Imagine for a moment that the New York Giants will defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Obviously that isn't a stretch since the G-Men accomplished that same feat four years ago, but if it were to happen again, there would be some very obvious MVP candidates.
Offensively quarterback Eli Manning would be a natural choice, as would star wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Defensively, most would think of a pass rusher like Jason Pierre-Paul or Osi Umenyiora. While all could be in contention, MVPs come out of nowhere on a regular basis in the Super Bowl.
Here are three surprise MVP picks should the Giants prevail on Super Sunday.
DB Antrel Rolle (NYG)
A defensive back hasn't won Super Bowl MVP since Dexter Jackson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers nine years ago, but if anyone can do it for the Giants, it's safety Antrel Rolle. It certainly isn't a stretch to say that Rolle is the heart and soul of the Giants' defense as he racked up 96 tackles and intercepted two passes during the regular season. Aside from stats, though, Rolle is a vocal leader who has been credited with motivating the team to make the playoffs.
Being a spiritual leader doesn't always translate to on-field success, but for Rolle it usually does. If New York is going to pull off the minor upset, then the secondary will have to continue to excel. The Giants' pass rush clearly affected Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during their regular season meeting as he threw two interceptions.
If there is a repeat performance, Rolle could be on the receiving end of a Brady pass or two.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG)
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw may have only rushed for 659 yards and averaged 3.9 yards per carry during the regular season, but he has proven to be a key cog in the Giants' offense. Bradshaw missed a good chunk of the regular season due to injury, but his return has coincided with a swoon in the Giants' running game. The Patriots struggled more so against the pass this season, I expect the G-Men to commit to the run.
The Patriots were 31st in the league when it came to stopping opposing passing games, so they're probably thinking that Manning and the Giants will go with an all-out air attack. If New York truly wants to keep the Pats' defense off balance, though, it will mix in the run plenty. Bradshaw has game-breaking potential, so all it will take is one big play to make him an MVP candidate.
WR Mario Manningham (NYG)
When it comes to the Giants' receiving corps all of the focus is on Nicks and Cruz. It's certainly understandable as both went well over 1,000 receiving yards on the season and they are among the best pass catchers in the game. With that said, though, it's important not to forget about No. 3 receiver Mario Manningham as he has the ability to take over a game in his own right.
Injuries limited Manningham to just over 500 yards during the regular season, but he has proven that he is capable of being a top receiver. Last year Manningham developed into one of Manning's favorite targets as he compiled close to 1,000 yards.
It seems like teams have been sleeping on Manningham during the postseason as he has a touchdown reception in each game thus far. If the Patriots decide to cover him with converted receiver Julian Edelman as Manningham hopes, then Manningham could put up monster numbers.