A lot of things have changed since The Daily Star sports department started running Super Bowl predictions in 2003.
The roster 10 years ago included current sports writer Rob Centorani, current contributing writer Courtney Erickson and current sports editor yours truly, along with former Daily Star All-Stars such as Mike Neagle, Jeff Vella and Jen Walker.
Well, Jeff and Jen got married a while back and Mike had a baby girl this past Monday (actually, his wife had the baby). And in typical Neagle fashion, Mike broke the news of super-cute Olivia Louise's arrival on Facebook at 11:29 p.m. ... six minutes before our drop-dead deadline at the newspaper.
Still, some things never change. Mike is still pushing deadline, we still affectionately refer to Courtney as C-Bass, Rob still sports a 1980s haircut, and I'm still writing my Super Bowl prediction in the wee hours of the morning. In reality, these are the me hours of the morning because nobody else is stupid enough to stay here this late.
I am, though, which could be why I'm 6-3 in predicting the Super Bowl champion over the last nine years.
Thanks to the wonderful world of Internet archives, I discovered my only missteps along the way were 2004, 2006 and 2008.
I think there was a gas leak or something in 2004 because I called for a 6-6 tie between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots. To further support my gas-leak theory, Rob and C-Bass correctly picked the Patriots, who won, 32-29.
Courtney's 2004 prediction also resulted in what may be the most profound reason ever for picking one team over another. Neagle, who was a former Daily Star sports writer way back then, too, simply wrote: "Carolina, because C-Bass picked the Patriots."
Anyway, I also incorrectly picked the Seahawks to beat the Steelers in 2006 and the Patriots over the Giants in 2008.
Ironically, the Giants lost to the Seahawks and the Patriots fell to the Steelers during the 2011 regular season. I'm not really sure what that means, but if strength of schedule has anything to do with anything, the Giants should win in a landslide.
Tom Brady should have set the NFL passing record this past regular season because the Patriots played two teams _ the Steelers and the Giants _ that finished better than .500 and lost to both. Then they whooped up on Denver (8-8), which barely made it to the playoffs, before beating AFC North champion Baltimore (12-4) because Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds left.
Brady is the William Tell of quarterbacks. His receivers pretty much just have to put up their hands and the ball will be there every time. But based on the Patriots' opponents, he probably should have passed for more than a record 5,235 yards during the regular season.
Eli Manning is no slouch, with 4,933 regular-season passing yards and a 17-14 win over the Patriots the last time these two teams met in a Super Bowl. But New York's receivers make Manning look better than he is instead of vice-versa, which is the case in New England.
Manning's Giants also beat the Patriots, 24-20, during the regular season. Of course, that Nov. 6 win at New England marked New York's only regular-season victory over an opponent that finished better than .500 and was followed by a four-game skid as the Giants lost to NFC West champion San Francisco (13-3), NFC East rival Philadelphia (8-8), NFC South champion New Orleans (13-3) and NFC North champion Green Bay (15-1).
What should impress anyone is that the Giants, unlike the Patriots, had to beat very good teams to reach the Super Bowl. They allowed only a safety in a 24-2 victory over Atlanta, which went 10-6 in the regular season. Then they won, 37-20, at Green Bay. Then they won, 20-17, at San Francisco in overtime.
Regardless of the level of play _ high school, college or pro _ teams don't get better by playing sub-par opponents. Even if you get killed by a great team, that's better for you than going undefeated against a bunch a scrubs.
The only red flags in regard to the Giants are two regular-season losses to Washington (5-11) and home losses to the Eagles and Seattle (7-9).
New York seems to be well beyond those debacles, however, riding a five-game winning streak that started with back-to-back regular-season victories over the New York Jets (8-8) and the Dallas Cowboys (8-8).
Some may argue that the Giants are lucky to be here, but luck has nothing to do with it now. And even though the Patriots have won 10 in a row, they lost to Buffalo during the regular season. P-yew!
I'm not sure who C-Bass picked yet, but I'll see if the Giants can extend my streak to four in a row.
PREDICTION: Giants 32, Patriots 20.
Can anyone ever doubt the powerful pen I wield?
Though I'm sure no one remembers my Super Bowl prediction from last year (it was wrong), I mentioned a somewhat tasteless Visa advertisement of a guy bragging about missing births of children and family weddings but finding his way to every Super Bowl.
I've yet to see that ad this year. So the higher-ups at Visa clearly read The Daily Star, agreed with my assessment of that ad and pulled it.
Of course, there's an outside shot it was an old ad that wasn't all that effective.
So you want my thoughts on Sunday?
