» By MATT MCEWING
Super Bowl XLVI will highlight a high-powered New England Patriots offense against a very stout New York Giants defense. The Patriots finished the regular season with a 13-3 record and the number one seed in the AFC playoffs, while the Giants finished with a record of 9-7, earning the top NFC wild-card spot.
In week nine of the regular season, New York was able to take New England down 24-20, snapping the Patriots NFL record home game-winning streak. Following the upset, the Giants dropped four games in a row, ultimately losing five of their last eight games; one of them a stunning loss to the Redskins at home.
Achieving a wild card spot in the playoffs, New York heated up oddly in comparison to their 2007 Super Bowl run. The team beat Atlanta at home, Green Bay at Lambeau Field, and the 49ers at a rain-drenched Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
The Patriots offense, led by quarterback Tom Brady, had a commanding regular season. With weapons Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker, New England dominated most of their opponents, earning the number one seed in the playoffs and winning the franchise’s ninth division title in 11 years.
Having the first round bye week, the Patriots hosted the Broncos in the second round, defeating them 45-10. New England edged out Baltimore in a 23-20 victory in the AFC Championship game. It was a botched 32-yard Billy Cundiff field goal that propelled the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl appearance under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. TAS
» By TRENT SINGER
Bill Belicheck vs. Tom Coughlin
Both of these coaches served under Bill Parcells in the past and focus heavily on reducing turnovers and utilizing players’ strengths. They find ways to win by controlling the flow of the game and coaching players to understand that philosophy. Even though Tom Coughlin ruined the Patriots’ perfect season three years ago, Bill Belicheck has continued to show that the past is merely an opportunity to see what can be fixed.
Patriots safeties vs. Eli Manning
Over the past decade, quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have transformed the NFL into a pass-heavy league. This could be a problem for New England. Throughout the regular season, the Patriots’ pass defense has been horrific, ranking 31st in the league. Meanwhile, Eli Manning led all NFL quarterbacks in passes of 40 yards or more with 18. The play of safeties Patrick Chung and James Ihedigbo will need to be flawless if New England hopes to win this game.
Matt Light vs. Jason Pierre-Paul
In only his second NFL season, Jason Pierre-Paul led a star-studded New York defensive line by racking up 16.5 sacks and forcing two fumbles. His presence has been felt in the postseason as well, where he leads all defensive linemen in tackles with 16. However, don’t discredit the consistency of veteran Matt Light, who at 6 feet 4 inches, 305 pounds, has been with Brady since entering the league in 2001.
This game has all the perfect symptoms for a New England win. Tom Brady is the best in the business at preparing for a rematch, and Bill Belicheck should have a unique game plan to inspire his team. As much as I’d love to see the score stay relatively close, I don’t think the Giants have enough to keep up with the Patriots’ prolific offense.
New England 34
New York 24
» By MATT MCEWING
Giants defensive line vs. Tom Brady
The Giants’ front four, consisting of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Chris Canty and Osi Umenyiora, will be relentless in their pursuit of Tom Brady this Sunday. While the Patriots offensive line for the most part has done well at keeping their quarterback upright, they will inevitably have their hands full for 60 minutes.
Giants rush defense vs. Patriots’ running backs
The Giants ranked worst amongst rush defense this year, which could be a problem for them this weekend. The Patriots have an array of weapons in their backfield, like running backs Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Utilization of these types of players and their skills is one thing the Patriots have excelled at for many years.
Giants’ wide receivers vs. Patriots’ secondary
New England’s secondary, much like the rest of the defense, has been very spotty at times this year. In many games they have the looked suspect, which is not what you want when playing an explosive Giants receiving core. The Patriots will have to pick their poison, whether it’s Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks or Mario Manningham.
I see this game being more of a defensive battle and a true test of what the Giants are made of. They have passed the test all year leading up to this point and in very convincing fashion. The Patriots have been able to outscore their opponents all year; enough so the defense would have to just manage the game in most cases. This weekend will be much different. They’re getting one of the most relentless defensive lines in the NFL to date, which could lead to some scoring problems for Tom Brady and company. In the end, I see high-octane defense and a calm Eli Manning-led offense taking the Lombardi Trophy back to New York.
New England 21
New York 24