'In the rematch, bet on Goliath' | Bleader

'In the rematch, bet on Goliath'



Bill Belichick
"Defense wins championships," goes the conventional wisdom, and it applies to football as well as basketball, and by extension to baseball (where it translates as pitching) and hockey (where it's a hot goalie). And the New York Giants clearly have the better defense going into Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI. Yet there's another old gambler's saying that applies equally well to the New England Patriots, who saw their pursuit of a perfect season four years ago dashed by the Giants in a Super upset: "In the rematch, bet on Goliath."

The Pats are not the previously unbeaten Goliath they were four years ago. Although their 13-3 record was best in the American Football Conference, it took a missed field goal in the last seconds for them to avoid overtime in the AFC Championship against the Baltimore Ravens. They lack the air of invincibility they had in Super Bowl XLII—not that it did them any good there.

The Giants were a wild-card team four years ago, and they weren't much better this season — if they were at all. Although they won their East Division, they did so in the final week and finished 9-7. They're the third Super Bowl team to make it with fewer than ten regular-season wins, and both the previous two were Super losers: the 1979 Los Angeles Rams and the 2008 Arizona Cardinals.

Still, the Giants' defense came together at the end of the season and manhandled the Atlanta Falcons, the defending-champion Green Bay Packers, and the San Francisco 49ers, in that order, in the playoffs. They've had to play an extra game, but they've had two weeks to recover.

Two weeks to prepare, however, plays to the strengths of New England coach Bill Belichick. He's won three Super Bowls already, in 2002, 2004, and 2005, and he diced the opposition with his game plans in each of those wins. By contrast, the two weeks played against him four years ago, when his unbeaten team seemed tentative and played not to lose rather than to win—a mistake that won't be repeated this time.

In this rematch, I'm taking Goliath, even a diminished Goliath against a Giant defense.