Super Bowl Predictions 2012: Five Bold Predictions for 1st Half

Matt Madsen@mmadsen5Correspondent IIFebruary 3, 2012

Super Bowl Predictions 2012: Five Bold Predictions for 1st Half

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    The last time these two teams met, it was a hotly contested affair that went right down to the wire. When they met in the 2007 Super Bowl, it was won by a Plaxico Burress touchdown with only :36 remaining on the clock.

    Why should this time be any different?

    This matchup has been defined by big plays. From David Tyree's helmet catch to Giants' game-winning drive in Week Nine of this season, Eli Manning and Tom Brady have proven to be worthy adversaries.

    With the biggest game of the year right around the corner, here are five predictions for the first half of Super Bowl XLVI.

Rob Gronkowski Will Have Less Than 50 Yards

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    If you saw any football this year, chances are you know about Gronk. Gronk real big, Gronk run fast, Gronk break NFL records.

    But not on Sunday.

    Hampered by a bum ankle, Rob Gronkowski was forced out of the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens two weeks ago. Since then, Gronk has answered questions about it every day, always giving the same enigmatic answer: "We're just taking it day-by-day."

    The Patriots and their fans have to be worried by now. The Pats reportedly looked into fitting Gronk with a special cleat to increase his chances of playing.

    Though the Giants have been susceptible to tight ends this season, I think Gronkowski is used mostly as a decoy until the Patriots get to the red zone. His 6'6" frame will be harder for Brady to ignore that close to the end zone.

    Bill Belichick knows Gronk's status better than we do. If he thinks Gronk isn't at his best, I believe he will look to maximize Aaron Hernandez's involvement in the offense.

The Giants Will Hold an Early Lead

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    The Patriots could be in trouble against the Giants. Much like the elite Colts teams of recent years, this Giants defense is built to defend a lead.

    With Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Osi Umenyiora coming at you, it can be very scary knowing you have to drop back and pass.

    The problem is that the Patriots defense is built to give up a lead. That is, they're very bad.

    In recent weeks, the Patriots have been winning in less than perfect fashion. While Brady has (generally) had his offense rolling, the defense has been frightening in the first half of games.

    They gave up 20 first half points to the Redskins and 16 to the Broncos (week 15). They trailed the Dolphins by 17 at the half. They also gave up 21 unanswered first-quarter points to the laughable Bills.

    Perhaps most notably, they won in a come from behind effort against the Ravens.

    I see the Giants rolling early, and the Patriots attempting another comeback win.

Eli Manning Will Throw Three Touchdowns

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    Eli Manning has thrown eight touchdowns this postseason and only one interception. He is coming off easily his best season as a pro, and is now facing the worst defense in the league.

    Manning, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are probably in a room somewhere yelling "DUDE!! SWEET!!"

    Despite being in the Super Bowl, the Patriots defense has to be terrified of themselves. Sure they beat the Ravens, but only as much as Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff beat the Ravens.

    The Patriots were able to slow down Ray Rice and the Ravens running game, but the Giants don't exactly rely on their ground attack to propel their offense.

    Eli Manning is in for a big day.

Tom Brady Will Be Sacked at Least Three Times

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    Tom Brady has a big task in front of him.

    Should he win this Super Bowl, it will be his most impressive one, yet. And it's not even close.

    He will have to overcome the Giants' formidable defense, nightmare-inducing D-line, and Eli Manning. He will also have to overcome his own teams' complete lack of defense.

    Overcoming early deficits means passing early and often, something Tom Brady is accustomed to. Unfortunately, he's usually not facing four legitimate defensive ends when he drops back.

    Brady is going to know exactly how the turf in Indy feels by halftime.

There Will Be Less Than 75 Total Rushing Yards

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    I've already predicted an early Giants lead, three Manning touchdown passes and three sacks on Brady. I guess this isn't nearly as bold.

    Following all that, however, there's no way either ground game gets going. The G-men will come out aggressive, attacking a Pats' secondary that has been scrutinized all season. The Patriots will be trying to keep pace with the New York air attack and will fear falling behind.

    I do expect Ahmad Bradshaw to get a fair amount of carries, and probably with mixed results. However, I don't expect to see a great deal of him or Brandon Jacobs until the second half.

    I expect the Giants to be milking the clock by then.