All week long, we are going to hear a lot of speculation about the health and status of Rob Gronkowski's leg. However, we will never know the true status of Gronk's health until several minutes into the Super Bowl. So, for the purpose of this argument, let's assume Gronkowski is his usual self, or close to it.
All season long, teams have struggled to find a solution for this dynamic duo of tight ends. Hernandez is a more of a big receiver than a tight end, and Gronk is just a huge size mismatch for just about anyone, who can also help in pass protection and is a force in the run game.
However, the Giants, based on the way they like to play defense, are well-suited to cover these two.
New York, more so than most teams, love to employ their "big nickel" package, which is a trending defensive concept in the NFL right now in an effort to answer for the abundance of super-freak tight ends. The "big nickel" is just a nickel package, with five defensive backs and two linebacker, but three of those defensive backs are safeties.
In other words, instead of playing in a 4-3 base package, you replace one of your linebackers with a saefty to match-up better against tight ends. The Giants, with their three starting-caliber safeties in Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, and Deion Grant, love to use this concept.
As an example, let's say the Patriots line up in "21" personnel, wich means a two tight-end set with one back, then motion Hernandez to a detached position. The other receivers are Welker and Branch. If I'm the Giants, with Webster on Welker, I count Hernandez as a wide receiver and put a defensive back on him, whether its one of their safeties or Aaron Ross. To deal with Gronkowski, I would use a mix of man and bracket concepts to confuse Brady as much as possible. Simply playing straight-man is a recipe for disaster for a player as good as Brady before the snap.
I would be a bit weary of blitzing if I am the Giants, but it is necessary to mix a healthy amount of blitz concepts into your game plan to throw Brady off, which is key: if you look at just about every Patriots loss over the past few years, Brady was clearly uncomfortable in each of those games. If he knows the look every play, he is going to get into a groove quickly, and if that happens, you lose. Also, as good as the Giants pass rush can be, it's not quite the same as it was in 2007. The struggled to get a great rush against an average 49ers line, and the Patriots line has great depth and has protected Brady well all season long. This will be their toughest matchup yet.
The Giants may have been under-performed on defense all season long, but they are peaking at the right time, especially on the back end. With their surplus of safeties and philosophy on defense, they have as good of a chance as anyone of stopping the Patriots' dual threat of tight ends.