With a little less than a week to go before Super Bowl 46, the meeting between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots will be dissected and broken down so meticulously over the next 12 days that by Saturday night (Super Bowl Eve) some people could start pondering which quarterback, Eli Manning or Tom Brady, has the hottest wife. Abby Manning might be easy on the eyes, but she's no Gisele Bündchen. Obviously the biggest question that will be asked by every media outlet in the world to every expert, player, former player, color analyst, etc: WHO WILL WIN SUPER BOWL 46?
Some might be leaning towards the Patriots and the revenge factor this year. But if I had to put money on it, and I have in the past, give me the Giants all day.
Since so many dynamics have changed since the Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl 42, David Tyree and the helmet catch have long since retired, let's take a look back at the 2011 Week 9 meeting between these two teams where the Giants beat the Patriots in New England by a score of 24-20. (Box Score courtesy of NFL.com)
What is a bit surprising is that the Giants managed to beat the Patriots with both Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) and Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) declared out. Even though Victor Cruz had big games prior, this game should be considered Cruz's coming out party by him showing that he was and is a legit No. 1 option on the team. For the Patriots, it was pretty much business as usual, although the big number that sticks out to me are Brady's 2 interceptions. This game marked the 3rd time he had thrown double-digit interceptions in 2011.
Here are a 2 key matchups I am going to be keeping an eye on during the game:
Brady vs. the Giants front seven
The Giants secondary has given up some big plays in the playoffs, recently giving up 2 touchdown catches (73YD/28YD) to Vernon Davis in the NFC Championship Game. They also gave up a 16-yard score to Donald Driver in the Divisional Round. If the Giants want to keep the Pats offense in check, they are going to have to get a lot of pressure from their front seven, including Jason Pierre-Paul and their defensive line. The Giants have been impressive against quarterbacks through the playoffs considering each player had much more success during the regular season (Outside of Smith):
Matt Ryan: (261.1 yards a game during the regular season)
PLAYOFFS: 199 yards, 0TDs/0INTs
Aaron Rodgers: (309.5 yards a game during the regular season)
PLAYOFFS: 264 yards, 2TDs/1INT
Conference Championship Round:
Alex Smith: (196.9 yards a game during the regular season)
PLAYOFFS: 196 yards, 2TDs/0INTs
Manning vs. the Patriots secondary
I noticed something peculiar when watching the Patriots Defense against the Ravens: receiver Julian Edelman had acted as the slot corner on 27 snaps. The Pats secondary had always been there Achilles heel throughout the regular season, so the move shows that Bill Belichick is a bit desperate. However, he has had success in the past with converting players to other positions. He switched former standout receiver Troy Brown to defensive back with some success. So while the move is somewhat odd, it could work. Despite this, Manning shouldn't have any problems against a squad that gave up 306 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception to Joe Flacco. Flacco could have easily made it 3 scores if Lee Evans hadn't had a perfectly thrown pass knocked out of his arms in the end zone near the end of Sunday's game.
It's not really shocking to see the Patriots currently favored by 3 points. Vegas has always loved New England throughout the years. So it's not hard to believe they think Brady can work his magic once again, despite not having much success in the playoffs in recent years. I am a firm believer that Eli will get his 2nd Super Bowl ring simply because Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham will be too much for the Pats to contain. Brady will also get his punches in and I expect Rob Gronkowski to have another big game just like Week 9, despite the fact that he is currently dealing with ligament damage in his ankle. But I expect the Giants front seven to get just enough pressure on Brady that the secondary should be able to make a couple big plays. Even though both teams have made it to the promised land before and won, I suspect some early-game jitters. Especially from the "youngins" who will be playing for the first time in the big game. But once the rust and nervousness is put aside, I expect this to be a Super Bowl people will be talking about a lot over the offseason. If you are a lover of a high-offensive game, this one is for you. And for those who bet the over/under, I'd be absolutely stumped if these 2 teams can't rack up more than the 55 points that is currently set.
FINAL SCORE: Giants 35/Patriots 31