Diary of a Giants Fan: Giants-Patriots Super Bowl Preview Part II
In this edition of our Super Bowl Preview, we break down the game's match ups, unit for unit.
The Super Bowl. It may be the most over-analyzed event the sports world has to offer...And I"ll be damned if I get left out of the action. In the vain hope of finding which team has the ultimate advantage heading into Indianapolis, we break down each matchup. It's Giants vs. Patriots, as in depth as I can do it.
Giant Front 7 vs. Patriot Run Game: Both teams have been middle of the pack in their respective categories all season. The Giants, however - despite coming off a performance in which they gave up over 150 yards rushing - have been riding a wave of momentum that has seen every facet of their defense improve. Playing particularly significant roles have been the emergence of All-Couch Line Backer Chase Blackburn, and the ferocity - especially while chasing a runner down form the backside - of Jason Pierre-Paul. Their play, combined with the rest of a very athletic front seven, have, at the very least, kept the running game from beating them. Overall, these two units are statistically even, though I think the Patriot running game is better than people think. With so much attention being paid to Brady, the Giants will need to be careful to not be gashed by the run. That said, I boil this matchup down to this: Tuck, Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul vs. a guy named BenJarvus Green-Ellis? Come on. You don't entrust the rock to a guy named BenJarvus. He won't beat the G-Men. Advantage: GIANTS
Giant Pass Rush vs. Patriot O-Line: I know he's not on the team anymore, and this is the only time I"ll look back to 2007, but:
...Still gives me goosebumps. Now I know that these are two completely different teams, but Tuck, Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul together? That's enough to make any offensive line coach worry. Add in Joseph, Canty, Tollefson and Kiwanuka? I'd be shocked to see any offensive line coach not openly weeping. Advantage: GIANTS - HUGE
Giant Back 7 vs. Patriot Pass Game: On paper, a man by man analysis of the matchup gives but one impression - huge advantage Patriots. The Giants secondary has struggled all season against passing attacks that are far inferior to this one. Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, two escapees of the Land of Oz, are precise
route runners whose side to side quickness can test any secondary's discipline. Add to that the speed of Aaron Hernandez and the size and strength of Rocky IV villain Rob Gronkowski and you've got a problem. The two, but specifically Ivan Drago over there, are nightmare match ups for any defense. The Giants will be hard pressed to find an adequate cover for him if he's healthy. Plus. They've got Tom Brady, a man who may be the best QB to ever play the game. But with all that having been said, the Giants have been playing much better in the secondary as of late, and even in the midst of a season in which the Giant secondary was atrocious, they found great success against this aerial assault in week nine. Additionally, the ferociousness of the Giant pass rush will keep this secondary from having to cover four or five seconds at a time. Can they shut down the Pats? No. Can they play physical and keep these receivers covered just long enough for Pierre-Paul and Tuck to run down Brady? Absolutely. In the end, you still have to like the Patriots here, but it's not nearly the chasm that you'd think. Advantage: PATRIOTS
Special Teams: The Giants are coming off their best special teams performance in years, having turned the game around with two big fumble recoveries last week. From the kicking standpoint, however, you'd have to give the edge to the Patriots. New England's Gostkowski has been the slightly better kicker, and Tynes' inability to put kickoffs through the end zone has had this Giant fan tearing his hear out all season. Any advantage, however, is minimal at best - as Tynes' field goal percentage and the Giant kick coverage have been solid all season - and all but wiped out by the punting advantage held by New York. Steve Weatherford's ability to change/dominate the field position battle could be big in this game.
