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Patriots/Giants Super Showdown

   by Al McMordie - 01/28/2012

Last year we had a great passing offense against a powerhouse defense when the Steelers battled the Packers. This year we have…a great passing offense against a powerhouse defense! It’s a rematch of the 2008 Super Bowl thriller with the Giants scoring late to stop the 18-0 Patriots, 17-14. Much of the same cast returns for both teams, including the head coaches. The Giants have 14 players remaining from the 2008 Super Bowl team, the Patriots have seven.

QB Tom Brady will be looking for his fourth Super Bowl trophy while Eli Manning will be aiming for his second, which isn’t surprising as the NFL is a quarterback driven league. If you don’t have an above average QB, you really don’t have much of a shot. The 49ers went a long way while masking the deficiencies of QB Alex Smith, but let’s face it: He was awful in the NFL Championship game, going 12 of 26 for 196 yards in an overtime game as the Niners were 1 of 13 on third down. Sure, the two fumbled punts were killer, but Manning (32 of 58 for 316 yards, 2 TDs, no picks) was head and shoulders above Smith at the most important position.

The Giants are a bit of an oddity, a 9-7 regular season team that is hot at the right time, on a 5-0 Su/ATS run. And they didn’t play easy teams to get here, topping the Jets (29-14), the rival Cowboys (31-14) with the NFC East title on the line, the Falcons (24-2) in the Wild Card game, a shocker at Green Bay (37-20) and winning at San Fran (20-17). They are a talented team that has earned this spot.

New York prefers to run the football and control the clock with RBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, especially to try and keep Brady and New England’s no-huddle attack on the sidelines. The Giants rushed for 173 yards against the Falcons 6th-ranked run defense in the postseason, but were far less impressive against the Packers (95 yards, 3.5 ypc) and the 49ers (88 yards, 3.3 ypc). This New England rush defense is in the middle of the pack, however.

But you can’t simply focus on the Giants ground game, either, as this passing attack was No. 5 in the NFL behind QB Eli Manning (37 TDs, 17 INTs), WR Victor Cruz (1,536 yards) and WR Hakeem Nicks (1,192 yds) with 296 yards per game.

The New York defense is the Wild Card in this game, one that had weak numbers during the regular season against the run and the pass, but a powerhouse pass rush that had 48 sacks behind Jason Pierre-Paul (16½ sacks) and DE Osi Umenyiora. They sacked Aaron Rodgers 4 times in the playoffs and QB Alex Smith 3 more times in the NFC title game.

This defense battled injuries in the first half of the year but has gotten healthy and been on a tear down the stretch. This D-line can dominate, as they did in the 2008 Super Bowl against these Patriots, holding a record-setting offense to 14 points. The Giants are 8-1 ATS in their last 9 playoff games, the under is 8-2 in the Giants last 10 playoff games.

We know what the Patriots offense is capable of behind QB Tom Brady (45 TDs, 15 INTs), WR Wes Welker (1,569 yards) and budding young star Rob Gronkowski (1,327 yards). Gronkowski’s 17 TDs set a record for tight ends, though he suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC title game and is not 100%. The run sets up the pass for this team, though against Baltimore the last game the Ravens played Cover-2 and nickel packages daring New England to run, and the Pats had no problem taking advantage with 96 yards rushing.

The New England defense is the other Wild Card in this game. How bad are they? They gave up the second most yards in the league and were awful on third down for the second straight season. Even bad quarterbacks looked like Hall of Famers against them, and they’ll be facing a great QB in this showdown.

At the same time, they were 15th in points allowed (21.4 ppg), excellent in the red zone and have allowed 10 and 20 points in the playoffs. By contrast, the Giants were 25th in points allowed (25 ppg). The maligned defense saved the day in the AFC Championship game, hanging on for dear life in a 23-20 thriller, stopping the Ravens in the final minute. The defense got S Patrick Chung and LB Brandon Spikes back for the postseason, important starters.

And let’s not overlook NT Vince Wilfork, one of the best in the business, a guy who was a terror in the AFC Championship game, tearing up a young Baltimore O-line. They are 12-6 over the total, including a 7-1 run over in the playoffs.

These teams met November 6 at New England and the Giants won, 24-20, as Manning threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Jake Ballard with 15 seconds left. The Patriots had 438 yards (332 passing) but were 5 of 15 on third down; the Giants had 361 yards (250 passing and were 4 of 14 on third down. The Patriots turned it over 4 times (2 picks by Brady) while the Giants turned it over twice.

New York's defense pressured Brady much of the game, coming up with two sacks and two interceptions. Manning completed 20 of 39 passes for 250 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Brady was 28 for 49 for 342 yards and two touchdowns. After a string of blowouts in the 1990s, we’ve had a nice run of exciting Super Bowls and let’s hope that continues – as well as being profitable! Good luck, as always....Al McMordie

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