They?re saying it will be a war of attrition. They?re saying the match-up is the result of league-wide parity. They?re saying this one could be an eyesore. But whatever the case, the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants will square off Sunday in the 35th edition of the Super Bowl, and what is certain is that one team will come away with the NFL?s most prized possession ? the Lombardi Trophy.

This game will be a defense lover?s fantasy and the worst nightmare for a fan of ?first-one-to-50-wins.? The Ravens come in with the top-ranked defense, setting a record for fewest points allowed in a season. This is a defense that has gotten better as the season has gone on and right now it is overpowering opponents, essentially imposing its will on anyone who stands in its way.

The Giants are a bit more ?balanced? ? if you want to call it that, with a strong run-stop defense complimented all year by a solid ground game and quarterback Kerry Collins who has been playing smart football.

The question surrounding this game is simple ? will the Giants score enough points to win?

The Giants have relied most of the year on the combination of Tiki Barber, who has come into his own this season, and rookie Ron Dayne. There is, however, little chance the Giants will be able to run at all against the Ravens? defense. The Giants have not been overly successful against good run defenses.

Barber has run tentatively since he broke his left arm a few weeks ago and Dayne, despite his size, is soft and will not be able to handle the trademark gang-tackling Ray Lewis and company.

That puts a lot of pressure on three people ? Collins and wide-outs Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard. The Giants certainly surprised everyone ? despite whatever you may have read or heard, including themselves, in the NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings when they aired it out for 41 points in a stunning drubbing .

All three were spectacular? Collins and Hilliard having career days and Toomer fighting through injury to provide a constant threat. However, they will have to have repeat performances for to move the ball against top notch covermen Chris McAlister and Duane Starks.

On the other side of the ball the Ravens? offense has two missions ? not to turn the ball over and to let their defense try to win the game. They also feature Jamal Lewis, a rookie back, who has been solid but not spectacular. The Giants should be able to shut him down by keying on him. If the Giants get the same kind of pressure on Trent Dilfer that they put on Dante Culpepper, the Ravens will have a hard time getting into field goal range for their reliable kicker Matt Stover.

What it comes down to is the fact that it?s very difficult to ask one unit to play perfect football week in and week out. The Ravens? defense is certainly capable, but at some point a slight letdown is inevitable. No team is ever consistent. I think the Giants will avoid the critical turnovers and win the field position battle ? the final score will be Giants -3, Ravens -5.



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