When Rex Ryan came to town three years ago he felt he had to make a point. Making the playoffs was not enough. He wanted to show everyone that he had so much confidence in his Jets that he fully expected to win a championship in his rookie season.
The new coach went so far as to plan his team’s playoff itinerary right down to the Super Bowl parade. He made sure every player had a copy of the script, and he didn’t care who knew about it.
Ryan’s Jets still haven’t been invited to any Super Bowl parades yet, but no NFL team will be more prepared for it if it happens.
Tom Coughlin isn’t nearly as brash. So I’ll lay out a scenario for him. It’s one that leads to another Super Bowl title for the Giants’ head coach and his team. Scenario. That’s the optimum word here.
Sunday, 4:30 at Green Bay. The Giants come out of the tunnel throwing the ball. They catch the nearly-perfect Packers in a lull brought on, in part, by their first-round bye.
The Giants are playing in what amounts to their fourth consecutive playoff game in as many weeks. How long has it been since the Packers played in a meaningful game, one in which the season was on the line?
By the time Green Bay comes around, Eli Manning has already tossed three touchdown passes to three different receivers. The Giants fully take advantage of a Packers’ defense that surrendered more yards than any other team in the NFL this season. Green Bay also led the league with 31 interceptions, but Manning is very careful with the ball this day. No throws out of desperation. No turnovers.
Aaron Rodgers nearly brings his team back, but Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs do just enough on the ground to limit Green Bay’s possessions in the second half.
Given a lead to protect and with time becoming an issue, the Giants’ front four turns up the pressure on Rodgers. Jason Pierre-Paul gets a strip fumble late in the third quarter and Justin Tuck hits the quarterback just as he’s releasing a pass intended for Greg Jennings. Antrel Rolle’s interception on the game’s final drive seals the outcome.
Giants 31 Packers 28.
The following week in San Francisco.
Lawrence Tynes boots four field goals, the last with only seconds remaining, to lift the Giants into the Super Bowl.
It’s reminiscent of the overtime kick that Tynes made to beat the Packers on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field and secure a berth for the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
Manning scores his team’s only touchdown on a naked bootleg from the 1-yard line just before halftime.
Giants 19, 49ers 17
Feb. 5 in Indianapolis
Peyton Manning shows his brother around town during Super Bowl week, then watches from his family’s luxury box as Eli surpasses him in Super Bowl victories.
In a rematch of their super duel in Arizona, Manning proves again that he really is an elite quarterback by throwing one more touchdown pass than Tom Brady. It’s the difference in the game.
Giants 35, Patriots 28
Note: Like the menu at your favorite diner says: No substitutes allowed. For example, if the Saints beat the 49ers on Saturday, the Giants’ trip to Indianapolis is essentially canceled. They’re not getting to Indianapolis by way of New Orleans. But I’m sure Peyton can find room for Eli in his luxury box if his younger brother really wants to visit that week.