As we approach Super Bowl weekend, both teams are going through their final game plans in preparation for one of the biggest games of their lives.
For the first-timers, there will be some jitters, and even those who have been there before, may be a little rattled at first.
The Giants have had two weeks to reflect upon their Week 9 win against New England, and they know the problem areas. The key will be to make the necessary adjustments to minimize the advantages that New England may have on either side of the ball.
In order to do that, six key players will have to step up and contribute in a big way. If they do that, the Giants will raise the Lombardi Trophy over Tom Brady and Bill Belichick once again.
After a breakout 2010 campaign, Hakeem Nicks' 2011 season was vastly overshadowed by the emergence of receiver Victor Cruz, who set a Giants' single-season franchise record in receiving yards. The Patriots will more than likely be forced to play receiver-turned-cornerback Julian Edelman as their nickelback due to a banged-up secondary.
The Patriots know that they will need to give Edelman some extra help, which will require a safety or linebacker to slide over. This could create some extra room for Nicks, who may face more one-on-one coverage on the outside since they will also have to account for the receiver on the opposite side, be it Manningham or Cruz.
The major storyline heading into Super Bowl XLVI has been the ankle of Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski is listed as questionable and expects to play, but his effectiveness remains to be seen. Assuming Gronkowski can go, the Giants will look to bump him at the line of scrimmage to slow him down even more and to throw him off his route.
This task will mainly be given to linebacker Michael Boley, who has flashes of excellence in almost every game he plays. If he can slow down a one-legged Gronkowski, the Giants take away a huge part of the Patriot offense—one that the Pats need to control the tempo of the game.
However, if Boley can't throw Gronkowski off, and Gronk's ankle loosens up as the game goes on, the Giants could be in some serious trouble.
It's no secret, but if the Giants can consistently get to and put pressure on Tom Brady, they will put themselves in a great position to win the football game. However, if they let Brady sit back and get into his rhythm, it could be a long game for Big Blue.
The Giants boast a three-man rotation at defensive end consisting of Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and the emergent Jason Pierre-Paul.
Pierre-Paul has been by far their most consistent and dynamic pass-rusher, and the Giants will look to him to get to Tom Brady.
Nobody has had an answer for JPP yet this postseason, and he will look to continue that trend against a veteran New England offensive line.
Accounting for and stopping Patriots' wide receiver Wes Welker has been a task that almost nobody has been able to do.
The Patriots' most consistent and reliable receiver led the league in receptions with a career-high 122. The Giants will attempt to provide an answer to Welker by lining up safety Antrel Rolle opposite him.
Rolle has already guaranteed a Giants victory this week and will need to be on his game to cover Welker and come through on his word. He will have to be physical with Welker who is known for short routes across the middle where Tom Brady sits back and hits him in stride.
If Rolle can slow his progress and bump Welker off his route, the Giants will eliminate another one of Brady's weapons and force him to look elsewhere.
The Giants, typically known for their ground game and grinding out the game, have found little success in the run game this year on a regular basis.
Ahmad Bradshaw has been their biggest weapon because of his versatility in the passing attack. However, the Giants will need more out of running back Brandon Jacobs, who they will look to in order to slow down the tempo of the game and keep Tom Brady off the field.
Jacobs' numbers are down severely this year, and he very well be playing for a job next season in this game. Jacobs, who will be a free agent after this season, will not only have to be effective to help his team win but also to get paid for next season at the very least.
Hopefully, Jacobs will have extra motivation in this one, and if he's on, that's pressure taken off Eli Manning and the passing game.
It may seem a little obvious to say that the quarterback will need to be solid to help his team win, but in this case, it's crucial.
Eli Manning has been sensational this season—especially this postseason. He has been their most consistent player this year, and he will have to be on his game again to keep pace with Tom Brady.
Eli will have to be smart and minimize his mistakes, something he has vastly improved upon this season. He's been in this position before, against the same team, and came through victorious with MVP honors, so he's gotten the experience now.
This version of Eli Manning has shown that he's gotten that much better since 2007. Eli is playing at the highest level of his career, and another Super Bowl victory, especially over Brady and Belichick, will cement his status as a true, elite quarterback.