Sports

Super Bowl XLVI Preview: New England Patriots vs. New York Giants

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New York Giants On Offense

The Giants boast one of the best passing games in the NFL highlighted by a top 5 quarterback in Eli Manning and three explosive wide receivers in Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham. All three of these guys can take it to the house from anywhere on the field either by getting behind the defense or making defenders miss after the catch. The Giants ability or inability to be successful in the passing game will be one of the key factors as to whether they will win Super Bowl XLVI.

As for their running game, it is pedestrian at best and downright ineffective at worst. Like many explosive passing games with a subpar running attack, the Giants must stick to the run even if it is not netting a lot of yards. Keeping the Pats defense honest will be integral to slowing down their pass rush and keeping their secondary guessing. If New York can run the ball more than 25 times chances are their offense will be very effective.

New England Patriots on Offense

Like the Giants, the Patriots offense gets their mojo from their passing game but the way they move the ball through the air is very different. Quite frankly, outside of Wes Welker, New England’s wide receivers stink. Deion Branch is past his prime, Matthew Slater is a non-factor and Chad Ochocinco may once again be inactive like he was in the AFC Championship game. The two-headed tight end monster of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are the reason for the potency of this passing attack. Gronkowski’s injured left ankle won’t prevent him from playing but he will likely not be 100%. If he is hindered significantly the Giants will be at a huge advantage because they can put a linebacker on him since Gronkowski’s rare combination of size and speed will be missing the speed part.

The Patriots run to pass but they do it differently than the Giants. While New York relies almost exclusively on Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, New England will feature as many four different running backs including the newest addition to the bunch, the aforementioned Hernandez. Tom Brady is also the best in the NFL at sneaking on third or fourth and short. New England would be wise to employ a lot of Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead in this game since the Giants have trouble slowing down short, quick backs.

New York Giants On Defense

The prevailing thinking as to why the Giants have played so much better over their last five games is their pass rush getting back on track with a newly motivated Justin Tuck and healthy Osi Umenyiora. While this thinking is not wrong it is extremely close-minded. This defense has transformed itself and it goes well beyond the front four. The linebackers, especially Chase Blackburn and Jacquian Williams, are playing at a high level and the secondary is avoiding coverage breakdowns, limiting teams almost exclusively to pass plays 15 yards or less (Vernon Davis’ two touchdowns last week excluded). New York’s defense has gone from one of the worst in the league after their loss to the Redskins on Dec. 18 to one of the best as we head into the Super Bowl. It is the biggest reason why they should be favored in this game.

New England Patriots on Defense

The much maligned Patriots secondary has held up well in the playoffs allowing the defense overall to surrender only 15 points per game against the Broncos and Ravens. Unfortunately for New England they will be facing a different beast in the Giants offense on Sunday. The Giants were able to put up 24 points and 361 yards of total offense in their first meeting this year on Nov. 6 and that was without Nicks or Bradshaw. With those two guys in the fold the only way New England can prevent New York from topping 30 points is if they get a huge game from Vince Wilfork. Wilfork has been both disruptive against the pass in the playoffs, registering two and a half sacks, and stout against the run with four tackles for a loss. Expect the Giants to double team Wilfork and make someone else along that front seven beat them.

Special Teams and Coaching

The edge in special teams goes to the Patriots simply because they can actually make something positive happen in their return game. The Giants consider a return successful, whether it is a punt or kick, if they manage not to fumble.

As for coaching, I think it is dead even. Sure Bill Belichick has a better resume but Tom Coughlin has had his number the last two times these teams have matched up. One thing is for certain; neither of these guys will be the reason their team loses.

Prediction (8-2 in the postseason, 1-1 last week)

The Giants are more balanced and probably have a better offense than the Patriots especially if Gronkowski is not his usual overpowering self. No fourth quarter dramatics will be needed in this Super Bowl rematch as the Giants win going away.

Giants getting 3 points in this one: Final Prediction…. Giants 34 – Patriots 20