Saturday, January 21, 2012

Why Your Team Should(N'T) Go To The Super Bowl: The Giants (NFL Football)

Previously: Why the Patriots* Should(N'T) Go To The Super Bowl, and Why The Ravens (Yawn) Should(N'T) Go To The Super Bowl.

Why The Giants SHOULD Win The Super Bowl: The Giants have it figured out, don't they? I bet they read my blog.

I'm always going on, shouting into the wilderness, about meaningful games, and about how many games actually count in a sport.

The number of games that count in a sport is the minimum number of games it takes a team to reach the championship. So in baseball, for example, you can reach the playoffs with 81 wins, more or less, and then win 11 more games and you're World Champion. So 92 games count in a season of major league baseball.

Basketball, I think, is down to about 38 games mattering in the regular season, and I don't know how many rounds of playoffs they have -- the basketball playoffs appear to continue indefinitely in an ourobourian loop that annoys me because it means people are always talking about basketball -- but you only have to win 3 or 4 of those games in each series to advance.

In college football, the greatest of all sports when measure by the Meaningful Games Index, every single game counts. Lose one game and you're out of the running for a national championship (although playoff supporters are trying to make it so that 1 or 2 games wouldn't count by having a plus-1 playoff).

In the NFL, 7 regular season games count, plus 4 postseason games. So in a championship season that could involve at most 20 games, an NFL team must win just over half -- 11 -- to be the World Champ. Of course, timing counts: four of those wins must come at the right time.

This is something I mention all the time: that NFL coaches know nearly half the games don't matter (9 of 16 regular season games are irrelevant for teams) and so they don't install their full defenses until week one, making the preseason especially irrelevant. Many NFL coaches routinely rest players in games everyone admits are meaningless, like the Packers' Week 16 contest, which mattered not at all to the Packers but mattered quite a bit to the Lions, who, by losing, went to New Orleans instead of New York in week one (I think. I haven't checked it.)

Anyway, the Giants read this blog, I expect, because they've figured it out. The Giants made the playoffs this year at 9-7, with everyone (including me, until today) saying things like "They're a hard team to figure out. They play up (or down) to their opponents.) They had the worst record of any NFC playoff team, worse than each of the wild cards and 6 wins fewer than the Packers, who they handled easily last week in part because the Packers' players developed an allergy to footballs.

In 2010, the Giants had a better record -- 10-6 -- but missed the playoffs. In 2009, they went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. In 2008, they went 12-4, made the playoffs, and promptly lost in their first game -- the second team in as many years to do that in the NFC (when the Packers lost last week, they became at least the fourth, Atlanta having been the NFC #1 the year before, losing to the Packers.)

And, of course, in 2007, the Giants went 10-6 and "snuck into" the playoffs, beating the previously-undefeated Patriots* after knocking out Then Brett Favre's Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship (and, officially, Aaron Rodgers is not yet as good as Brett Favre because Favre got to back-to-back Super Bowls and The Anointed One didn't.)

At least Favre took them to overtime.

Where's this all going? To ConclusionTown: The Giants only try to win enough games to make the playoffs. They don't really care about records or going on the road (in fact, the Giants appear to prefer the road. If the Giants win at San Francisco this weekend, Eli Manning will be the best road-playoff quarterback ever, moving him ahead of Roger Staubach and some guy named Len Dawson. Since 2007, the Giants have had a winning road record every year, going 7-1 in 2007 and at least 5-3 on the road since then.

So I think the Giants aren't sneaky or underrated or overrated or getting hot at the right time or anything like that. I think the Giants, like everybody, know that most days you do an okay job at work, some days you do a great job, and some days, you're just there. That's the American Way:

The Giants know the season's a long one, so why bother giving 100% every day? Just beat the bad teams -- they beat the Redskins, Rams, and Eagles to open the season 3-0, for example, going on to beat the Bills, Dolphins, the Jets, and the Redskins again, racking up 7 easy wins of their nine total, before edging the Cowboys to get into the playoffs-- and make it to the playoffs, where people will underestimate you and make things even easier for you.

That's what happened at Lambeau, right? The Packers didn't bother showing up for most of the game because they thought they had it in the bag. Atlanta went to New York and didn't bother bringing an offense (probably because coordinator Mike Mularkey was already halfway to Jacksonville, mentally) and Green Bay figured they'd win on personality and so why bother actually tackling?

The Giants have it all figured out, and if they win the Super Bowl, it will be a victory for just trying to make it through the day. And next year, they can simply send a bird to win the game for them.

But I couldn't find a clip of that, so settle for this:

Here's to only trying when it really counts! Here's to the New York Giants!

Why The Giants Should NOT Win The Super Bowl: How can I put this tactfully? Let me see...

... Eli Manning, we don't want to have to like you.

It's not us, it's you.

America has already voted with its feet, so to speak: we love Peyton. There's only room in America's heart for one Manning at a time. Archie had us in thrall, and then Peyton came along.

Can you make the case that Eli's just as good as Peyton? Sure. Can you make the case he's better? Maybe, but this has already taken me a long time and I'm tired of looking up stats. So let's rate these quarterbacks the way I rate all quarterbacks, via two questions:

(c) If you had to start a team from scratch and pick just one Manning to overpay and build a team around, who would you pick?

I say Eli. The question is who would you pick right now and I'd like a quarterback with a neck who doesn't spend all his time talking to Rob Lowe.

Although Rob Lowe is pretty cool.

Anyway: Eli is the guy you'd build your team around. He's younger, looks about as good as Peyton, and wins on the road, which Peyton has trouble doing.

(iv) If you had two minutes left in the Super Bowl and were down a touchdown, who would you pick as your quarterback?

You probably said Peyton but remember, they've already answered that question with Eli-to-Tyree and Peyton-to-That Guy On the Saints.

So Eli is likely the better quarterback of the two, and maybe always was.

But is America ready to like Eli? The way we like Peyton? I don't think so. It's nothing personal against Eli. It's just that we already love Peyton and his funny commercials and his sideline faces and his weird, grandpa pants and we'd really just rather that Eli didn't go messing that up by winning another Super Bowl and giving us funny feelings about him.

Vote: SHOULD win. After all, it's possible to go and win a Super Bowl and still be more or less completely unlikeable.

And I really want a role model to look up to when I half-ass my way through work. Is look up to the right phrase there? How about a role model to look across at? Sounds about right.

Need tickets to something? Try They've got Eugene Oneill Theatre Tickets, United Center Tickets, Crandon Park Tickets, and more. If you need to get in somewhere, ought to be the first place you look.


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