In what might be the most anticipated Super Bowl rematch in its history the Patriots and the Giants will square off in a rematch of their Super Bowl battle 4 years ago in which the Giants defeated the Patriots for their first and only loss of the season. The Patriots will no doubt have revenge on their minds but like 4 year ago the Giants match up extremely well with the Patriots. Like the Championship games I expect this one to be close and maybe another game that comes down to the last possession.
Super Bowl XLVI – New York Giants (12-7) vrs. New England Patriots (15-3) – Sunday, February 5, 2012, 6:30 PM at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, to be broadcast on NBC and announced by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth
Both the Patriots and Giants have had a fair deal of roster turnover since their Super Bowl meeting 4 years ago but the schemes that both teams run are by and large the same. The Patriots run more out of the 4-3 than the 3-4 on defense these days but they have basically been a hybrid team for years. Obviously the Patriots use the middle of the field more than the edges now on offense with tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez replacing the production of receivers Randy Moss and Donte Stallworth from 2007. Offensively the Giants were more of a ball control offense in 2007 with possession receivers like Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer. They can stretch the field more now with speedier receivers Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham. Here’s how the two teams match-up
Giants pass offense vrs. Patriots pass defense
Hakeem Nicks and the Giants' receiving corps could present match-up problems for the Pats
Eli Manning had a pretty good game 4 years ago but this time around both he and his supporting cast are improved. The Patriots have struggled in one-one-one match-ups on the edges all year. They’ve done a decent enough job getting to the quarterback but the loss of defensive end Andre Carter was a big blow to the Pats’ defensive line. Outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich has stepped up for the Patriots towards the end of the season and in the playoffs and he’ll need to have a big game if they want to harass Eli Manning. If they don’t put pressure on Manning it could make for a long afternoon for the Pats’ defense. Cornerback Devin McCourty has struggled in one-on-one match-ups all season long and could have a long night if he’s put on an island with Cruz or Nicks. Another match-up that may be problematic would be a potential match-up between cornerback/receiver Julian Edelman and one of the Giants receivers. They all have a pretty good height advantage on Edelman and Edelman has been dealing with the likes of Lee Evans and Matthew Willis in the first two weeks of the playoffs. The Giants are 3 deep at receiver and are likely to present a match-up problem in the slot that the previous two playoff opponents were not able to exploit. One game plan that the Patriots could revisit is the one Bill Belichick used in 1990 with Bills’ receiver Andre Reed. He could line up a linebacker opposite Cruz when he’s in the slot and chip him on every passing route. Reed caught 8 balls for 62 yards in that Super Bowl but he said that was the hardest that he had ever been hit in a game. I’m not sure that the Patriots have the personnel to do that, particularly if they are playing with 4 down linemen and only 3 linebackers. I think Eli Manning has a big game. The Patriots don’t have the personnel to slow down this offense enough.
Edge – Giants
Patriots pass offense vrs. Giants pass defense
Hernandez will need to step up with the ankle injury to Gronkowski
The biggest weapon in Brady’s arsenal is Rob Gronkowski and he is hobbled. I think he may be slowed a bit in this game but that just means he won’t have as many yards after the catch. I am guessing that between Bill O’Brien and Josh McDaniels they can come up with something to offset that. The Giants weakness is at the back of their defense. On paper they should have a pretty good secondary but cornerbacks Corey Webster and Aaron Ross have struggled at times this year. The Giants also have a weak spot at middle linebacker. Starter Chase Blackburn was picked up off of the street halfway through the year after rookie Mark Herzlich went down. Herzlich was replacing veterans Clint Sintim and Jonathan Goff, both of whom landed on IR. Herzlich might be back for the game but he is coming off of a broken ankle and did not have much experience to begin with. The key guys for the Giants defense will be safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle and how they match up with Gronkowski and fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez. Rolle and Phillips have also struggled at times this year. Look for Hernandez and Gronkowski to possibly switch roles and Hernandez will be the one to stretch the field and Gronkowski will be used more underneath. The Giants, like all other teams will try to keep Wes Welker in front of them. I like the guy so I hate to say this, but don’t expect Chad Ochocinco to be a factor. He’s just not that guy anymore. The big elephant in the room here is the Giants pass rush. Obviously it’s one of the best in the league. The way I see it Bill Belichick had one major priority above all others in the past two weeks – slow down the Giants pass rush and keep Tom Brady upright. Bill Belichick is one of the best game planners in league history and I’m guessing that he’ll have something in mind to protect Brady on Sunday night. The Giants will get sacks but I don’t see them repeating their performance from 2007.
