Super Bowl Handicapping: Media Day Hyperbole
by Trevor Whenham - 2/1/2012
Is it just me or did Media Day seem to lose some of its shine this year? It’s always a big spectacle, but it has increasingly gotten more and more ridiculous, and it seems like it was less relevant than ever before as a result. Of course, it didn’t help that the game is in Indianapolis so Peyton Manning is overshadowing everything that happens.
Despite the lack of excitement, though, there were still some interesting storylines that came out of the day. More significantly for us, there are storylines that are likely to draw more attention than they should, and that could have an impact on how the betting public looks at this game. Here are three heavily covered storylines that just aren’t as significant as they seem:
New England’s top tight end was injured last time out, and he was in a walking cast until Sunday to protect his injured ankle. It seems like every year there is a high-profile player who is uncertain heading into the game, and Gronkowski definitely fits the bill this year.
The speculation is intense about his status. He was one of the most popular players during Media Day, and reporters asked about his status in a hundred different ways. The public knows how good the tight ends have been for New England this year, so they are going to be very concerned by this situation.
Here’s the thing to keep in mind when thinking about this situation — there is no reason at all to be concerned.
There are several reasons. First, Gronkowski is out of his walking boot and working out, and he certainly wouldn’t be doing that if the injury was serious. The extra week off works to his advantage here as well. Second, this is the Patriots we are talking about — the most secretive team in the NFL. There is no way they are going to let us know the truth heading into the game, so any speculation will just be dangerous. Third, Gronkowski doesn’t work alone. Even if he isn’t at full strength the Giants will have to be concerned about him, but they also have Aaron Hernandez and leading receiver Wes Welker to worry about.
He’s a very important player coming off the best season a tight end has probably ever had, but to assume that the team is doomed without him just means you haven’t been paying attention to the Patriots this year, or Tom Brady’s whole career for that matter.
The best thing you can do with this issue is ignore it entirely. He’ll probably be serviceable, and if he’s not then Brady and company have had two weeks to figure out what to do about it. This will not be the deciding factor.
Giants feeling disrespected
I keep hearing about how the Giants should feel disrespected, and how they will use the slight of being made underdogs in this one as a motivating factor. It was a question that was asked in some form or other to every person connected to the Giants on Tuesday. I am not sure I have ever heard anything more stupid.
The Giants are coming off a 9-7 regular season which only barely saw them make the playoffs. They needed overtime last week to get into this game. I’m certainly not suggesting that they haven’t earned what they have, that they don’t deserve to be here, or that they aren’t completely capable of winning this game. New England is the top seed in the AFC, though, and has had a long history of strength. They also have one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Eli Manning, though certainly impressive really, in not on the level of Brady.
Could the Giants argue that they could deserve to be favored? I guess so. Is it enough of an insult that they aren’t favored that it will motivate them significantly? Absolutely not. Don’t let yourself get carried away by this stupid angle.
New England’s offensive coordinator is also the new head coach at Penn State. He’s with the Pats until the end of this game, but he’s at Penn State full time starting Monday. He and the rest of the New England offense was asked repeatedly whether this was a distraction leading up to this game. In some circumstances it certainly would be. In this case, though, I’m not concerned in the slightest.
The biggest reason for my lack of concern — Bill Belichick. As you well know by now, Belichick is all business. He doesn’t tolerate less than full commitment, so he’s not going to accept less than full focus from O’Brien heading into this game. O’Brien is a real pro, too — he wouldn’t have been hired at Penn State if he wasn’t — so he’s not going to give anything but his best heading into the biggest game of his career no matter what is on the horizon.
O’Brien also has some guy named Brady to work with — another guy who isn’t going to accept anything less than full focus.
One last factor to consider in this one — O’Brien has done a terrible job so far with Penn State. Signing day was Wednesday and he was basically invisible on the day or leading up to it, and it was costly to the class. If he was neglecting the Patriots then he would have done a much better job than he did for the Nittany Lions.
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