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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, January 30, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Here's one question that we fielded this past weekend from a long-time buddy:

Is Super Bowl XLVI gonna be competitive?

Well, no doubt the Las Vegas guys/gals believe it will be as the New England Patriots - who opened momentarily as a 3 ½-point betting favorite in this Sunday's tilt against the New York Giants before it quickly settled at a minus 3-point price - always seem to play super-close Super Bowls in the Bill Belichick Era as evidenced by their 20-17 shockeroo win against 14-point favorite St. Louis back in 2001, the 32-29 non-cover win against 7-point underdog Carolina in 2003, the 24-21 non-cover triumph over 7-point pup Philadelphia in 2004 and that epic 17-14 loss to the 12-point dog NY Giants in 2007 but what's the exact history of Super Bowl close games the past 45 years?

Dig all the way back to January 15, 1967 when the Green Bay Packers slugged the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl I and you'll note the following:

There have been only 15 Super Bowls decided by 7 points-or-less and another 30 Super Bowl games decided by more than a touchdown and so the knee-jerk reaction would be to say that exactly two-thirds or 66.7 percent of games played in Super Bowl history have not been overly competitive but note the changes in the modern-day era as six of the last 10 Super Bowl showdowns have been decided by a touchdown-or-less and a couple of those games decided by more than 7 points arguably were lots closer than the scoreboard indicated (see New Orleans copping that come-from-behind 31-17 win against Indianapolis two years ago and Pittsburgh's 21-10 controversial win against Seattle back in 2005).

In case you were wondering, the largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history so far was San Francisco's 55-10 win against Denver back on January 28, 1990 while the only one-point Super Bowl in history thus far occurred almost exactly one year later on January 27, 1991 when the New York Giants held off Scott Norwood and the Buffalo Bills 20-19.

And how about Sunday's game in Indianapolis?

Well, among the topics we've tackles so far in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLVI were the respective pointspread coaching histories of New England's Belichick versus the Giants' Tom Coughlin, the playoff "head-to-head" showdown so far between Patriots' QB Tom Brady and the Giants' Eli Manning along with an interesting take on third-down conversions with the emphasis there being the Giants' hearty success on third-down plays this post-season.

Which leads us to today's subject d'jour:

Much is being made of the fact that the Giants have a stellar receiving corps this year but what have the post-season numbers shown us this winter?

True, the Jints already have played in three playoff games (the Patriots just two, of course) but note NYG sports the #1, #5 and #14 pass-catchers in the NFL Playoffs with WR Hakeem Nicks (18 catches for 335 yards and 4 TDs) averaging a haughty 18.6 yards a grab to lead the way while WR Victor Cruz ranks fifth in the NFL Playoff rankings thus far with 17 catches for 244 yards but no TDs while averaging a solid 14.4 yards-a-grab and don't forget clutch WR Mario Manningham who ranks fourteenth on the pass-catching lost but does have 8 catches for 116 yards with 3 TDs and a snazzy 14.5 yards-per-catch average.

Add 'em up, folks, and the Nicks/Cruz/Manningham triumvirate has caught 43 passes this post-season while averaging 231.7 aerial yards a game with 7 scores - no wonder everyone's doing verbal back flips about these guys in Gotham City!

Now, take the Patriots' pass-catchers this post-season:

Tight end Rob Gronkowski - he of the alleged high ankle sprain (according to his dad) - will enter Super Bowl Sunday ranked #6 among all pass-catchers this NFL post-season with 15 receptions for 232 yards and 3 TDs (a per-catch average of 15.5 yards) while next-best for New England is fellow TE Aaron Hernandez who has pulled down 11 balls for 121 yards (an 11.0 yards-per-grab average) with one receiving score and then you must go all the way down the chart to find slot WR Wes Welker who has 12 catches for 108 yards (a 9.0 yards-per-snare average) with one TD.