Edge – Patriots
Giants rush offense vrs. Patriots rush defense
Big Vince Wilfork ahs been a monster in the midle during the playoffs
The Giants have the same two running backs that they had in 2007, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Both of these guys are sometimes underachievers and Bradshaw comes into this game hobbled. I expect that the rushing game won’t be a focal point of the Giants offense but Jacobs and Bradshaw can get the job done when they need to. The wild card in this match-up is Vince Wilfork who was a monster in the AFC Championship game against the Ravens. Wilfork wants that second ring and looked extremely motivated two weeks ago. Worse for the Giants is that center David Baas was banged up in the NFC Championship and has been limited in the practices leading up the the Super Bowl. That sets up a very favorable match-up for Wilfork and the Pats D-Line. If the Giants needs to use one of their guards to help Baas expect things to open up for the rest of the Pats front 7. They’ll need Brandon Spikes and guys like Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick to come up big if the Giants try to take Wilfork out of the game. Still with Baas and Bradshaw banged up I think Wilfork and co. will be too much for the Giants offensive front. The Giants will find a little success in spurts but I don’t see a ground game getting established over the course of the whole game. I don’t think the Giants running game finds a rhythm.
Edge – Patriots
Patriots rush offense vrs. Giants rush defense
Defensive lineman Chris Canty keys the Giants run defense
The Patriots will start BenJarvus Green-Ellis at running back. He is a similar running back to Laurence Maroney who started the game in 2007 for the Pats. Danny Woodhead will get plenty of time but he has not been as effective recently. I’m not sure how much you’ll see of the formation with Aaron Hernandez in the back field since Gronkowski is hobbled. The secret about the Giants’ pass rushers is that they are pretty good against the run too. Linebacker Mathais Kiwanuka has proven to be very versatile, which is why the Giants moved him from end to linebacker. Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul are pretty good at stopping the run as well and Chris Canty is an addition to the middle of the Giants defense that wasn’t there in 2007. Defensive lineman Dave Tollefson is another underrated, versatile player on the Giants front defensive line. Again I see the Patriots failing to get in a rhythm with the ground game because their assets on offense are in the pass game and they will go back to their crutch if they feel that they are not being successful against the run. The Giants have really stepped up their run defense in the end of the season and the playoffs so I don’t expect the Patriots to run much on the Giants. This one will be won by air.
Edge – Giants
One of these QBs will add another ring to their resume
So there you have it, as far as match-ups go the tally is New England Patriots 2 and New York Giants 2. We could bring Special Teams into the conversation but both teams have good kickers, punters, and coverage units. Like the game in 1990 between the Giants and Bills, this one is very evenly matched. The game will be won in the air and the quarterbacks will be key in the game. Both are former Super Bowl MVPs and both enjoyed one of their better seasons to date this year. This is cliche, and obvious, but the game will come down to whoever protects the ball better. If there are no turnovers in the game I give a slight edge to the Giants. However there have only been two Super Bowls in the 45 previous games that have ended with no turnovers by either team. Considering that the Patriots have Brady, who has been intercepted only once in 155 Super Bowl pass attempts, and Green-Ellis, who has never lost a fumble in his life, I think they are the ones who are less likely to turn it over. Still, when Eli Manning is bad he is very bad and when he is good he is very, very good. Right now he is good. Does he turn the ball over? Maybe it comes down to Bradshaw and Jacobs? Either way you slice it this one is a tough game to pick. I almost want to flip a coin on it. I hate to do a gimmick prediction but I’ll do it anyway (Just call me Chris Berman). Like 21 years ago neither team will turn the ball over. There will be a few more points scored in this one than the 1990 game between the Giants and Bills. The Patriots will lead 28-27 and Eli will try to rally the Giants down the field and set Lawrence Tynes up for the game winning 47 yard field goal. The kick will sail wide right and the Patriots win by a point.
Final Score Prediction: New England Patriots 28, New York Giants 27
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