The Pats seem the more likely candidate for a big return in the game - evidenced by Giant fans' simultaneous cries of "DON'T FUMBLE" at the top of every return, and Aaron Ross' return strategy of run up to people, fall down in the NFC Championship game. The G-Men, however, have already blocked a field goal this season, and with Tuck and Pierre-Paul teaming up on punt blocks, they've been coming awfully close. I wouldn't be surprised if Patriot punter, Zoltan Mesko (that can't be his real name), is looking behind him for a kick at some point in this game (knock on wood). Advantage: PUSH
Giant Run Game vs. Patriot Front 7: The Giant running game has been as Jekyll and Hyde this season as the running styles of their two feature backs. In a week eleven loss to the Eagles, the Giants rushed for a downright paltry 29 yards, though in the playoff opener against the Falcons, the G-Men exploded for 179 yards on the ground. In their previous matchup with the Patriots, without number one back Ahmad Bradshaw, it was Mr. Hyde that got off the bus in Foxboro as the Big Blue put up 111 yards rushing. If he shows up again they could blow the doors off of a middling Patriot run defense - the key word being if. Will he show up? It's hard to say. For that reason, I think you have to look toward the Patriots, and their mountainous nose tackle Vince Wilfork (one of the few NFL players sporting a perfectly square torso), as having the slight advantage. Advantage: PATRIOTS - SLIGHT
Giant Offensive Line vs. Patriot Pass Rush: This re-built Giant offensive line has been a bit of a question mark all season. Despite some befuddling stretches, the unit was statistically solid, giving up the seventh fewest sacks in the regular season, including zero to the Patriots without center Davis Baas. Despite those solid statistics, it's a real struggle to find a Giant advantage in this matchup given their last performance. Eli Manning was abused by the 49ers in the NFC Championship game, and the Patriots trail only the Giants in postseason sacks. I absolutely do not expect a repeat of that performance by the G-Men, but it's enough to make me hesitant. Advantage: PUSH
Giant Pass Game vs. Patriot Back 7: The Patriots enter this game sporting one of the few secondaries in the league that looked less competent this year than the Giants'. The Patriots, however, haven't had the type of momentous turnaround the Giant squad has. Call me a homer if you want, but for reasons passing understanding I just think that Hakeem Nicks, who missed the week 9 Giant win over the Pats, has the advantage over Julian Edelman. The speed and quickness of Cruz (CRUUUUUUZ!) and Manningham, as well as the size of Nicks, present an incredible matchup problem for a secondary that is quite simply bad - and I haven't even mentioned Eli Manning. The man has been playing, and I put this in scientific terms, redonkulously good this year. He's been a top five quarterback this season - moving in the pocket, making big time throws, and often being the difference for the team in clutch situations. Bottom line? This passing attack is dynamic. The Patriot secondary is very much not. Advantage: GIANTS - HUGE
Manning vs. Brady: Not too long ago there was a gulf perceived between these two. For even posing this question I'd be deemed mentally unfit to be writing such a column. Now? Such a gap has been all but erased. Manning has been shockingly good in clutch situations - clearly the better 4th quarter QB. He's moving in the pocket, he's throwing into tight windows, he's winning. There's a real case to be made the Manning is, right now, the superior quarterback. But. It's Tom-freaking-Brady. Not even the Giant homer in me can deny that fact. I will say that under pressure, in a clutch situation, I take the unflappable Eli over a quarterback who seems easily frustrated by pressure. But Brady still leads Manning in every significant passing category. Advantage: PATRIOTS - SLIGHT
Coughlin vs. Belichick: Again, I think the distance between these two has been largely erased in recent weeks, but only one of these two was on the verge of being fired a month ago. I love Coughlin's steadiness, I love his ability to have his team ready for big games, and I think he's a far, far better coach than he has ever gotten credit for...But it's Bill Belichick. He may be the Scrooge of NFL coaches, he may dress like a third grader, and his legend may be overblown (MAY), but we're talking about a man who is quite possibly the greatest coach in NFL history. I love you Tom, but: Advantage: PATRIOTS
Any of the above could mean a win or a loss in what is, to me, a 50/50 game. In Part III we'll look at the keys to the game for both sides, and I'll give my official Super Bowl prediction. Be on the look out for that, and the tons of other Super Bowl content we'll have right here on 1045theteam.com. And as always. Go Giants!