Will this year’s game be a nail-biter too? The guys delve into it in Fantasy Guideline’s 2012 Super Bowl preview.
New England Patriots Offense:
The Patriots are a wrecking crew. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski make up possibly the most dangerous tandem in the league. However, in the conference championship, Gronk injured his ankle, classifying it as a high ankle sprain and spent most of the past couple weeks wearing a boot. Still, Gronk is going to play on Sunday, I have no doubts about it. However, he needs to be at least 90% to be a threat. If he is combine him with Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker, and this team should be able to beat out the ferocious pass rush of the Giants.
Tom Brady was sacked 32 times this year, tying the second most he’s been sacked in a single season for his career. They likely aren’t going to have enough time to drop back and fire down the field, but the offensive line needs to be able to protect Brady long enough for him to dump off to one of his top three receivers. Expect the Patriots to keep Green-Ellis in the game quite a bit to help in protection.
We all know what the Pats offense is capable of. Tom Brady is a master of his craft, and will make any defense pay the price for making even the smallest mistakes. Wes Welker is a receiving beast in the slot, but I often argue that he’s essentially a product of Tom Brady. If you don’t believe me, go take a look at Welker’s numbers in his two seasons as a Miami Dolphin. But no matter what the cause of his success in New England is, Welker is dangerous. Even more dangerous than that could possibly be the Patriots tight-ends.
Rob Gronkowski was an absolute beast this year, and really the best tight-end in all of football. He recently suffered a high ankle sprain that is going to have a lot to do with how the Patriots can run their offense on Sunday. I expect the likes of Aaron Hernandez and Super Bowl 39 MVP Deion Branch to step up in this game. Whatever they can squeeze out of BJGE and Woodhead coming out of their backfield is really all just bonus.
The Patriots could be in trouble, but the concept is simple. The Patriots need to be able to stop the run with their front seven. The Giants have managed to get a running game going to lately, something they struggled with during the season. If the Patriots have to stack the box to stop the run, Manning will burn them. Luckily for the Patriots, one thing they’ve actually been able to do this offseason is effectively play the running game.
Typically I don’t comment on things that I am unaware exist. But I am sure that is what Vince Wilfork would like me to say. He is the key to their success on defense, as he’s really been the only true bright spot on that side of the ball for NE. I expect him to get double-teamed at the line often, so it will be up to everyone else to pick up the slack while playing 10 on 9.
The Giants offense is crucial in this game. You can trust your defense all you want, but the fact of the matter is they’re playing the Patriots. You need to plan on scoring points to win. Luckily for them, if they can get the running game going early, they shouldn’t have any problem with the passing game. However, if they can’t get a run going early and the Patriots are able to pad their extremely young secondary, that might be too much trouble to Manning to handle.
In the past, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz have had some crucial drops. They need to have sure hands this week. If they can get their running game going, expect the Giants to take plenty of shots down the field. Brandon Jacobs hasn’t been too effective lately, but he’ll need to get going and actually get some yardage this week as well.
It’s getting harder and harder these days to try and spell the word elite without Eli. The younger Manning brother has beaten the Patriots in the Super Bowl once already. This time around he has a pair of receivers that are far superior to anything he was working with in their last Super Bowl. The salsa-dancing Victor Cruz has been a big-time playmaker for them all season long, and Hakeem Nicks has bounced back nicely after struggling a bit to make catches in the later portion of the regular season. Hopefully for the Giants, Nicks’ shoulder will not be bothering him too much.
The Giants rookie tight-end Jake Ballard needs to become a bigger factor than he has been recently. Even more importantly, the Giants dual running threat needs to rack up over 100 yards in order to keep NE from just resting back on their heels and leaving all their focus on the aforementioned downfield combo of Cruz and Nicks. Brandon Jacobs has been wasting a lot of time lately running side to side. Jacobs, you’re not quick, you’re 265 lbs. Run straight downfield! The Giants offense this year has averaged 385 yards per game, which is 43 yard less than the Patriots. However, I expect to see a very solid game from Ahmad Bradshaw.
Tom Brady has one of the best pocket presences in the league, but I don’t care if you’re Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, you are going to have a hell of a time if you are constantly under pressure and having to scramble. They need to get pressure on Brady early and often, because I’m not sure the Giants have anyone that can take out Gronk or Hernandez, let alone one of them. Another thing they need to be careful with is their kill the QB strategy. You don’t quite want to them to be over-aggressive. They can remedy that by paying attention to the screen to a RB by mirroring Woodhead and maybe even BGE as well.
We all know the recipe to success for this Giants defense, it’s the luxury they have of being able to put four premier pass-rushers on the field at the same time. Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul are all defensive ends that can get to the quarterback. When Tom Coughlin decides to put this “nascar package” all on the field at once, it is imperative that they can get pressure up the middle to prevent Brady from being able to step up in the pocket and throw the ball comfortably. This is how they won Super Bowl 42 against NE, and not a whole lot has changed since then.
At the beginning of the playoffs, I said I felt like the Patriots were a spitting image of last year’s team. That still reigns true. The Broncos were a pushover at that point in the playoffs and the Ravens were a team that failed to show up against poor teams and sported a 4-4 road record heading into Foxboro. To top that, the Ravens only sacked Brady once and got to him only three times out of 36 pass attempts. The Broncos did worse by sacking him once and getting to him only two times in 34 tries. The Giants got to Alex Smith six times with three sacks just a couple weeks ago. The Patriots simply haven’t been tested yet, but they will this week and will crumble.
The Giants have been able to get to the QB during the postseason at a highly successful rate. The Patriots line is certainly nothing special so I believe they won’t have much trouble putting pressure on Brady early and often. I think they’ll be able to get the running game established early, which should help them sustain clock-chewing drives and keep Brady off the field.
The Patriots, while great, are simply a one dimensional team, which gives the Giants the upper hand here. This is the Giants game to lose. The only thing that worries me for the Giants is that they are the team with more momentum and taking a week off may hurt that aspect. However, I don’t think it’ll hurt them enough for me not to pick them.
Giants win, 35-24
I think it will be imperative for the Giants defense to not allow Tom Brady to get into a rhythm early on, and that of course will be their main focus. I think as a result, Green-Ellis and Hernandez could scoop up a lot of yards through short passes and draw plays. But these guys are rarely the kind of players that are going to get into the end zone from outside the red zone. I believe that the Giants will stiffen up when defending inside their own 20-yardline and the injury to Rob Gronkowski could prove to be critical.
Let’s face it, any potential that the Patriots defense would have defensively all hinges on scheming over playmaking. They simply do not have much playmaking ability on the defensive side of the ball and I think that will cost them dearly going against a tandem like Cruz and Nicks. I have severe doubts about this Patriot defense being able to shutdown Bradshaw and those dangerous G-men receivers all at once. Eli is the type of guy that can struggle for three quarters, shake it off, and then bite you hard when it matters.
I do not think this is going to be a blowout in either direction, but football is a game of momentum, so anything is possible. With the momentum that the Giants appear to have right now, I believe they Cruz their way into a victory.
Giants win, 27-24