3 Key Matchups in Super Bowl XLVI
Here we are, the morning of one of the biggest days in all of sports: the Super Bowl. This is not basketball or baseball; you don't get a series of games to try and win the title, you get 60 minutes.
Super Bowl 46 is being billed as a rematch, which it is if you're talking about one franchise against another.
As far as teams go, however, these are not the same squads that met on February 3rd, 2008. Only 22 players remain from the 106 guys on the XLII rosters.
Knowing that these are almost entirely different teams, let's take a look at some of the key positional matchups for XLVI.
Giants Front Four vs. Patriots Offensive Line
The front four is the heart, soul and teeth of the New York Giants defense. If you're reading this, you definitely knew that already.
The New England Patriots are known for a bruising offensive line that rarely allows pressure on their quarterback.
Still, as good as the Patriots blocking is, they will be facing the best front four rotation currently in the NFL, and possibly one of the most dynamic rotations ever assembled.
When the Giants play the standard starting 4-3, they will have to rely on ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck to create pressure on their own, but Perry Fewell's NASCAR Package changes the entire nature of this trench battle.
When the Giants line up four defensive ends, the Patriots guards will be exposed by far more athletic defenders, one of whom will be in a one-on-one battle, allowing four-man pressure without extra help.
Even more importantly, the New York front four features an eight-man rotation. This will keep fresh legs on the field nearly every down, and should prove to be a nightmare for the Pats blockers.
Key Player: Jason Pierre-Paul
Patriots Tight Ends vs. Giants Secondary
The New England Patriots made history this season with the play of their tight ends. Rob Gronkowski caught an eye-popping 90 passes, a record-shattering 17 of which were for touchdowns.
Gronkowski's bruising and savage style of play contrasts with teammate Aaron Hernandez, who is built more like a wide receiver and used speed and agility to catch 79 balls for 910 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Giants secondary has stepped up their play of late, and actually possess the talent to hold their own against the Patriots two-headed beast. The secondary features a slew of strong tacklers (particularly safties Deon Grant, Antrel Rolle and Kenny Philips), as well as an athletic coverage linebacker in Jacquian Williams.
Having said that, Aaron Hernandez will be the difference-maker in this matchup. The Giants combination of speed at safety and strength at linebacker should be enough to contain the injured Gronkowski, whose high ankle sprain will limit his speed and ability to break tackles. Hernandez on the other hand will prove to be too fast for Williams or Michael Boley, and likely difficult to tackle for the smaller defensive backs.
For the Patriot offense to be successful in this game, Tom Brady will have to go to Hernandez rather than Gronkowski.
Key Player: Aaron Hernandez
Giants Wide Receivers vs. Patriots Secondary
The New York Giants wide receivers exploded in 2011, helping Eli Manning reach career-highs in several passing categories, including yards. Victor Cruz became the most prolific single-season receiver in Giants history, and Nicks followed up his breakout sophomore campaign with another 1,000-yard season.
In fact, the Giants had two 1,000-plus-yard receivers for the first time ever.
The Patriot secondary? They recently let Joe Flacco throw for 316 yards, and may have blown the AFC title game if not for some questionable officiating on the Lee Evans "incompletion."
New England barely has the defensive back personnel to cover the Giants pass catchers; even if they can contain Cruz and Nicks, Manningham will likely run amok in their stead.
You can bet that if Julian Edelman is covering the slot that you'll see some Victor Cruz salsa before the day is over.
This matchup is the key to a New York Giants win.
Key Player: Victor Cruz
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