Remember when Giants QB Eli Manning told reporters during the preseason that he was in the same class as three-time Super Bowl champion QB Tom Brady? Few people thought that Manning would have such a decisive opportunity to prove that claim, but here it is: In a rematch of arguably the greatest Super Bowl in recent memory, the 12-7 New York Giants will battle the 15-3 New England Patriots. What will Super Bowl XLVI hold?
Unlike 2008, this time the Giants aren’t an underrated afterthought, and the Patriots aren’t looking to etch their name in NFL history with an undefeated record. They’re just two fairly evenly matched, white-hot teams looking for a Super Bowl championship, and no doubt they’ll both bring the explosive style of play that has come to define their respective 2012 seasons to Sunday’s game.
When the two teams played during Week 9, the Giants forced two interceptions and two fumbles to win 24-20. They come into this game knowing that they can rattle Brady, and they’ll need to channel that confidence if they hope to win this weekend. Manning and the Giants are battle-tested, and their entire team has come together as of late. But the defense, and the heralded pass rush, will have to contain the Patriots’ high-octane offense.
Brady, who has led New England on a 10-game winning streak, has seemed virtually unstoppable most of this season. He threw a career-best 5,235 yards—second best in NFL history—and 39 touchdowns for a 105.6 passer rating. However, Brady posted a season-low 57.5 passer rating against Baltimore two weeks ago, and New York’s defense hasn’t allowed more than 251 throwing yards during its current five-game winning streak. The Patriots may also be hampered by the possible loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who averaged 1,327 yards receiving, but suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship game, and he has been unclear about his status for Sunday.
New England’s biggest weakness is the secondary, and the Giants should have multiple opportunities to further their passing game. While the Patriots get a lot of grief for their 31st-ranked defense, they have consistently played better on the field than the stats show, and they have clamped down during the postseason. Though they gave up 411.1 yards per game during the regular season, they’ve averaged a much-improved 325.0 yards in the postseason. New England also played more defensive fronts in the playoffs than they did earlier in the season, forcing New York to question what D they’ll face.
However, the Pats’ defense will face the Giants’ Big Three receivers—Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and newcomer Victor Cruz—who have helped Manning propel the Giants through the playoffs. Manning is also having a career year, passing for 4,933 yards—which proves that he’s an elite quarterback on paper. Now it’s time to make his case on the field.
Bottom line: If the Giants’ defense plays lights out, they’ll come back to New York with the Lombardi Trophy.
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