Mismatch of the Century
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 27, 2008
(Ed. Note: This isn't pretty, Giants fans. But fret not. We follow it up tomorrow with New York's Big-Blueprint for victory, with a 100-percent satisfaction-back guarantee that it will work if executed properly.)
By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts mismatch-maker
We searched high and low. We labored over every guide book, stat compendium, game replay and online resource known to man and troll alike. We even probed our own Quality Stats in such deep, penetrating detail that we had to numb the pain with a Clemensian cocktail of lidocain, novocain and Elijah Craig.
We've still yet to find a legitimate reason beyond "act of the Gridiron Gods" why the Giants should beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
What we did find, folks, is the greatest statistical mismatch in NFL championship game history. Not Super Bowl history, folks. All of NFL history.
Super Bowl XLII is literally the NFL's Mismatch of the Century ... and the league is only 88 years old.
(But there is hope, Giants fans, in your own organization's storied history. More on the window of hope below.)
Greatest mismatch in the standings
The Giants are one of three teams with a mark of 10-6 (or worse) to reach the Super Bowl. The Patriots are the first 16-0 team in NFL history.
The six-game difference between title contenders is the greatest in any NFL championship game ever.
The greatest previous margin in a Super Bowl – four games – came back in 1985-86, when the 15-1 Bears trounced the 11-5 Patriots, 46-10.
You have to go all the way back to the 1934 NFL championship game, the second ever played, to find a title contest in which the contenders were separated by more than four games in the standings. The 13-0 Bears of 1934 boasted a five-game advantage over the 8-5 Giants.
But there is a ray of hope there for Big Blue fans: the 8-5 Giants smoked the undefeated Bears that day, 30-13, in what remains the NFL's greatest upset.
Greatest mismatch on the scoreboard
There's never been a Super Bowl or NFL championship game in which the two contenders entered with such a startling difference on the scoreboard.
You know the Patriots scored more points this year (589) than any team in history. You know their scoring differential of +315 points (589-274) is also the greatest in history.
You might not know that the Giants were a mere +22 on the scoreboard in 2007 (373-351). (Only one team reached the Super Bowl with a more mediocre record in the standings or on the scoreboard. The 1979 Rams went 9-7 and were a mere +14 (323-309).)
To put it another way,
- the Patriots outscored opponents by an average of +19.7 PPG in 2007
- the Giants outscored opponents by an average of +1.4 PPG in 2007
There's never been a disparity that great in NFL championship game history.
Greatest mismatch on offense
The Patriots scored 589 points this year. The Giants scored 373 points. The difference of 216 points scored is the greatest among championship contenders in all of NFL history.
To put the differential in perspective, the "Greatest Show on Turf" 2001 Rams outscored the surprising upstart 2001 Patriots by just +132 points (503-371).
Greatest mismatch at quarterback
Among the many records New England quarterback Tom Brady has set in his career, his 50 TD passes and +42 margin in TDs to INTs are probably the most remarkable.
And he faces in New York's Eli Manning a quarterback who tossed 23 TD against 20 picks.
If those numbers sound familiar, they are: Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman tossed 23 TDs against 20 picks last year, in his Super Bowl season.
There's never been a championship game with a greater disparity in the production of the starting quarterbacks.
But there is a ray of hope there for Big Blue fans: Only seven Live Ball Era QBs failed to throw more TDs than picks in their Super Bowl season. Only one of them won: Giants quarterback Phil Simms threw 21 TDs and 22 picks in 1986. Yet he was nearly flawless (a postseason record 22 of 25 completions) as he outplayed future HOFer John Elway in a 39-20 win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI.
Greatest mismatch against Quality Opponents
The Patriots are a sterling 9-0 vs. Quality Opponents in 2007 (including playoffs), tying the record of the 2003 Patriots for the best mark ever against winning teams entering the Super Bowl. The Giants are just 4-5 vs. Quality Opponents (including playoffs).
Super Bowl XLII just the fourth time that one contender had a five-game advantage over its opponent against Quality Teams. The Patriots dynasty is now responsible for three of those mismatches.
- The 1979 Steelers entered Super Bowl XIV with a 9-3 mark vs. Quality Teams. The Rams were 4-4.
- The 2003 Patriots entered Super Bowl XXXVIII with a 9-0 mark vs. Quality Teams. The Panters were 4-3.
- The 2004 Patriots entered Super Bowl XXXIX with a 9-1 mark vs. Quality Teams. The Eagles were 3-1.
