New York Giants vs. New England Patriots: 5 Key Matchups for Super Bowl XLVI

Justin Keith@justin5keithCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2012

New York Giants vs. New England Patriots: 5 Key Matchups for Super Bowl XLVI

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    New England Patriots fans are dreading the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLVI in fear of the constant reminders of the heartbreaking loss handed to them by the New York Giants in the 2007-08 Super Bowl.

    Aside from the hundreds of storylines about the 2007 season that almost was for the New England Patriots, there are many other storylines that are worth discussing.

    Many intriguing matchups will be on display on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis. These two teams have proven that they are the two best in the National Football League, so there are a multitude of talented players, which creates unbelievable matchups on the field. Let's take a look at some of the best ones to watch.

Patriots Secondary vs. Giants Wide Outs

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    It is no secret that the New England Patriots' defense has struggled throughout the 2011-2012 season. They have made even the average quarterback look like Peyton Manning. They were statistically the second-worst defense in the NFL this season.

    Meanwhile, the Giants' stellar trio of wide receivers have been reaping the benefits of having a great quarterback in Eli Manning. Victor Cruz has emerged into a legitimate number-one target for Manning, with Hakeem Nicks remaining a trusted wide-out for the Giants.

    The Patriots secondary has had a rash of injuries throughout the season and has had to resort to using their own wide receivers as cover-men. Julian Edelman has been used in different defensive packages down the stretch for the Patriots and special-teamer Matthew Slater has been used as a safety at some points.

    The key for the Patriots secondary is to not give up the big play to the explosive Giants trio, but to limit them to short-to-medium gains and to help stop the ground game for New York.

    Edge: Giants

Vince Wilfork vs. David Baas

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    Vince Wilfork was the MVP for the Patriots in the AFC Championship game as he recorded 6 tackles and 1.0 sacks. He was constantly in the backfield, wreaking havoc on Joe Flacco and Ray Rice.

    The Giants' offensive line struggled mightily against the speedy 49ers pass rush on Sunday and let Eli Manning take a beating. They will no doubt be looking to dominate the line of scrimmage against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

    The key to doing this if you are a Giants offensive lineman is keeping Vince Wilfork in check. David Baas will have the difficult task of containing the Pro Bowl nose tackle. Baas will likely need help from his guards as they look to smother Wilfork and limit the push from the interior of the line.

    Ultimately, Wilfork will have a huge impact on the game, whether it be in the backfield or commanding double teams, freeing up his fellow D-linemen.

     

    Edge: Wilfork

Patriots Special Teams vs. Giants Special Teams

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    As fans saw in both Championship games on Sunday, special teams can make the difference in being Super Bowl Champions or going home empty-handed.

    Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 3-point win and a trip to Indianapolis. Lawrence Tynes gave the Giants a 3-point victory in overtime, earning a trip to the Super Bowl.

    Special teams can make or break a team's season and there is no bigger stage or game then Super Bowl XLVI. Special teams will be in full force and the team that doesn't make the big mistake on special teams could very well be the team that hoists the Lombardi Trophy.

    Lawrence Tynes has proven in the past he is a clutch kicker for the Giants and Stephen Gostkowski is one of the most accurate kickers in Patriots history.

    Both punters, Zoltan Mesko and Steve Weatherford, have the ability to pin the ball inside of the ten-yard line, giving their teams the field position edge.

     

    Edge: Even

Patriots Offensive Line vs. Giants Pass Rush

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    Jason Pierre-Paul has had a breakout season for the Giants and only adds to the dominant defensive line for the Giants. He joins Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora as elite pass rushers who will be looking de-cleat Tom Brady in the backfield.

    The Patriots offensive line has been among the best in the league for the past couple of years. Logan Mankins is regarded as one of the best guards in all of football. Veteran left tackle Matt Light has had one of his best seasons as a pro and Brian Waters has had another Pro Bowl season.

    The key for the Giants is to get pass rush up the middle on Brady and force him to move side-to-side where his mobility is limited. Brady is an artist when it comes to stepping up in the pocket but struggles when pressure is in his face.

    The Giants will bring a relentless attack on the offensive line and if the New England hurry-up offense doesn't wear them down, it will be a long day for Brady and company.

     

    Edge: Giants

Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning

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    Eli Manning took a lot of flak for announcing that he believes himself to be an elite quarterback in the National Football League at the beginning of the season. Boy, has he backed up his talk.

    Manning had the most passing touchdowns in the league in the fourth quarter this season and has led a Giants team that has gotten hot at the right time.

    There is also  no doubt that Tom Brady is an elite quarterback and by starting his fifth Super Bowl on Feb. 5, Brady will join only John Elway as quarterbacks accomplishing that feat. He will surely be looking to avenge 2007 and a terrible performance on Sunday against the Ravens.

    Although they will not line up next to each other on the field, this is the ultimate matchup in Super Bowl XLVI. If Eli Manning can beat Brady and Bill Belichick in not one but two Super Bowls, it will cement his legacy as a great NFL quarterback.

    As for Brady, if he wins his fourth ring, it will be hard to dispute his status as the best quarterback in the history of the game.

    Both quarterbacks have been there and done that in the Super Bowl, but who will outplay the other in Super Bowl XLVI?

     

    Edge: Brady