As a sports fan, I typically root for the best possible narrative, particularly if my team isn't involved. And so, because I'm not a fan of the Patriots or the Giants, I'm rooting for the Giants to beat New England in some crazy, controversial fashion to end the Pats' undefeated season and to leave NFL fans with more evidence that the Patriots -- for all their winning -- turn into a less-than-pedestrian unit when they see Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin on the opposite sideline.
The Patriots are 8-0 and once again chugging along with the kind of relentless offensive attack that led them to appearances in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, both losses to the Giants. Is this New York team as talented as either of those squads? Not on the defensive side of the ball, that's for sure.
The recent return of Jason Pierre-Paul will help the defensive line to put pressure on Tom Brady, who didn't respond well to getting hit -- particularly up the middle -- in those two Super Bowl losses. And so the story I'm rooting for is this: JPP gets a sack on the Pats' first drive to energize the defense and give them hope against the likes of Rob Gronkowski, who looks biologically unfeasible and (like Keith Richards) cannot be killed with conventional weapons.
Sure, a shootout in this game wouldn't be surprising, not least because the Giants can't stop anyone on defense -- unless they're causing turnovers. It's been proven that turnovers are largely a fluke, and that over time the number will revert to the mean. In the interim, you just have to enjoy the departure from the expected. The Patriots have typically fumbled less frequently than any team in the NFL, so the story I'm rooting for is this: LaGarrette Blount bursting into the open field and having a clear path to the end zone before fumbling the ball without a single Giant touching him.
Can the Giants hang with the Patriots otherwise? Maybe. If they can control the ball with Orleans Darkwa, who still presents their best option on the ground, New York can limit the Patriots' chances on offense. Dropping back all game and trying to throw over the top to Odell Beckham Jr. is probably going to be useless, because Pats' head coach Bill Belichick has a well-chronicled history of gearing his defense to take away the opponent's top offensive option. He did it against the Rams' Marshall Faulk in the Super Bowl, and he did it last week against the Redskins' DeSean Jackson, who had three catches for a measly 15 yards. So the story I'm rooting for is this: Beckham setting several receiving records against the Pats and turning the post-game press conference into an explanation-fest of how Belichick could possibly let the opponent's best player beat him over and over again.
I'm a fan of good football, and I'm a bigger fan of great football narratives. And so that's what I'll be rooting for on Sunday. Is it a coincidence that none of those narratives involve success from New England? No.
As I said earlier, I'm not a Patriots fan. I'm not a Jets fan, either. However, I am a Patriots hater. So you can have your beer on Sunday, I'll be guzzling my haterade, hopeful that a franchise whose myriad achievements have been brought low by cheating and smarm can get its typical comeuppance from the Giants.