Giants vs. Patriots: 5 Biggest Storylines Heading into Super Bowl 2012

Jeff ShullAnalyst IFebruary 2, 2012

Giants vs. Patriots: 5 Biggest Storylines Heading into Super Bowl 2012

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    Super Bowl 2012 is a mere three days away, and the storylines that cropped up when the matchup between the New York Giants and New England Patriots was decided are even more exciting. 

    This may be one of the most anticipated Super Bowls in NFL history. It has the element of a rematch, and not only that, but a rematch of the best Super Bowl ever. 

    It has two quarterbacks pitted against each other, one looking to become the greatest quarterback to play the game, the other looking to start a path to the Hall of Fame. 

    It has two coaches pitted against each other, one looking to improve on a Hall of Fame career and one looking to entertain that conversation. 

    But enough talk—let's take a look at these big storylines under a microscope. 

Rob Gronkowski's Ankle

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    Easily the biggest injury storyline is the status of Rob Gronkowski's ankle. If you have been watching ESPN or NFL Network at all this week, any update on the Super Bowl is sure to include a lengthy, repetitive update on Gronk's ankle. 

    There is little doubt he will play in Sunday's game, but what percentage his ankle will be is still up in the air. 

Patriots Changing the Game

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    Over the past few years there has been a noticeable change in the NFL. You can win with high-flying offenses and below-average defenses. 

    But winning and winning championships are two different things. Nothing has changed in terms of winning championships; you still need some version of a defense to win it all. 

    If the Patriots beat the Giants tomorrow, it will be a game-changer. The Patriots allowed the second-most passing yards in a season in NFL history, second only to this year's Green Bay Packers

    Even when the Indianapolis Colts won in 2006 and the New Orleans Saints won in 2009, their defenses played a part. If the Patriots can pull off the victory over the Giants, they will have proven that offense is the key in the new-look NFL. 

What a Win Means for Both Quarterbacks in Peyton Manning's Building

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    It is incredible how much more the fact that this game is being played in Indianapolis brings to the table. One of the more polarizing debates in the NFL since 2004 is who would you take between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning

    Brady has the rings, Peyton has the numbers (well, the career numbers). 

    But even with another appearance in the Super Bowl, this being his fifth—tied for most all-time—Brady is close to putting as much distance between him and Peyton as there has ever been, especially if he wins. 

    There are a number of people who already think Brady is a class ahead of Peyton due to his rings. A win Sunday would leave little doubt. 

    As for Eli Manning, a win Sunday would go a long way in getting out from underneath his brother's shadow. No one would take Eli in his prime over Peyton in his, besides maybe Giants fans, but if Eli wins a second ring and Peyton does not match it before he retires, most would consider Eli the better winner. 

    Eli has continued to show up in big games time and time again, whereas Peyton is stuck with a 9-10 playoff record. 

    There is a lot more at work than just the game in the house that Peyton built. 

What a Win Means for Both Quarterbacks and Their Legacies

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    What answer would you get if you asked who is the greatest quarterback in NFL history? Most of the time you would hear "Joe Montana." 

    If Tom Brady wins Sunday, collecting his fourth ring in five tries, you might start to hear his name at the end of that question. 

    Especially considering he has a few good years left in him to collect the statistics. 

    As far as Eli Manning is concerned, there is only one quarterback who is not in the Hall of Fame that has two Super Bowl wins, and that is Jim Plunkett. 

    Eli has played eight seasons to Plunkett's 15, and he already has more yards, touchdowns and a much better quarterback rating. 

    Plunkett may have the two rings, but he doesn't have the numbers. If Eli can win a second ring and continue to put up the numbers he has for the next several years, there is no doubt in my mind he will be a Hall of Fame quarterback. 

What a Win Means for Both Coaches and Their Legacies

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    Bill Belichick is already regarded as the best coach in the NFL currently, but a win Sunday could have the same effect on his legacy as it would for Tom Brady. 

    Chuck Noll currently has the most Super Bowl wins with four, and Belichick sits right behind him with three. 

    When it comes to head coaching, the standard is pretty much set with Vince Lombardi, but maybe Belichick creeps into that conversation with another Super Bowl. 

    Honestly, it is incredible how much the coaches and quarterbacks mirror each other in terms of legacy. If Tom Coughlin is able to win that elusive second title, we would have to start his Hall of Fame discussion. 

    He already had loads of success with the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars, and he continued that with one of the most storied franchises in the NFL. 

    Super Bowl XVLI is loaded with stories, these five being just the tip of the iceberg.