When I worked for the Oakland Raiders, we played the 2002 AFC Championship Game on a Sunday and Super Bowl XXXVII the next Sunday. Seven days between two huge games was too short. As a team, we needed more time to recover physically and mentally. Had we had two weeks to prepare, things might have turned out differently for us against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; but on the short week, we were toast.
The one silver lining about the short week is there was less time to overkill storylines. I'd much rather have less time to deal with annoying questions about, say, Rob Gronkowski's ankle, Eli Manning's elite status or Tom Brady's place in history. None of that matters. The most important factor is that the game is played well, and this one will be (... in part because of the two-week preparation period).
- This game cannot be a 50-pass game for the Patriots. I am anxious to see how they plan to run the ball out of spread formations.
- I am excited to see if Giants center David Baas and guards Kevin Boothe and Chris Snee can handle the front of the Patriots. All the talk about the Giants' defensive line dominating the game has overshadowed how well Vince Wilfork and the Pats' defensive line has played. Don't believe me? Ask the Ravens.
- The Giants have struggled with two-minute defense all season, including the first game against the Pats. In that Week 9 bout, New England scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter and should've had three points at the end of the first half, but Stephen Gostkowski pulled a 27-yard field goal. This element of the game will be critical in determining the winner.
- I cannot imagine Brady playing badly two games in a row, which is why I am going with the Patriots in a really close game, 27-24. I think it will be decided on the final drive.