But there is a ray of hope there for Big Blue fans: the disparity didn't matter much on game day, at least if the outmatched team was hoping to compete before losing.
The dynastic 1979 Steelers needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull out a 31-19 win over a Rams team that went just 9-7 overall in the regular season.
The 2003 Patriots needed a last-second field goal to pull out a 32-29 win over a Panthers team that went just 11-5 overall in the regular season.
The 2004 Patriots eked out a 24-21 win over an Eagles team that went 13-3 overall in the regular season.
Greatest mismatch of win streaks
The Giants are considered the "hot team" in football because they enter the Super Bowl on a three-game win streak, all of them on the road. And, of course, they've won a single-season record 10 straight road games.
Hello? The Patriots, of course, enter the Super Bowl on an 18-game win streak, the second longest in NFL history, and have won eight straight on the road.
The 15-game difference in win streaks (18 for New England, 3 for New York), is the greatest in Super Bowl history.
In fact, you have to go all the way back to that infamous 1934 NFL championship game to find a contest that pitted teams with a greater disparity in win streaks.
And, yes, there is a ray of hope there for Big Blue fans: The Bears entered the 1934 championship game with a perfect 13-0 record and winners of 18 straight dating back to 1933. The 8-5 Giants lost their season finale in 1934, so they boasted a win streak of 0 games. Yet, as noted above, the Giants shocked the unbeaten Bears, 30-13.
Greatest mismatch, period
There have been only a handful of Super Bowls that looked like mismatches from the outset. None were a bigger statistical mismatch than Giants-Patriots.
Super Bowl III – The mighty 1968 Colts were 13-1 when they faced the 11-3 Jets. But the 1968 Colts were not as dominant as the 2007 Patriots (see the list of most dominant teams here). And the 1968 Jets (who outscored opponents by nearly 10 PPG) were far more impressive than the 2007 Giants (who outscored opponents by 1.4 PPG). Sure, the Jets played in the AFL, but as they and the Chiefs proved the following year by knocking off two of the NFL's greatest teams in consecutive Super Bowls, there was no gap between the NFL and AFL.
Super Bowl VII – The 14-0 Dolphins were just three games better than the 11-3 Redskins. And, because Miami played such an easy schedule, Washington was actually favored over the undefeated Dolphins in Super Bowl VII.
Super Bowl XX – The mighty 15-1 Bears vs. plucky 11-5 Patriots is probably the greatest statistical mismatch of the first 41 Super Bowls. But those two teams were closer statistically by every real and imaginable measure than the 16-0 Patriots and 10-6 Giants.
Super Bowl XXXVI – The "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams (14-2) were just three games better than the upstart Patriots (11-5) and were closer statistically by every real and imaginable measure than the 16-0 Patriots and 10-6 Giants.
New England statistically dominated the first meeting
The Giants were universally praised for battling toe-to-toe against the Patriots in Week 17, before falling 38-35. The Cold, Hard Football Facts called it the greatest moral victory in history, for the confidence of that day seemed to propel the Giants through their surprising three-game playoff run.
We went back through the Week 17 meeting between the Patriots and Giants, looking to uncover the statistical secrets to what was – by any measure – New York's most impressive game to date, staying within 3 points of a team that had beat its first 15 opponents by 20 PPG.
This is what we found:
- The Patriots controlled the clock for more than 36 minutes.
- The Patriots punted twice and scored on 7 of 9 drives (if you take away the kneel-down drives at the end of the half and the game).
- Tom Brady had his standard clutch performance (116.8 passer rating, including a 130.6 rating in the fourth quarter).
- Two New England receivers reached the century mark (Wes Welker, 122 yards; Randy Moss, 100 yards).
- The Patriots generated 390 yards of offense and 27 first downs, to just 316 and 19 for the Giants.
- The Patriots shredded the Giants for 22 unanswered points through the third and fourth quarters when the game appeared in doubt.
The Giants were boosted by a career performance by Eli Manning, who tied a personal best with 4 TD passes. Were it not for a 74-yard kick return by New York's Domenik Hixon in the second quarter, it's quite likely the Patriots would have been sporting a 38-21 lead with two minutes to play in the game.
And remember, relative to the expected performance of each team (more on those relative performances later this week), that was New York's best game of the year.
If the Giants can play better than their best game of the year, return another kick (or pick) for a score, and limit the Patriots to scores on, say, 6 of 9 drives, then they have a good shot at turning in the Upset of the Century.
But right now, any way you measure it, we're looking at the Mismatch of the Century.
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