Super Bowl predictions: Our experts weigh in

Originally Published: February 1, 2008
ESPN.com

Tom BradyAl Bello/Getty ImagesTom Brady's ability to avoid the Giants pass rush will go far in determining Sunday's winner.

PHOENIX -- Who'll win Super Bowl XLII? It could be the Patriots in a blowout. Or maybe they'll sweat it out in the final minutes. Or maybe the Giants in a stunner. After all, few people give them a chance to knock off an unbeaten New England team that has already been lauded in some corners as the best in NFL history.

"I think it will be a shock-the-world thing," veteran Giants cornerback Sam Madison said. "But it's not going to shock us. We know we can play with these guys."

Teammate Plaxico Burress certainly thinks so -- he predicted a 23-17 Giants win earlier this week. Of course, while Burress gets a chance to actually influence the outcome of Sunday's game, the rest of us must be content with just making our predictions, sitting back and watching.

So how do our experts see it? The Pats are the heavy favorites, to be sure, but it's certainly not unanimous. The only thing we know is that everybody has an opinion on the game.


Jeffri Chadiha: Giants, 24-23

The Giants will benefit from having played New England once already. They're confident that quarterback Eli Manning can make big plays against the Patriots secondary and that their pass rush is also capable of causing problems for New England QB Tom Brady.

The Giants also watched two different teams hold Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss to just one catch. If the Giants can shut down Moss and harass Brady, the game won't even be this close. But since it's hard to do both, expect this one to come down to a last-second field goal and a Giant -- as in colossal -- upset.


John Clayton: Patriots, 38-24

Patriots

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been a master of making his players accountable. Even when they were blowing out teams by 25 or more points early in the season, players spent more time after games talking about their mistakes instead of the good plays they made. That kind of focus has made them more efficient.

Expect Tom Brady, despite the high ankle sprain, to win the Super Bowl MVP because the Patriots will go back to the four- and five-receiver pass plays that allowed him to throw for 50 touchdown passes. Meanwhile, the defense won't allow the four red zone touchdown passes that the Giants managed in their regular-season meeting.

Belichick needs to squeeze one more game and one more win out of this talented group. No team in football is better at finishing games -- and now the Pats will apply that mindset to finishing their perfect season.


Matt Mosley: Patriots, 31-17

Patriots

I think the Giants will use Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw to keep the Patriots off the field in the first half. I also think Steve Spagnuolo's defense will sack Tom Brady twice in the first half.

The Giants will be up, 10-7, at the half. But in the second half, Brady will start finding Wes Welker across the middle. He's the guy who killed the Giants in the Meadowlands in Week 17, and rookie cornerback Aaron Ross can't match up with him. You'll also see Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel catch the 11th touchdown pass of his career.

Spagnuolo wants to play a lot of man coverage, and I just don't think Sam Madison and Corey Webster can hold up for an entire game. Brady will finish 25-of-34 for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Eli Manning will play well, but I think the Giants will struggle in the red zone.


Len Pasquarelli: Patriots, 31-20

Patriots

The outcome will come down to in-game adjustments, and no one is better at that than Bill Belichick and his staff, who are always tough to beat when they have two weeks to prepare.

The Giants will play fearlessly, as they did in the regular-season finale, but New England will make a few more big plays.


Mike Sando: Patriots, 30-20

Patriots

Since beating the Bills, 56-10, for their 10th win of the season, the Patriots haven't been nearly as dominant. They won those first 10 games by an average of 25 points; in their last eight wins (including playoffs), they've won by a 10-point average. But this should not be cause for alarm. The 1962 Green Bay Packers, arguably the greatest team in NFL history, won by an average score of 32-7 in their first nine games, but only 23-15 over their final six. They still won it all.

The Giants might pull the upset -- Eli Manning is playing like a champion -- but picking against New England is like hitting on 18 in blackjack. You get credit for good fortune, not smarts, if you happen to draw a three.

More expert picks

ESPN.com NFL editors
Name Score Why?
John Banks Patriots 42,
Giants 21
Plaxico Burress and the Giants are talking a good game, but this Super Bowl has the look and feel of a blowout. Expect it to be over by halftime.
Mike McAllister Patriots 34,
Giants 24
At some point, probably early in the fourth quarter of a close game, it will suddenly hit Eli Manning. We may just win this friggin' thing. He'll tighten up. He'll make a mistake. It might be his only one -- but it will be huge. Momentum will change. The Pats will pounce. Game over.
Scott Symmes Giants 27,
Patriots 24
The Giants didn't have much incentive to play hard or much karma in Week 17, yet they nearly ruined the Pats' bid for a perfect regular season. Now the G-Men have both, and the stars just seem to be aligned for a monumental upset.
Sheldon Spencer Giants 27,
Patriots 23
A Patriots' rally falls short inside the Giants' 10-yard-line in the final minute.
Scouts Inc.
Name Score Why?
Jeremy Green Patriots 27,
Giants 23
The Pats will win but it won't be quite as wild as the first meeting. The Giants will continue their hot play, but the Patriots are just too loaded across the board.
Keith Kidd Patriots 27,
Giants 20
Simply put, the Patriots are the best team in football. They have been spectacular all season long and while the Giants are playing with a lot of confidence, the Patriots will finish the season undefeated.
Matt Williamson Patriots 33,
Giants 20
New England will score quickly and grab this game by the throat. The Giants will score late to make the game closer than it really was, but the Pats will win to go down as the best team of all time.
Ken Moll Patriots 28,
Giants 17
Both teams are playing with great confidence and believe they can win, but the Patriots win this game going away in the fourth quarter as they are clearly the better ball club. If Eli Manning and the Giants play mistake-free football, the game will be close at the end, but I think the Giants will have some turnovers in this contest.
Doug Kretz Patriots 31,
Giants 17
Bill Belichick will find some way to eliminate either Plaxico Burress or Brandon Jacobs (more than likely Burress) and frustrate Eli Manning. In their attempt to play catch-up ball, the Giants will make some costly mistakes and lose this game.
Marwan Maalouf Patriots 28,
Giants 27
Both defenses will play well, thanks to being familiar with the opposing offenses due to their Week 17 meeting. The Patriots will come from behind to beat the Giants in the final minute.
Gary Horton Patriots 31,
Giants 20
Any time you give Bill Belichick two weeks to prepare for an opponent, you're going to see a unique game plan and he'll have one that will frustrate Eli Manning and the Giants. Also, on a good field with perfect weather conditions, the Patriots simply have too many offensive weapons for the Giants to contend with.
ESPN.com writers
Name Score Why?
Bill Simmons Patriots 42,
Giants 17
If this Patriots season really is a perfect storm, then the Super Bowl should end like that Clooney movie. In other words, the Patriots would charge out to an early lead, throw all over the place, make a couple of big plays, put the Giants on their heels, force the Giants to abandon their running game and put Eli Manning in the position of playing from behind.
Greg Garber Patriots 38,
Giants 21
Nice weather enables Pats' offense.
Gregg Easterbrook Giants 20,
Patriots 19
This was the score 17 years ago when the Giants staged the most recent major Super Bowl upset over the heavily favored Bills, who had a record-setting offense.
Jemele Hill Patriots 38,
Giants 31
Tom Brady becomes quarterback immortal.
Wright Thompson Giants 35,
Patriots 3
Ole Miss (Manning) finally gets revenge on Michigan (Brady) for the 1991 Gator Bowl. The ghost of Greg Skrepenak is exorcised. (Note to all those who think I've lost my mind: This.Is.A.Joke.)