For starters, who would schedule a gymnastics meet on Super Bowl Sunday? That's right, I'll be at the Broome County Arena on Sunday morning watching my soon-to-be 12-year-old daughter doing back flips and dismounts.
Later Sunday, I'll teach the finer points of basketball to a bunch of youngsters, a group that includes my 7-year-old son. I'm estimating I said, "Keep your shooting elbow in, hold the ball with your fingertips and follow through with your wrist, so the ball rotates backward when you release it" about 150 times last week. I'm guessing I'll say it another 150 this Sunday.
And I'm certain every kid in the gym will be thinking, "Not this guy again!"
So after gymnastics and basketball, you're probably thinking I'll get to relax and watch the game.
Then I get to come to work and occasionally catch glimpses of plays on the TV that sits over and slightly behind my right shoulder.
Maybe you don't want my thoughts on Sunday.
Anyway, I like the Giants. Their front four will get pressure on Brady and force some turnovers, Eli will have a field day with New England's porous secondary and this one will be a laugher.
PREDICTION: Giants 38, Patriots 17.
I have been informed by our captain/motivational leader Dean Russin that this is the 10th year of Daily Star Super Bowl predictions.
Well, don't I feel old? Actually, come to think of it, it seems like it has been EONS since my beloved Buffalo Bills appeared on this stage.
Even though my team has been out of it for the past 18 years, I will still try to watch most of the game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. Storylines abound in this one, but there are only two I actually care about.
1. Hoping that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski loses.
2. Hoping that smug pretty boy Tom Brady loses.
Why the non-love you may ask?
Gronkowski is from the Buffalo area and is a traitor for playing for the enemy. Here's hoping he will bring the Bills' 0-4 Super Bowl curse with him to Indianapolis.
Brady? I never liked the guy. He may be a great quarterback and all, but his arrogance turns me off.
On paper, the Giants' pass rush should have success getting to Brady (one can only hope). That and Gronkowski's ankle injury should focus the spotlight on Aaron Hernandez.
A porous New England secondary could mean a bright spot for Giants quarterback Eli Manning. My only concern is that the Giants won this same battle, 17-14, four years ago.
Brady and coach Bill Belichick have good memories, though. That could mean trouble for Big Blue on Sunday.
So I have to go against my heart in this one and hope I am wrong.
PREDICTION: Patriots 31, Giants 21.
How do you predict the winner of the Super Bowl? I have heard of people that flip a coin, or choose based on the mascot. I have talked to people who listen to the media and choose based on the majority. Others take the minority opinion, which is probably a better decision. Then there are the old standbys that think they can ascertain the outcome from studying the teams' statistics and trends.
To understand that none of these methods is dramatically better than the others, you need only look at how this year's Super Bowl participants advanced to Indianapolis. The New England Patriots won the AFC title game thanks to Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff shanking a chip-shot field goal with time expiring. In the NFC title game, my beloved Giants survived the San Francisco 49ers thanks to two bonehead plays by rookie kick-returner Kyle Williams.
So, if the prognosticating of championship football games is so random, how is it that I am 4-for-5 against the spread and 5-for-5 picking the over/under in the last five Super Bowls? The only blemish on my record is last year's big game, when I predicted a 37-29 victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Green Bay Packers.
This year, I've decided to share my secret with the world.
I don't have a system, and I certainly don't have any inside knowledge.
What I have is a board game.
That's right, a board game called "Pizza Box Football" made by On the Line Game Company was a Christmas gift from my brother in 2006. That year, Ben and I began the ritual of playing one annual game of "Pizza Box Football" in the week prior to the Super Bowl. Just as the game in Indianapolis on Sunday, our game Monday night had a pre-game coin toss with a ceremonial coin (tails for those who may be interested), a halftime show (30 seconds of Ben singing Madonna's "Holiday") and spectators. OK, we only had one spectator, but like the vast majority of Super Bowl viewers, our enthralled onlooker was highly inebriated.
So without further adieu, here is the results of Pizza Box VI.
Spoiler alert: If you don't want to know the outcome of Sunday's game you may want to stop reading now.
Ben, representing New England, scored the first points on a 25-yard touchdown pass on his second possession. New York knotted the score on the next drive, and the first quarter came to an end at 7-7.
New York and New England again traded TDs in the second, but the Giants ended the quarter with an 80-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. Big blue ended the half with a 17-14 lead. Before Ben's rendition of "Holiday," our studio analysts pointed out that this was the final score of Super Bowl XVII.
New York's third quarter was sloppy with a pair of fumbles, one of which was lost and led to a 2-yard New England TD run. At the end of the quarter, New England led, 28-20.
