Super Bowl 2012: 6 Player Matchups to Watch
Each team possesses a high-powered passing offense and a lackluster pass defense, which sounds like a shootout in Indianapolis on Feb. 5.
But the Giants enter the Super Bowl leading the playoffs in sacks and boasting a stingier pass defense, and the Pats are holding opponents to just 15 points per game in the playoffs.
Something has to give.
Here are six matchups to look forward to in Super Bowl XLVI:
Jason Pierre-Paul vs. Patriots Offensive Line
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Jason Pierre-Paul is struggling to get to the quarterback this postseason.
His 16.5 sacks during the regular season were good for fourth-best in the NFL, but his production has dropped off of late.
JPP has half of a sack to his credit, which came against San Francisco in the conference championship.
Given what JPP accomplished during the regular season, this should be a fun matchup to watch.
Hakeem Nicks vs. Patriots Secondary
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Hakeem Nicks is the best wide receiver in the playoffs.
His 18 receptions, 335 yards and four touchdowns lead all postseason wideouts, and his dominance has helped to free up the coverage on fellow receiver Victor Cruz.
New England sported the second-worst passing defense during the regular season, surrendering 294 yards per game, and is a week removed from letting Joe Flacco throw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns.
Expect the same from Nicks next Sunday.
Tom Brady vs. Giants Secondary
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Tom Brady's 2011 regular season saw him throw for over 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns, and he hasn't showed any signs of slowing down.
He threw for 363 yards and six touchdowns against the Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round.
While he was ineffective against the Ravens last sunday (239 yards and no TDs), there's no reason to believe he won't fare better against the Giants' secondary.
Like the Patriots, New York posted an awful pass defense during the regular season, giving up 255 yards a game.
Brady is averaging over 300 yards per game in the playoffs, but the Giants' defense is only allowing 219 ypg during the postseason.
We'll have to wait and see what Brady can do against the Giants' new and improved pass defense.
Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs vs. Patriots Defense
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The Giants are averaging more than 117 yards on the ground during their 2011 playoff run, which is a far cry from their NFL-worst 89.2 YPG during the regular season.
While the two RBs have combined for just one touchdown, there's one key statistic that stands out: no fumbles.
The Giants as a team have committed only one turnover in three playoff games, thanks in large part to the cautious running of Bradshaw and Jacobs.
Stopping the run has been an issue for New England, surrendering 144 yards to the run-happy Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round and following it up by giving up 117 to Baltimore.
The Patriots' defense allowed over 117 yards on the ground during the regular season, so don't be surprised when the Giants' rushing attack breaks the 100-yard mark in Indy.
Rob Gronkowski vs. Giants Secondary
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Rob Gronkowski is a beast. Plain and simple.
Statistically, he was the best TE during the regular season.
And just to let everyone know that it wasn't a fluke, he went and torched the Broncos for 10 receptions, 145 yards and three touchdowns.
Gronkowski injured his left ankle during the 23-20 win over the Ravens last Sunday and was helped off the field only to return five minutes later.
The Giants' D was susceptible to big-play tight ends all season to guys like Fred Davis, Jimmy Graham, Jermichael Finley and Vernon Davis, who had over 100 yards and two touchdowns last weekend against the G-Men.
It will be interesting to see how the Giants plan to stop New England's monster.
Eli Manning vs. Patriot's Secondary
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Eli Manning has done more than any other player to silence his critics in the 2011 season.
Everyone knows what he did during the regular season (4,933 yards, 29 TD and 16 INT), with his six fourth quarter comebacks, but he's been even more impressive during the postseason.
Eight touchdowns, one interception and a 103.1 passer rating plays a large part in why the Giants are playing in Indianapolis on Feb. 5.
The most notable changes in Eli's game are his pocket presence and decision making, and it's paying dividends for New York.
The Pat's defense was able to shut down Tim Tebow but unable to contain Joe Flacco.
So what can they do against Manning and the Giants' stellar receiving corps?
We'll have to wait until next Sunday, but my guess is they won't do much.