Super Bowl XLII is drawing ever closer, and it's time to begin getting serious as we look toward Sunday's historic matchup with the New England Patriots.
We are expanding our usual 5 Questions format with a super-sized Super Bowl edition 10 Questions with Pats Pulpit, our fine Patriots blog. We will run that in two five-question installments, the first of which is below. Enjoy!
BIG BLUE VIEW: Let's get the Tom Brady question out of the way. Are you worried about his ankle injury, or do you think all the talk is much ado about nothing and that he will be 100% Sunday?
PATS PULPIT: I'm more worried that the Giants will go after it than about the injury itself. Brady looked fine in practice Monday, running around, limping slightly (according to the one pool reporter allowed to view practice), and his ankle was taped liberally. Worse comes to worse, a little cortisone, a little tape, a little adrenaline, and Brady will be fine.
Remember, in 2001 Brady injured his ankle in the AFC Championship game against Pittsburgh and was relieved by Drew Bledsoe. Because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, there was just one week between the conference title games and the Super Bowl. I think Brady's ankle was hurt worse then, and he had just one week to recover. He should be fine.
BBV: Giants' fans are annoyed by the 19-0 shirts and the 19-0 commemorative book already being available. As a Patriots' fan, does that stuff bug you at all?
PULPIT: Oh, you mean like this one? The media needs something to waste time on for two weeks. The books and t-shirts aren't put out by the teams or endorsed by the players. Only the media and fans perceive the slight.
It's often said that if a player needs that extra motivation heading into a game like this, then he's already lost. I don't think any player on either team needs that motivation, but some will use it. Even then, I don't think many will. There's just a few days left before the Super Bowl -- the Super Bowl. No, players have plenty of motivation and the best of them are focusing on preparing for the game as much as possible.
Now, if a Patriots player had predicted a final score ...
BBV: If the Patriots and Giants played 10 times how many games would the Giants win?
PULPIT: Where are they playing? What are the field and weather conditions? Are there any bye weeks? Injuries? You get the picture. Play Week 17 ten times and you get a different result than if you play Sunday in Arizona 10 times. Of all the playoff teams in either conference, I think the Giants is the worst possible matchup for New England. In 10 games, I think it would be pretty even -- Giants probably win at least 4. But let's face it, it's pretty arbitrary.
BBV: Given the age of key players like Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Randy Moss and Rodney Harrison are you worried at all about the future of this team?
PULPIT: The future is Sunday, and I'm not worried about their ages before then. After that? There have been some indications that Bruschi will retire. I wouldn't be surprised if Junior Seau does too. I think Harrison has another couple years -- he's really played well since returning from his suspension -- but I wouldn't be surprised if he hangs up his cleats too. Vrabel will probably stick around for a bit -- he's had a fantastic season. Moss has a long way to go, whether he chooses to stay with the Patriots. Not worried, though. New England has some of the best scouts and personnel personnel in the business.
BBV: Bill Belichick's defensive game plans usually focus on taking something away from the opponent. What will the Patriots try to deny the Giants? The run or the pass?
PULPIT: I suspect Belichick's staff will try to limit New York's running game. As well as Eli Manning has played in recent weeks, going right back to the Giants-Patriots in Week 17, he's still the guy you want to force to beat you. New England's bend-don't-break playoff defense is built to prevent the big play but to force the quarterback to make plays, then tighten up in the red zone.
That said, I don't think it will be sufficient for either team to take away just one thing. I think this is going to be one hell of a coaching chess match, and I won't be surprised by anything I see in this game.