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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.