Super Bowl Predictions 2012: 2 Under-the-Radar Players for Giants and Patriots

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IFebruary 2, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 01:   Mathias Kiwanuka #94 of the New York Giants reacts after making a tackle for a lose against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on January 1, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The following two under-the-radar players from both the New York Giants and New England Patriots could have a big say in who wins Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday.


New York Giants

LB Mathias Kiwanuka

During the first meeting between these two in Week 9, Kiwanuka was the Giants' most active defender. In addition to a team-high 12 tackles, Kiwanuka intercepted Brady once and defended another pass.

He was most effective against the run, but Kiwanuka can also pressure the passer from a stand-up position. In 16 regular-season games, Kiwanuka provided 32 combined sacks, quarterback hits and pressures.

While Kiwanuka doesn't get the headlines that the Giants' front four does, he can be equally as important to that defense.  


LG Kevin Boothe

The Patriots have played considerably better on defense in these playoffs, and a big part of that has been the dominating play of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. The surprisingly athletic big man has collapsed pockets and stuffed the run game. 

Lining up opposite of him for most of Sunday will be Boothe, and he'll be challenged to keep Wilfork out of the Giants backfield. In three playoff games in 2011-12, Boothe has allowed nine pressures and two quarterback hits.

He has to be better in the Super Bowl against a player of Wilfork's caliber. 


FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14:  (L-R) Aaron Hernandez #81, Deion Branch #84 and Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots celebrate after Branch scored a 61-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos during their AFC Divisional
Al Bello/Getty Images

New England Patriots

WR Deion Branch

The last two weeks have been all about Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and, despite catching only 15 passes all season, Chad Ochocinco.

Everyone has seemingly forgotten about veteran receiver Deion Branch, but most also forget that he's caught 21 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown in two career Super Bowls.

While he might not match those numbers on Sunday, expect Branch to make a big catch or two for the Patriots offense.   


C Dan Connolly

No, Connolly won't be asked to return kicks, even if he has experience changing games from that position. Connolly's first priority on Sunday will be containing the Giants' variety of pressure looks on the defensive front.

New York's front four is unique because they can shift guys to different positions on the line to help create confusion. They can put Osi Umenyiora and Kiwanuka on the edges and run stunts with Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck inside.

It's a lot to ask of a center, but the Patriots can't afford many breakdowns up front, especially if the pressure is coming inside to Brady's face.