Super Bowl 2012 Predictions: 10 Plays to Watch Out for from Both Teams
The Super Bowl is where players from two of the best teams in their respective conference come out to play and give it their all. Each team has their own bread and butter play; each player also has their own play that they are known for.
One play, one catch, one run, one turnover and one onside kick can change the whole game—this year will not be any different.
The New York Giants and New England Patriots are full of talented players who have been giving headaches to opposing teams their whole year with their play—both offensive and defensively.
Here are 10 plays to watch out for from both teams that could change the outcome of a drive and the whole game.
Hakeem Nicks: Red Zone Fade Route for Touchdown
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Hakeem Nicks is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and is a part of the new class of wide receivers who will dominate secondaries for years to come. Nicks is a threat every time he is on the field—especially in the red zone.
At 6’1", Nicks is not the NFL’s tallest receiver, but he can jump with any cornerback. Nicks has a 37.9” vertical and has the ability to leap over cornerbacks in the end zone when needed.
Nicks may not be as big of a red zone threat as Plaxico Burress was in the Giants' last Super Bowl, but don’t be surprised if Nicks grabs a Calvin Johnson-like touchdown pass when the Giants are in the red zone on a third-and-goal.
Brandon Jacobs: Hand-off Close to Goal Line for Touchdown
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Brandon Jacobs is a big man. Brandon Jacobs is listed at 6’4", 268 pounds; good luck bringing him down when he is close to the goal line.
When the Giants find themselves inside the opposing team's 10-yard line, expect Jacobs to get two rushes up the gut—and don’t be surprised if there is a third or fourth in the same drive. Jacobs is tough to bring down and has been scoring touchdowns in the red zone for the Giants since he joined the team in 2005.
Jacobs is not a feature back—that title belongs to Ahmad Bradshaw—but if Bradshaw or Eli Manning get the Giants close to scoring position Sunday, expect Jacobs to pound it in for a touchdown or two.
Victor Cruz: In the Slot on a Streak Route
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If someone said a receiver had 82 receptions, 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns and played in the NFC East, most people would think that person was speaking of Dez Bryant, Hakeem Nicks, Miles Austin, Santana Moss or DeSean Jackson. It’s none of them: This man's name is Victor Cruz.
Cruz has come up big in the clutch for the Giants all year, and one can expect him to do the same when the Giants are on the grandest stage of all. Cruz has worked nickel and dime cornerbacks the whole season with his explosive speed and amazing route-running ability—his hands are not too shabby, either. Cruz always seems to be breaking away from tacklers when he catches the ball in stride. Don’t expect anything different Sunday.
Cruz will likely have his way against the NFL’s second-worst pass defense and could easily put the Giants into scoring position—or he might just take it to the house himself, as he has done all year.
Jason Pierre-Paul/Osi Umenyiora/Justin Tuck’s Pass Rush
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Usually NFL teams do not have two all-stars at defensive end; the Giants have three. JPP, Osi and Tuck have been giving opposing quarterbacks and offensive linemen problems all year—don’t expect this to slow down, either.
With 30.5 sacks in the regular season and 5.5 sacks in three postseason games, the Giants' three monsters have been unstoppable—they have also opened it up for their linebackers to sack quarterbacks. The Patriots offensive line needs to make sure it protects Tom Brady.
Pierre-Paul, Osi and Tuck can rattle Brady and take him out of his zone the way they did to Aaron Rodgers two weeks ago.
Expect these three stud defensive ends to get a couple of sacks and try to throw Brady off of his game throughout Sunday’s contest.
The Giants Kicking an Onside Kick in the Second Half
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The onside kick is one of the toughest plays to execute in the NFL. The chances of the kicking team recovering an onside kick are low, but only when the onside kick is expected.
The Giants might find themselves behind to the Patriots going into the second half because of how explosive New England's offense can be.
If so, do not be surprised if the Giants take a chance and go for an onside kick to throw off the Patriots and gain possession.
Tom Coughlin is known as a conservative coach, but he just might ask Lawrence Tynes to take an onside kick when the Patriots least expect it. This worked for the Saints in 2010, and it might help the Giants if they need it.
Rob Gronkowski: Red Zone Pass over the Middle
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There is no bigger red zone threat in the NFL than Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski (or Gronk) caught 17 touchdown passes in the regular season (breaking the NFL record for touchdown catches by a tight end) and has three TD receptions in the playoffs.
Gronkowski is listed at 6'6" and 265 pounds. Gronk is tall, agile and has hands as good as some of the best receivers in NFL history.
Tom Brady has always found a way to throw for touchdowns in the red zone; with Gronkowski, it has become even easier.
The Patriots do not have a running back who can pound the ball when they are inside the Giants' 10-yard line, so expect Brady to look for Gronkowski in the end zone, but don’t count out Brady’s other weapon at tight end, Aaron Hernandez.
Aaron Hernandez: Hand Off in the Red Zone
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Aaron Hernandez would be the best tight end on 27 other teams in the NFL, but he lines up with Rob Gronkowski all the time.
Hernandez has sort of been lost in the shuffle, but the Patriots have been using him in a different way, as a running back. Hernandez is fast, tall, large and tough to bring down. Although BenJarvus Green-Ellis can run the ball well, he is no red zone threat.
The Giants have great linebackers and will most likely be keying on Gronkowski when the Patriots are in the red zone—this is when they would need a powerful runner to punch it into the end zone.
Expect Hernandez to get a couple of carries during the game, and don’t be surprised if he punches it in for a touchdown if the Giants are locking up Gronkowski.
Wes Welker: In the Slot on an Inside Slant
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Brady to Welker on an inside slant—does it get better than that?
Welker has proved that his pass-catching ability is better than anyone’s in the NFL—and the man throwing him the ball is not that bad when it comes to putting it on Welker’s chest.
Welker caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns in the regular season, and most people don’t talk about it because of the emergence of Rob Gronkowski. Welker is just as big of a threat as Gronkowski. If Welker hits the open field with the ball in his hand, expect it to be a guaranteed six points for the Patriots.
Deion Branch: Touchdown Catch in the Clutch
Deion Branch won a Super Bowl MVP for the Patriots in February 2005 for good reason. Branch is one of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL—especially when Tom Brady is throwing him the ball.
Branch was traded by the Seahawks last year back to the Patriots and has put up great numbers with Tom Brady as his quarterback. Brady seems to look for Branch in the red zone a lot, and Branch usually delivers. The chemistry between Brady and Branch is incredible.
Considering Branch is the fourth option in the passing game for the Patriots, the Giants defense won’t lock in on him too much, so don’t be shocked if he has a touchdown in the crucial moments of the game Sunday.
The Patriots Going for It on a Crucial Fourth Down
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Bill Belichick is the best coach in the NFL since Vince Lombardi. In order to be a great coach you must be able to make great decisions, and Belichick has been doing that his whole career.
Belichick has made it a staple in the NFL to go for it on fourth down when a team is near the opposing team's 40-yard line and neither a field goal attempt nor a punt would make much sense. But this is not the crucial fourth down Belichick will go for; Belichick has made heads spin with fourth-down calls, and most of the time they work.
Expect Belichick to go for it on a crucial fourth down in the second half of the game, regardless of the score.
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Although the Giants have a great defense, expect this game Sunday to be a high-scoring affair. Expect a lot of touchdowns from the key players mentioned here.
This year's Super Bowl is going to be one great game against the two best teams in football. Fans should expect most, if not all, of these plays to be executed Sunday.
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