other team is their defense also comes up with the huge sack or interception at the key moment.
The Giants just seem to have that rare confidence and calmness under pressure that very few sports teams have.
Their competition in the NFC will likely come from The Packers. They are starting to click and look like they might be pacing themselves this year as opposed to last year when they flamed out late. Aaron Rodgers is still one of the elite quarterbacks and the Packers have plenty of weapons to give the Giants problems.
Of course, the Giants hold the monster intangible when it comes to the Packers and also the 49ers they know they can beat both of these teams in the playoffs on the road. You can’t put a value on that bit of history in your back pocket.
The Falcons are undefeated and look very good, but still have to prove themselves come playoff time, which they have failed to do in recent years. Perhaps this is the year Matt Ryan breaks through, but I still think it’s Manning’s and Rodger’s time in the NFC.
One team that could cause some ruckus and win a playoff game or two is Seattle. This is an excellent defensive team on the rise and will only get better as their rookie quarterback matures. Also, they sit at 4-4 right now, but play five of their last eight at home where they have not lost.
In the AFC, I’m not wild about the Patriots because their defense is still very questionable. They can’t seem to make any big stops late in games. But Brady is just so good and the offense is healthy and humming. The Patriots also play five of their last eight at home, where they are virtually unbeatable.
The 7-1 Texans appear to be the Patriots biggest obstacle to the Super Bowl. They may be the second most complete team in the league, but are lacking playoff experience. Last year’s postseason victory will help this year as will homefield advantage if they can secure it. But the Brady factor will be hard to overcome should these teams meet in the conference finals.
The Ravens are beaten up, but will be there in the playoffs, though the Patriots seem to have their number come January. Perhaps the “wild card” in the AFC is the Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning looks very good and is still capable of winning any one game at any time. The Broncos have some weapons, both offensively and defensively and it would not be a stretch to see them on an extended playoff run as long as Mannig stays heathy.
For all you hopeful Jet fans, forget about it. Not only are they simply a medicore team with mediocre talent, they play five of their last eight games on the road. They will be lucky to win seven games.
So when it’s all said and done in February, I’m going with the Giants and the Patriots in a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl the first time since 1993 and 1994 when the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills played in consecutive Super Bowls that two teams have returned to the dance two years in a row.
As for a winner, I’ll get back to you in February.
Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” will appear every Friday.