If you're counting, that's five receiving scores for this trio plus WR Deion Branch (5 catches for 103 yards this playoff season) also has a single TD and so that's six TD this post-season by this pass-catching quartet - not bad considering the aforementioned Brady didn't exactly believe that he played on a high level in last week's AFC Championship Game win against Baltimore.

In other words, if folks wish to argue that the Giants have the edge in the pass-catching department, you may have cause for argument and all the more important why Gronkowski's health will be Topic 1A all this week while leading into SB XLVI.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will get you the Super Bowl XLVI Sides & Totals Winners on game-day plus there's loads of College Basketball and NBA Winners each and every day when you check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET for the weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays/Sundays/Holidays ... get 'em while they're red-hot!


When we last left you with College Basketball News/Notes, we checked in with previews of the nation's #1, #2, #3 and #4 teams in the land according to last week's Associated Press Top 25 poll and so let's pop up a line or two on each of their weekend games:

Last Saturday, it was ...

#1 KENTUCKY 74, LSU 50 - Six-foot-11 freshman stud Anthony Davis was a beaten-up man but not a beaten man following this game as a rough flagrant foul that sent the Kentucky star sprawling wound up firing up the rest of the top-ranked Wildcats (21-1, 7-0 SEC). In the end, the wiry Davis finished up with 16 points and 10 rebounds in just 28 minutes of game action but maybe the best thing about this SEC tilt is John Calipari's crew - a 10-point road betting favorite -- showed real emotion when their kid F/C went down for a few minutes and the team defense perked up big-time (held LSU to 21-of-53 FGs or just a shade under 40 percent).

Next Up: A Tuesday night home date against next-door neighbor Tennessee

#2 MISSOURI 63, TEXAS TECH 50 - Okay, so the Tigers have since slipped back a bit in the poll now following last week's loss at Oklahoma State but here in this Big 12 hoedown Mizzou (19-2, 6-2 Big 12) braved a poor shooting game that included the following: Frank Haith's defense-first team shot a composite 19-of-48 from the floor (that's 39.6 percent) with star guard Marcus Denmon (4-of-15 FG shooting but 19 points) stuck in a frigid zone from the floor. More bad news for these bloated 24-point home betting favorites: The Tigers finished up with just 22 rebounds versus the woeful Red Raiders.

Next Up: Missouri's part of the ESPN "Big Monday" deal tonight with a key road game at Texas at 9 p.m. ET

#3 SYRACUSE 63, WEST VIRGINIA 61 - In the weekend's biggest non-call heard round the hoops world, the 9 ½-point favored 'Cuse (22-1, 9-1 Big East) hung on when the refs failed to call goal-tending on Orange big man Baye Keita on a shot by WVU's Deniz Kilicli from three feet out ... no wonder Mountaineers' boss-man Bobby Huggins was irate in the post-game presser but getting beyond that horrible non-call was the fact that West Virginia's starters shot a combined 17-of-45 from the floor and the Orange shot a surprisingly good 13-of-17 from the foul line. In case you didn't notice, Syracuse guard Brandon Triche now has connected on 38-of-44 charity stripe shots this season - now you know why head coach Jim Boeheim is smiling.

Next Up: Syracuse is idle till a Saturday noon ET game against St. John's at Madison Square Garden

On Sunday, it was ...

OHIO STATE 64, MICHIGAN 49 - Okay, so we won't blame you for possibly not knowing who Buckeyes G Lenzelle Smith Jr. is even though he was the biggest factor in O-State's win/cover versus the 14-point favored maize-and-blue. Ohio State (19-3, 7-2 Big 10) was propelled to the winner's circle in large part because Smith poured in 17 points to go along with a career-best 12 rebs while playing 33 minutes of brilliant basketball. Thad Matta's club was bogged down on this day by foul problems as Jared Sullinger wound up playing just 28 minutes (and finishing with 4 fouls) and it didn't help matters that the 'Eyes shot just 42.6 percent from the floor (that's 23-of-54 FGs).

Next Up: The Buckeyes are off till a Saturday showdown (2 p.m. ET) at rival Wisconsin

NOTE: More Super Bowl Notes in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.

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