NFL Playoff Picks: Why Patriots Will Thump Giants in Super Bowl XLVI
The Patriots defense is playing inspired football. Their statistics have improved across the board during the playoffs, and Vince Wilfork has continued to turn the trenches into an impenetrable brick wall.
On offense, no team in the NFL is even close to having a better combination of tight ends. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski create mismatches that are nearly impossible to make a game plan for.
The Super Bowl is likely to be a shootout, and with Brady running a prolific offense, that is just what the Patriots are built for.
The New England Patriots have a group of solid wide receivers, but the team has the best combination of tight ends in the NFL.
Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have dominated the opposition this season, and both players are only in their second year in the league.
Gronkowski finished the season with 90 reception for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns (leading tight ends in yardage and all receivers in touchdowns). His receiving and touchdowns totals were good enough to break the single-season record in both categories by a tight end.
Hernandez didn't enjoy quite as much success, but he was close. He had 79 receptions for 942 yards and seven touchdowns (fourth in receiving yardage for a tight end).
Hernandez's speed and Gronkowski's size and hands give opposing defenses fits.
When one tight end is covered, the other is open. And when a team is focused on stopping both (although that is easier said than done), Tom Brady looks for Wes Welker, Deion Branch or one of the other wideouts to make a big play.
Both tight ends should have a big day in the Super Bowl. If they don't, then the two will be used as a decoy to help get the other receivers open.
The strength of the New York Giants defense is the defensive line, and in particular, the defensive ends.
There is no question that the Giants' pass-rush is good, but the New England Patriots offensive line is pretty good, too.
The Patriots offensive line gave up 32 sacks in 16 games (three-way tie for ninth), and Tom Brady was hit 71 times during the regular season (12th best).
It won't be a walk in the park for the Patriots offensive line, but when the two teams played in Week 9, the Giants were only able to sack Tom Brady twice and hit him three times.
If the offensive line can keep Brady relatively clean, he should have a field day against the New York secondary this time around.
A Really Big Man
The New England Patriots defense hasn't been anything to write home about, but the team's defense has played surprisingly well in the playoffs.
During the regular season, the Patriots gave up 293.9 passing yards and 117.1 rushing yards per game (4.6 yard per carry average). Through two games in the postseason, the team is giving up just 195 passing yards and 130 rushing yards a game (3.6 yard per carry average).
Vince Wilfork played well in the regular season, but he has dominated the trenches during the postseason. The big man, or should I say really big man, has plugged up the middle for the Patriots.
The New York Giants don't do a lot of outside rushing either. Most of their runs are between the tackles (although Amhad Bradshaw does run outside on occasion), and Wilfork will be there to meet them.
With Wilfork closing off the gut, the Patriots linebackers and secondary should be able to concentrate on stopping the Giants' trio of wide receivers instead of pulling every linebacker up to the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
A Cold-Blooded Quarterback
Arguably, the New England Patriots will almost always have the advantage in quarterback play. (Regardless of who they play.)
Once again, Tom Brady has had a stellar season. He threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns with just 12 interceptions.
I don't need to list all of Brady's accolades. Most know of his three Super Bowl wins, his MVP awards and the laundy list of records he has broken.
Love him or hate him, one has to admit that Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.
Making things worse for the New York Giants, the secondary has been plagued with injury and played poorly this season. During the regular season, the Giants gave up 255.1 passing yards per game (29th in the NFL).
In the Week 9 meeting between the two teams, Brady threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns.
Expect the Patriots to go for the jugular early by running up the score. If Manning has an off day, then this one could get ugly.
And not that they need it, but New England has some added motivation—revenge.
Between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, it's hard to determine who hates losing more. Now, there isn't anyone in the NFL that enjoys losing. If they did, they wouldn't have made it very far.
Just getting to the league takes someone with an immensely competitive spirit, but losing sticks with Brady and Belichick longer than most.
Even after a win, during the postgame interviews the two constantly harp over things they could have done better and the mistakes the team made.
So, how do you think Brady and Billichick felt in Week 9 after losing the lead to the New York Giants late in the fourth quarter? And how mad do you think Brady and Belichick were after Super Bowl XLII.
Well, the New England Patriots get their chance at redemption.
Brady and Belichick will be looking for revenge, and expect them to get it in Super Bowl XLVI.