The New England Patriots and New York Giants will go at it in Super Bowl XLVI this Sunday. It should be a great game since it is matching up the 2 hottest teams in football. The Patriots come in having won 10 games in a row overall, and the Giants have won 5 consecutive games themselves. New York will be trying to duplicate their upset of New England in Super Bowl XLII 4 years ago while the Patriots are trying to settle the score with the team that kept them from completing a 19-0 season. Let’s take a look at the matchup:
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL:
Tom Brady continues to rewrite the playoff records for quarterbacks, and with his 5th Super Bowl start there is only 1 other person in the world who is as experienced and comfortable preparing for the big game as him (John Elway of course!). You can typically count on Brady to deliver a steady performance when it counts and you know he won’t wilt in the spotlight during big moments.
The one team that has solved the Brady riddle in the Super Bowl however, was Tom Coughlin and these New York Giants. That experience will prove valuable for the Giant defense in terms of scheme and confidence. They proved that if you can provide consistent pressure on the quarterback without sending extra defenders, the potent New England offense can be slowed down. If the Baltimore Ravens proved anything last week, it’s that Tom Brady isn’t perfect. If the Giants can find a way to get to him I wouldn’t be surprised to see him forced into a few turnovers. There will be new challenges for the New York defense this time around though. The 2 big tight end threats in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski weren’t in the league when these teams last played in the Super Bowl. I expect the Patriots to counteract the aggressive New York defensive front by getting these 2 in the mix early and often. Look for a ton of crossing routes and dump offs to try and get the defensive linemen on their heels, and once the attention of the defense turns to the tight ends I expect Wes Welker to produce a few big plays.
I believe that the most important factor for the Giant defense is to stand tall in the red zone. The red zone defense was the biggest difference between the Patriots’ 45-10 blowout win over the Denver Broncos and their 23-20 squeaker over the Ravens. If the Giants force the Patriots to settle for field goals, they will absolutely have a chance to win this game.
SLIGHT EDGE: PATRIOTS
WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL:
Eli Manning, in no uncertain terms, is the best quarterback the Patriots have faced since their winning streak began. Manning has taken his play to another level this season and has thrived in clutch situations. He also has possibly the best group of wide receivers the league has to offer. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have a knack for the big play, and they make the tough catches that extend drives look routine (A quality that Denver needs in their receivers). It’s no secret that New England’s secondary is one of the softest in the league, but no one has been able to take advantage of that in the playoffs. I think that changes on Sunday. Manning is at his best on 3rd downs and excels at keeping drives going. I expect the Giants to try and keep Brady on the sidelines by winning the time of possession with long and impactful drives. At the same time, this will wear out the Patriot defense and should result in the Giants once again winning the 4th quarter battle. Look for Manning to put on a show, and unless he throws 3 touchdowns to one receiver, he is my odds on favorite to end up with the MVP trophy.
BIG EDGE: GIANTS
In the punting department, the Patriots’ Zoltan Mesko outranked the Giants’ Steve Weatherford in most key statistics during the regular season. However, in the playoffs it is Weatherford who has been performing at a higher level. In regards to field goals Stephen Gostkowski has been perfect for New England during the playoffs whereas Lawrence Tynes is kicking at a 75% rate for the Giants. It is Tynes that has the more impressive playoff resume though with game winning kicks in overtime of the 2007 and 2011 NFC Championship games.
Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin may be the 2 best playoff coaches of the last 10 years. There is no denying that Belichick is a master of out-scheming his opponents (which is not necessarily the hardest thing to do when you have an all-time great quarterback to work with. See: Shanahan, Mike), but no one seems to get more out of his team at this time of year than Coughlin. I suspect that Coughlin will once again thrive in the role of the underdog, but in this article he yields to the lengthy resume of the hoodie.
SLIGHT EDGE: PATRIOTS
Like almost every Super Bowl, look for this one to start slow until the nerves wear off and the offenses settle down and find their groove. I expect more scoring in this game than we saw in Super Bowl XLII, but it still won’t reach shootout levels. The tight games we saw on Conference Championship weekend will continue on Sunday and this one will be decided in the 4th quarter. Based on what we’ve seen this season, Eli Manning is the quarterback you want on your team if things are going to be decided in the final 15 minutes. However, the Patriots are used to winning close Super Bowls with all 3 of their victories coming by a margin of 3 points. This game will finish with some drama and will once again be decided by 3 points, but it is the New York Giants who will hoist the trophy, winning it by a score of 27-24.
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