Gird Yourselves for 2 Weeks of Brady and Manning

1200929040Here we were all prepared to suffer through two weeks of Tom Brady and Brett Favre. Oops. Guess the Pats will have to beat a Manning to finish off the ride to perfection, after all. Hands up if you thought it would have been Eli instead of Peyton.

About a month ago, I thought it was a mistake for the Giants to go full force against the Pats. They had a playoff spot secured, and more than a few injuries to deal with. Turns out it was the best loss that ever happened to them. The Giants dominated Green Bay in the final 30-plus minutes, and if not for some ugly kicks from Lawrence Tynes, they would have saved the suspense, and Favre, from one last catastrophic interception.

So, it will be the Giants again. The Patriots can cap the first 19-0 season in history and Brady can join his hero, Joe Montana, along with Terry Bradshaw, as the only quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls. Or, failing that, sad sack Eli can forever break out the shadow of big brother Peyton, and do it against the family’s eternal nemesis.

A lot of people think not having Favre in the final game will hurt the TV ratings. Me? I think it will be the most-watched Super Bowl ever.

As much as America, and 95 percent of the sporting press, wanted a Favre-Brady matchup, the Giants earned it by beating Tampa, Dallas, and Green Bay, all on the road. They have quietly been the best team in the NFC since downing Buffalo in the next-to-last game of the season.

If anyone thinks it’s going to be easy, they obviously haven’t been watching the last two months, and not just because the Giants have been hot. The Pats air of invincibility has begun to slightly erode, and they have been pushed into a make-or-break moment in every game since the great escape against Baltimore. It happened on Sunday, when Brady, having the worst playoff game of his career, took them on a 67-yard drive in the fourth quarter for the clinching score.

The Chargers were good. Damn good. If not for their inability to score touchdowns in the Red Zone we would have been looking at another last-second finish. As it was, Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk were the dual MVP’s.

Maroney answered all those questions that lingered through the fall about what would happen on a raw, cold day in January, while Faulk—one of the last remaining unsung Patriot heroes—had the game of his professional life.

In truth, no matter how it turned out, the league is the big winner in any matchup that involves the Patriots. After a lackluster season that saw little suspense leading up to the playoffs, and offered only a mildly interesting post-season (unless you count Tomy Romo going South with Jessica Simpsonheh), the NFL gets the Pats pursuit of perfection, and a Manning to boot.

Now comes the hard part. Over the next two weeks, we will wade through Brady and Manning, ad nauseum. We will have spygate rehashed, the comedy stylings of Tom Coughlin will be on display, and you know the ’72 Dolphins will be there, just for kicks. Tiki Barber will somehow be involved. Bill Belichick will be analyzed.

Two weeks until the Patriots try to conclude the greatest season in professional sports. Two long weeks.