Monday, February 04, 2008

42nd Super Bowl : New York Giants 17 New England Patriots 14 : Superman Only Exists in Comic Books and Warner Films

People affiliated one way or another with Waterloo, New York (the birthplace of Memorial Day) and Waterloo High School (like one of my family) are dancing in the streets because of native boy Tom Coughlin and his New York Giants Super Bowl victory yesterday over the New England Patriots 17-14.

Super Bowl XLII is over. Sometimes you are meant to win (if you have done all the right things), and sometimes not (if you have not done all the right things).

New England had won 18 straight times this year in regular season and playoff play, and in spite of their loss is still surely the better overall team, but were clearly not meant to win this one, as they were ultimately beaten by "The Catch II" (see the photograph on the right and view the NFL Video of the Play here - you have to endure an unnecessarily long and thus very boring 30-second commercial first).

Copyright by Getty Images - linked straight from ESPN and Greg Garber's article
'Supernatural' catch by Tyree a play for the ages

As we suggested in our previous posting, the 12 points by which the New England Patriots were favored over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII (42) was much too much. In this game as in the previous game between the two National Football League (NFL) teams, the New York Giants had the better NAYPPA (net average yards per play advantage) at 5.4 to 4.0 and won deservedly by means of a defense that was superior in this game - against the NFL's best offensive team ever - and it is defense that wins football games.

Terrific coaching strategy by head coach Coughlin of the Giants was at the core of the win, as the Giants adopted a defense designed to harass Patriot quarterback Tom Brady at every turn (see the great analysis by John Clayton of ESPN here) - the only way to beat the Patriots and top quarterback Brady, who otherwise picks defenses apart, given enough time to do so. Brady did not have that time in this game, being sacked 5 times, as compared to only 21 sacks during the entire season. Normally non-starter defensive end Justin Tuck had two of those sacks as he played the game of his life. Tuck is quoted as follows by Bart Hubbach at the New York Post:

""We weren't going to let him rest, because we knew getting to him was the only way we were going to win this game," Tuck said."

As it was, the Patriot team is so good that sheer determination in the last analysis was the key to the win, as Giants quarterback Eli Manning - with 59 seconds left in the ball game - almost miraculously escaped what looked like a sure sack by no fewer than 3 Patriot defenders who had a hand on him and then completed a history-making pass to David Tyree (who just like head coach Couglin played at Syracuse - it was the day of the Orange). Tyree had the ball knocked out of his hands by Patriot safety Rodney Harrison but managed to retain possession by pinning the ball with one hand to his helmet as he fell down backwards on the play.

The lesson of the 42nd Super Bowl is that human will is a variable that is difficult to quantify. This game reminded us of Stanford's incomparable 24-23 victory over USC this past football season. The game also reminds us that pride comes before the fall, a lesson learned not only through this loss by the Patriots, but also illustrated by several college football teams this season whose stellar win streaks were brought to a halt in the 2007 college football season: the 40-game winning streak of Grand Valley State in Division II, the 37-game winning streak of Mount Union in Division III, and the 27-game winning streak of Sioux Falls in the NAIA. The breaking of the New England Patriots 18-game winstreak falls into this pattern.


Superman only exists in comic books and in Warner films. On any given day, with the right determination and the right coaching, any team can win. The Stanford win over USC in the 2007 college football season proved this convincingly. The New York Giants win affirms that principle.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Super Bowl XLII - The 42nd Matches the Unbeaten New England Patriots vs. Wild Card New York Giants : Who Will Win?

42? Calling Douglas Adams.

On paper and in the oddsmakers eyes (the Patriots are currently 12-point favorites), the 42nd Super Bowl game is no contest, matching the 18-0 (16-0 regular season) unbeaten AFC champion New England Patriots against the 13-6 (10-6 regular season) wild card New York Giants, who did not even win their own NFC division but advanced to this final in the NFC playoffs by beating Tampa Bay and then 13-3 Dallas and 13-3 Green Bay (in OT), the two best regular-season NFC teams by record.

Nevertheless, a regular season game between New England and New York advises us to caution. In that game on the Giants home field, the Giants led 28-16 in the 3rd quarter and blew the game in the last period to lose 38-35. What is unusual in that game is that the Patriots, the most offensive team in pro football by a wide margin this season, were actually the offensive underdogs in terms of a comparison of the net average yards per play advantage (NAYPPA), with the Giants leading that game 6.1 to 5.7.

As we have demonstrated for college football in our SPRS Top 250 as calculated by the SPRS football rating/ranking system, NAYPPA gives us a great tool for judging the actual relative dominance of two football teams. In spite of their six losses, the Giants are much closer to the level of the Patriots than the season records would indicate.

In the instant case, we think that the point spread here is too much in favor of the Patriots and find 12 points to be clearly unjustified by an examination of the stats. Since we do have someone in the family who went to the same high school (Waterloo, New York) as Tom Coughlin, the New York Giants head coach, and since we have someone else in the family who went to the same college (Syracuse) as he did, and since they will no doubt be rooting for the Giants, our prognostication view might also be subjective subconscious bias, so it too should be taken with a grain of salt, but here goes....

Although we would love to see the Giants pull off a Cinderalla victory, we really think that the Patriots have had such a tremendously remarkable season that they deserve this Super Bowl, and so we call it for the Patriots by a field goal, 42-39.

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