The New York Giants and the New England Patriots are still a week away from doing battle on the Super Bowl betting lines. However, here at Bang the Book, we are taking a look at some of the key matchups and the players that are going to be under the microscope when push comes to shove to make the difference for which team is going to win this game.
Obviously, there has been all sorts of talk about these two quarterbacks, and for great reason. QB Eli Manning is playing in his second Super Bowl, and he really has jumped into that “elite” level of quarterbacks over the course of the last few years. This season especially, the schedule was absolutely brutal for Manning and the gang, and he was still able to throw for nearly 5,000 yards. He also was able to post a number of fourth quarter comebacks this year, and though the defense didn’t always make those comebacks stand up, just getting back in some of the games that he was stuck in was a tremendous accomplishment.
The Patriots are going to be hard pressed to stop this passing game. The ground game for the Giants is a bit non-existent at times with RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, and though both of these backs have some big potential, the offensive line in front of them hasn’t always been the greatest. This is why this team ranks dead last in the NFL in rushing. However, in the playoffs, Bradshaw and Jacobs have been able to find some holes. The issue at hand isn’t running for a certain number of yards, though getting to 100 would be a real help. The issue here is at least making the Patriots believe that the Giants at least have the ability to run the ball. If they don’t get the job done on the ground and just end up getting left with a slew of pass plays to have to make, Manning is going to be under immense pressure. That’s not to say that he can’t get the job done even under duress (heck, just look at the David Tyree play from the Super Bowl four years ago!), but it is obviously going to be a heck of a lot harder to do so.
New York is going to spread out the field a lot with three wide receivers, and the health and productivity of all three is going to be key. At times, WR Mario Manningham was lost in the shuffle this season, while there is still a question as to just how injured WR Hakeem Nicks really is. These two are still the proven veterans of the bunch even though WR Victor Cruz was the man that came up with some of the big time stats this year. The Patriots are going to need extra corners on the field, and that might mean that someone like a Julian Edelman might be called into more duty than you would figure on the average game as a defensive back.
The one real problem that the Giants have on offense is their line. This unit got Manning hit 17 times in the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers, and he has been sacked just a ton this year. The issue on the other side of the field though, is the lack of pass rushers that the Patriots have to offer. DT Vince Wilfork is amazing at nose tackle, and he is one of the best in the business from that standpoint. However, DE Mark Anderson, the team’s leading sack man for the season has been slowed by injuries, and DE Andre Carter is on IR. He was clearly the most efficient pass rusher when he was in the lineup, and there has been a huge void both at defensive end and at outside linebacker since Carter has gone down.
On the other side of the ball, the key is going to be finding some way to slow down QB Tom Brady. The argument could be made that Brady had at least as good of a year, if not a better year this season than what he had when the Patriots were a slightly imperfect 18-1 when these two teams met four years ago in the Super Bowl. He doesn’t work the ball down the field all that often, but Brady can still make anything happen that he needs to on the field. If the ball is going to be aerial for more than about 15 yards in the air, the key is going to have to be WR Chad Ochocinco, who will be playing with a heavy heart after the passing of his father that caused him to miss the AFC Championship Game. This is why Ochocinco was brought to New England though, and if he can just have that one big time play in the game that stretches out a sometimes suspect New York secondary, the offense could have a totally different feel to it.
Brady has struggled in the postseason at times in his career, and that was seen last week against the Ravens when he didn’t throw a TD pass and was picked off twice. Still, he has lethal precision at times and can make a drive out of absolutely nothing in a hurry. When his offensive line is protecting him, something that has suddenly been in question with the absence of the questionable T Sebastian Vollmer, Brady has the receivers to be able to pick apart any defense.
Obviously, WR Wes Welker is one of the best possession receivers in the league. He runs fantastic routes and is always around the football, and there is no doubt that he is going to get his 12 looks or so over the course of the game. Of course, TE Rob Gronkowski is going to put all sorts of pressure on the New York linebackers and safeties with his huge hands and great route running skills, and we would actually be surprised if he didn’t end up in the end zone at some point over the course of the Super Bowl.
TE Aaron Hernandez is forgotten at times, and WR Deion Branch is always left out when talking about the New England passing game. Hernandez has been doing some running the ball out of the backfield in addition to catching some passes, which is key for a running game that really doesn’t have any tremendously viable options. Branch is the one man on this offense that has that huge Super Bowl experience of the first “New England dynasty,” and we have to remember that he does have a Super Bowl MVP to his credit as well.
The New York pass rush has been out of this world over the course of the postseason. All of the accolades have seemingly be going to DE Jason Pierre-Paul, and we don’t want to take anything away from him after picking up 16.5 sacks over the course of the regular season. However, the man that has made the big difference is a healthy DE Osi Umenyiora, who has logged at least a piece of a sack in all three playoff games. Had Umenyiora stayed healthy for the full season, he would have been the D-End that we were all talking about for Big Blue, as he was the man that probably would have ended up leading the team (and perhaps the league) in sacks.
From a special teams standpoint, the Giants are always relatively shaky. K Lawrence Tynes has found a way to keep his job all these years even though he has had some terrible moments as the New York kicker. However, we really haven’t seen K Stephen Gostkowski do all that much as a place kicker this year either since the Patriots always end up kicking extra points and not field goals. The punting advantage definitely goes to P Zoltan Mesko, who has a huge and very accurate leg for the Patriots.
The only other intangible in this game is New England and its schedule. Many view the Patriots as soft, and there is certainly a justification for that. They only went 1-2 SU and 0-3 ATS this year, including the playoffs against teams that finished the season above .500, and one of those losses came against this New York team. The Giants meanwhile, seemingly played against nothing but playoff caliber teams over and over again, especially in the rough and tumble NFC East, and that was really saying something for a team that lost twice this year to the Washington Redskins.
Both head coaches, Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin have produced winning clubs, not just this year, but relatively consistently over the course of the last several seasons. The only coaching note that must be made is that New England offensive staff members Josh McDaniels and Bill O’Brien are in awfully unique spots. O’Brien is also trying to focus in on his job as the new head coach of the rebuilding Penn State Nittany Lions, while McDaniels only joined the staff for the playoffs, though obviously, he has all sorts of experience with this team from before he went to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos.
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.