First, the Panthers have a cool new logo with a “more aggressive, contemporary look” that is “three-dimensional” for more digital use. What’s your take (old one on top, new one on bottom)? For fans, the thing about new logos and jerseys is that you represent for your team. For players, it also makes you proud to wear the emblem and play well for those fans spending money to be decked out in your gear. Even after leaving the U. of Oregon, I still feel proud to wear or show off the “O.”
Second, the NFL did this fun musical-themed video with several players singing and me playing a little piano. I also lined up with my teammates Jordan Gross, Ryan Kalil and Steve Smith to sing “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Ryan and Jordan do really good singer impersonations. Ryan does a great Sinatra! As for Steve, he makes some joyful noise! Check it out.
Alright, on to the preview!
1. Rematch Matchups
Four years ago, Eli Manning was the MVP as the Giants beat Tom Brady and the unbeaten Patriots 17-14. That game will be in the back of everyone’s mind because the players and fans certainly don’t forget. But there are a lot of new players now and different energies involved.
How does the Patriots offense stack up against the Giants defense? The Giants defensive line has been playing great, but I don’t like to bet against Brady. In the AFC Championship, he had two interceptions and zero touchdown passes, but he still found a way to score points. He got it done. Guys like Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck will have to really work this game to get him out of his comfort zone.
How does the Giants offense stack up? Eli has some great young and hungry receivers. So you’ve got that going against a defense that has played exceptional throughout the playoffs. Still, I think New England’s defensive backs are really going to have their work cut out covering that 1-2-3 punch of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. They have shown that they can make big plays when needed, whether it’s a deep or crossing route or a hitch play that turns into a 70-yard touchdown.
2. Forget the Numbers
People bring up stats like the Patriots having the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense or whatever, but you just throw the stats out now. Things that you achieved during the season don’t matter anymore. You see players who’ve had a huge impact, get to the Super Bowl and have little impact. On the other hand, there are guys you barely know who rise up and have a championship play or game to remember.
3. Special Teams and Turnovers
They say that special teams can tilt the field in your favor, and that happened with the Giants punt coverage guys who jumped onto two 49ers flubs in the NFC Championship. It’s all about field position. You can’t give your opponent 20 to 30 yards to score, and give them momentum. Special teams have as big of a role as offense and defense. So do avoiding mistakes and pouncing on any your opponent makes.
4. Who to Watch
Of course you have two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, but I’d look out for Nicks and Cruz on the Giants. And I’ll give another shout out to Patriots safety and former Oregon Duck Patrick Chung—it’s on him to really play smart and adapt quickly to whether it’s a run or pass. He’s going to have to come up and be in on a lot of plays. And if you twist my arm, I’m picking New England to win.
UPDATE: Giants won, 21-17.
See the next page for my party tips—and the winner of the game-worn cleats!
If you’re throwing a party, you have to have a lot of choices. Different types of pizzas to start. You’ll need a good grillsman to get some chicken, burgers and dogs going, and maybe smoke some ribs. Plenty of honey BBQ sauce. And potato salad. For snacks, you’ve gotta have Doritos Cool Ranch chips. You’ll also need some Mountain Dew to wash it down. For something sweet, honey buns are always a delicious choice.
You also need some key people: 1. A guy who knows football in and out, all the stats and details on the game. 2. That token hater, who picks on everything that happens. 3. A know-it-all who acts like he has it all figured out but doesn’t, for humor value. 4. The cool guy who gets along with everyone and has a lot of friends. 5. Any female friends who know football… and just happen to look cute in replica jerseys. Don’t go over-dressed, go comfortable, and finally, respect your hosts. That will guarantee you a Super Bowl party to remember!
Finally, I want to give props to the hundreds of great submissions I got for my game-worn cleats contest. Thanks for your interest and support. The winner was this really cool kid who looked like he was signing a contract extension, dressed up as me!
—As told to Ashley Jude Collie