Giants vs. Patriots: Predicting the Top Super Bowl Performances
Of those 18, five had a huge impact the last time they went at it: Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Wes Welker. Fresh faces like Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks will try to leave their impact on the rivalry and in the record books.
But who will step up and shine in the rematch on Super Sunday? Here is a prediction of nine of the biggest performances of the day.
The New England Patriots will live and die by Tom Brady's right arm. They really don't have any options. A lot was made of the "resurgence" of New England's ground game against the Baltimore Ravens. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a decent game, but they still did not eclipse 100 yards as a team.
So even against a Giants' defensive line capable of bruising and battering even the toughest quarterbacks, the Patriots will have Brady wing it to Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker down after down. It will be a tough day for Brady, but he will still have his share of clutch throws and third-down conversions.
As many times as Brady will throw the ball and as good as he is, he will pass the eye test in Monday morning's box score. But will it be enough to win the game?
Projected Stats: 24-of-42, 289 yards, two touchdowns, one interception
New York Giants' Defensive Line
The true MVP of Super Bowl XLII was the New York Giants' defensive line, which accounted for four sacks and a forced fumble on Brady. If the Giants hold down the explosive Patriots offense, the same case could be made for the current group.
The Patriots go as Brady goes, and the Giants go as their D-line goes. Look no further than the play of this unit as to why New York is in the Super Bowl again. The trio of Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul has dominated this playoff run.
Umenyiora sacked Aaron Rodgers twice in their upset victory over the Green Bay Packers. Tuck had a sack-and-a-half against the San Francisco 49ers, while JPP did a little bit of everything, contributing six tackles, half a sack, a tackle for a loss and a batted pass.
With every hit on Tom Brady, the odds of the Giants winning the Super Bowl swing in their favor. Don't think for a second this unit won't know that and be fired up accordingly.
Projected stats: Six sacks, two passes batted down, one strip-sack
In four months, Victor Cruz has gone from no-name wideout to the newest star of the New York Giants. One more big performance and he will be the toast of the town in New York City.
Cruz set the Giants' franchise mark with over 1,500 yards receiving in the regular season. He kept his stellar play rolling right along into the NFC playoffs, posting 245 yards, including 10 catches for 142 yards in the NFC championship game.
Eli Manning will keep looking for his new favorite weapon, and against a pillow-soft Patriots' secondary, will keep finding him.
Projected Stats: Nine catches, 147 yards
Rob Gronkowski quickly became one of the most feared weapons in the game. A new favorite of Tom Brady, "The Gronk" set the NFL record for most touchdowns by a tight end in just his second season in the league.
The Giants do not have an Ed Reed or a Troy Polamalu to stick on Gronkowski, and he did have a big game in their regular-season prequel. The Giants' only way of stopping "The Gronk" is to put Brady on the ground. He will be there as long as Brady has the time to find him.
New York has a defense full of fundamentally sound tacklers, so do not expect many of the big yard-after-catch gains that have made him a fan favorite in New England.
Projected Stats: Nine catches, 98 yards, two touchdowns
Brandon Jacobs is one of the most frustrating players to watch in the NFL.
Sometimes, he gets the most out of his 265-lb frame, bowling through tacklers and moving piles alike. Other times, he tries to juke a cornerback.
Jacobs has great speed for his size, but he should never try to sidestep a 190-lb cornerback in the open field. Just about every time he does, the smaller defender takes down the big back, something that should never happen to Jacobs with a full head of steam.
Like most Giants, Jacobs brings his best against the Patriots. He has averaged over four yards per carry in two of their three matchups. He will be fired up, and expect to see the straight-ahead, find-a-defensive back-to-punish Jacobs.
Projected stats: 14 carries, 62 yards, touchdown
Eli, Eli, Eli. Has there ever been a quarterback that looks less cool, and less ready to rip your heart out than Eli Manning?
He is the epitome of a player whose looks are deceiving. Peyton's dopey little brother is one more win from entering the conversation of the best big-game quarterbacks of all time. All he has done is author the biggest upset in Super Bowl history and knock off the best two quarterbacks in the midst of two of the best seasons the league has ever seen: Tom Brady four years ago and Aaron Rodgers this season.
I know Eli will show up with a great game, and he will make the plays to put the Giants in the position to win the game. It is just a matter of who the Football Gods are smiling upon as to whether he can best Brady again.
Projected Stats: 22-of-31, 287 yards, two touchdowns
All these years and a torn ACL later, Wes Welker is still doing his thing for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Welker is one of the best slot receivers and route-runners the NFL has ever seen and he opens up the rest of the Patriots' offense. Four years ago, he was eating up the middle of the field for Randy Moss. Now, the big plays are coming from Rob Gronkowski, though in a completely different way. (Gronk smash!)
Expect more of the same from the steady Welker.
Projected Stats: 11 catches, 87 yards
The great thing about the emergence of a player like Victor Cruz is that it makes everyone else's lives that much easier.
Nicks quietly posted nearly 1,200 yards in the regular season and stepped his game up in the NFC Playoffs, going for another 335 on 18.6 yards per reception. Nicks was drafted to be the replacement for Plaxico Burress, and he has lived up to those lofty standards.
He has one thing left to catch up to Burress: Leave his mark in the Super Bowl.
Projected Stats: Seven catches, 115 yards, one touchdown
For just about the rest of the NFL, Aaron Hernandez would be the star tight end. In New England, Hernandez is tight end No. 2, right behind Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski has the records and the accolades, but make no mistake, Hernandez is still a huge part of the New England offense. Hernandez came up with 910 yards receiving in the regular season and has added a new element to his game, taking carries out of the backfield.
He's no Gronk, but he is still a special talent.
Projected Stats: Five catches, 65 yards, three carries, 24 yards, rushing touchdown
Predicting a Winner
Needless to say, Super Bowl VLVI will be a hard-fought battle. There are not two cross-conference teams that hate each other more, and now everyone is watching...again.
For every reception, there will be a jarring hit. For every pass, a fierce pass rush. For every run, a crunching finish.
The New England Patriots will jump out to a quick 7-0 lead. The Giants will battle back with a long drive, but settle for a field goal. That score will hold until just before halftime. With Bill Belichick sniffing an opportunity to take a two-possession lead, Justin Tuck will come around the edge for another strip-sack of Tom Brady. Jason Pierre-Paul will scoop up the ball, and take it the rest of the way to give the Giants a 10-7 halftime lead.
Brady will come out of the half and march down the field to find Rob Gronkowski in the corner of the end zone to give the Patriots a 14-10 lead. Manning will wait until the fourth quarter to respond, hitting Victor Cruz with some quick strikes to get them close, but it will be Brandon Jacobs bulling his way in from eight yards out to give the G-Men a 17-14 lead.
Again, Brady will take the Patriots down the field.
This time, it will be Aaron Hernandez on an end-around who gives them the go-ahead score with two minutes left in the game. In an all-too familiar script, Manning finds Cruz, Jake Ballard and Mario Manningham on clutch throws to keep the drive alive.
With just under 30 seconds left, Manning finds Hakeem Nicks on a fade in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning score.
Your Super Bowl XLVI winner is...
The New York Giants, 24-21