Special teams failed New York in a valiant fourth-quarter rally. The Giants scored with 7 minutes left on a 3-yard run and converted a 2-point conversion to tie the score, but New England returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, making it 35-28.
After trading punts, New York took over on its 20 with 2:40 left. The New York QB led a heroic drive, which included two fourth-down conversions and ended in a 15-yard TD pass as time expired to make it 35-34.
As chaos ensued and New England's defensive guru head coach hung his head in shame, New York's kicker trotted onto the field for the most important extra point in history. The snap was good. The hold was good. The kick went up, and squarely hit the left upright, giving New England it's first Pizza Box title.
The Patriots kick-returner was named MVP.
It's worth noting for the Giants fans, who will be understandably dismayed by this outcome, that although Pizza Box Football has correctly selected 4 of 5 Super Bowl winners against the spread, it is only 3-for-5 straight-up. In Pizza Box III, upstart Arizona topped Pittsburgh by four. In Super Bowl XLIII, the underdog Cardinals fell to the Steelers, 27-23, but covered the point-spread.
"If the Giants actually lose because Lawrence Tynes misses an extra point on the last play of the game, I will jump out a window," Ben said at the postgame media conference.
Luckily, we will be watching the game in a single-story home with large windows.
The official Pizza Box VI predictions? Giants +3 and over 55.
PREDICTION: Patriots 35, Giants 34.
High school stat keeper
I must admit that when I got this job, I really only expected to do stats. That's why I was caught rather off-guard when I discovered that in addition, I also would have to write something conveying my thoughts and predictions about this upcoming Super Bowl. Had I known ... well, I'd probably still be here anyway.
The fact of the matter is that I am no football fan. I have no knowledge of the sport, and to this day I still have not managed to sit and watch an entire game. The one thing I do know about football is that when the Steelers are playing, I am supposed to want them to win. That's because my brother and father happen to be football fanatics. My home is full of all things Steelers _ mugs, dolls, blankets, towels, posters, jerseys, and even an eerie Jack Lambert Fathead (at least, I think that's his name).
When I do "watch" the Super Bowl, it's either for the funny commercials or the halftime show. Or sometimes I fake it to get to the food, which always just happens to be somewhere near the TV.
Rather than having to actually predict for myself who the winner of this year's Super Bowl will be, I decided it would be much more effective to ask other people _ football fans and followers, to be exact _ what their thoughts were about the winner of Sunday's game.
The best part of my prediction? Since I never actually guessed myself, my answer can't really be wrong.
PREDICTION: Giants 34, Patriots 23.
OK, so when Daily Star Sports Editor Dean Russin sent out an email saying he needed everyone in the department to hand in a Super Bowl prediction, it hit my Blackberry at 3 a.m. My first thought _ outside of "Who's up at that time, let alone still working?" _ was I finally get to write something for the newspaper.
Then it dawned on me that Dean probably would invoke his privilege as sports editor and "edit" my writing, and it would ultimately become my prediction in his words. I hope that's still me in the picture.
My next thought was who better to get help with my prediction than my 8-year-old son, Jordan. He's a walking encyclopedia of sports knowledge and someone who has more insight into the Super Bowl than I do. Jordan has the Giants over the Pats _ final score, 27-21.
OK wiseguy, now coach Russin wants to know why you're picking the Giants?
Jordan's thoughts: "The Giants beat the Pats in Week 9 and the Giants beat them in the 2008 Super Bowl. Oh yeah, also, if the Pats TE (you cannot expect an 8-year-old to pronounce "Gronkowski"), can't play, that will hurt them."
So I'm going to ride Jordan's shirt-tails and pick the Giants to win Super Bowl XLVI.
I'm also predicting we'll make it home from my daughter Ashley's cheerleading competition just in time for the national anthem, a tradition we started three years ago. I wouldn't have it any other way.
PREDICTION: Giants 27, Patriots 21.
Editor's note: Had this prediction run unedited, Goble would have introduced new words such as "thougth" and "encylopedia" to the English language, and a tight end named Gronskowski would be playing for the Patriots.
I'm not a Giants fan, but I am rooting for them enough to question whether my rooting for them will cause great doom.
I have fears of a Pats romp _ 45-10 was my gut reaction _ but I'll pick with my heart and not my fears on this one.
The Giants defense gets to Tom Brady enough to shake him, and both teams make late runs in a close physical game. By the end of the game, Eli Manning has found ways to exploit the Patriot secondary and New York strikes last.
PREDICTION: Giants 24, Patriots 20.