Giants quarterback Eli Manning will outplay Patriots counterpart Tom Brady. New York has the momentum. The Giants have a better pass rush. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is hurt. New York has three playmaking receivers.
And the Giants have the better theme song.
"I believe in Eli," repeatedly drones a R. Kelly parody for 4 ? minutes. "I believe in the New York Giants. They're moving on to Indy to go beat up on Tom Brady. ... I believe in Eli. And we will see Brady cry because I believe in Eli."
Brady was the golden boy, but after his lackluster AFC Championship performance, the 34-year old suddenly looks vulnerable. Whispers say he sees phantom pass rushers. Well, they'll be real against New York so Brady should be afraid, very afraid, of footsteps. That leads to turnovers. The Giants will feed off Brady's insecurity for seven points sometime in the first three quarters.
Manning, who used to be known as Peyton's little brother, is playing the best football of his career. He already earned a Super Bowl ring four years ago when beating Brady and Co. with a dagger in the final minute. Plus, he's facing the NFL's 31st-ranked defense, which should provide big-play scores.
After all, the Giants have three standout receivers in Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. Not many teams can go three deep like New York.
Gronkowski can be an effective decoy for a few series, but the NFL's best tight end shouldn't even be playing with a high ankle sprain that normally needs at least one month to heal, so he won't be a playmaker.
Maybe the Patriots can survive with just Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, but Gronkowski made both better by drawing double coverage. Now that extra man is on Welker or Hernandez because the Patriots' running game scares no one.
But momentum is the biggest reason to back New York. It seems teams that play in the wild-card round get a boost in the postseason over those resting the first week. That's rather odd considering extra rest should benefit top seeds like New England. But you can't take the foot off the gas for even a minute.
The Giants have been in playoff mode since losing to the Redskins on Dec. 18. New York won the NFC East over Philadelphia and Dallas, then trashed Atlanta, Green Bay and San Francisco, the latter two on the road. New England's second-round win over Denver wasn't much trouble, before it outlasted Baltimore despite its sputtering offense.
The Giants are sprinting. The Patriots are stumbling. That's why the victory parade goes through New York.