The New York Giants and the New England Patriots meet in the Super Bowl for the second time in five seasons. The last time these two teams played for a championship was in Super Bowl XLII, when the Giants stunned the world and defeated the 18-0, Patriots 17-14. However, these are two different teams from the 2007-08 season. In order to properly predict this year’s Super Bowl, we’re going to need to dissect the two teams individually.
New York Giants
Before the season started, Giants quarterback Eli Manning was asked if he was in the same class as Tom Brady. He responded with, “I consider myself in that class.” Many people, including myself, called him crazy. Manning was coming off a season where he threw league-high 25 interceptions, while Brady was a unanimous MVP with his league-high 36 touchdowns and four interceptions. Even a person without knowledge of football could tell that those two players weren’t in the same class.
This year, however, Manning has improved his game and has some wondering if he’s better than his older brother Peyton. In the 2011 season, Manning threw 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes, an NFL season record. He also threw for 4,933 yards as he tried to support the Giants offense. In the Giants’ last four games, essentially elimination games, Manning has thrown for an average of 317 yards per game, with 11 touchdowns and just one interception.
In the regular season, the Giants defense wasn’t that great. They were among the worst in points and yards allowed per game. In the playoffs, however, their defense has been healthy and playing great football, including holding the Packers’ offense to 20 points.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will make their fifth Super Bowl appearance together Sunday, an NFL record for a head coach-quarterback combo. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have overshadowed Brady’s 2011 season, but Brady’s season was just as impressive. His 5,235 passing yards was the second-most yards in a single season in NFL history. He finished with 39 passing touchdowns and led the league in passing plays over 20 yards.
Brady’s incredible season couldn’t have come without the help of his playmakers on offense. Wideout Wes Welker had a career year in terms of receptions, yards and touchdowns. He led the NFL with 122 catches and had the second-most yards with 1,569. Tight end Rob Gronkowski broke NFL records right and left, including the most yards and touchdowns in a single season by any tight end in NFL history. Brady’s other tight end, Aaron Hernandez, fell just short of 1,000 receiving yards, but finished with seven touchdowns. In the postseason, he’s been used in multiple positions, and has 70 rushing yards out of the backfield.
Hernandez isn’t the only player with versatility; receiver Julian Edelman is a true two-way player. In the AFC title game against the Ravens, Edelman played 27 snaps on offense and 27 on defense. He also played on special teams and returned punts. Edelman and the defense allow more than 411 yards per game, the second-worst in the NFL during the regular season. The only positive – they bend but don’t break.
This will be the third time that these two teams meet this year. The Giants defeated the Patriots in the preseason and were the last team to beat them in the regular season. The key to winning this game for the Giants is to pressure Brady. They have a healthy defensive line playing their best football right now. If they can get to Brady, they have a great chance to win.
The key to winning this game for the Patriots will be to use the tight ends. In the NFC Championship Game, the Giants gave up 112 yards and two touchdowns to 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. When these two teams met in the regular season, Brady connected with Gronkowski eight times for more than 100 yards and touchdown. He also threw a touchdown pass to Hernandez. It’s worth noting that Gronkowski won’t be 100 percent for the Super Bowl. He’s been dealing with a high-ankle sprain all week.
This Super Bowl could easily go either way. The Giants are the hottest team in football right now, but the Patriots have been playing great football all season long. This will be a high-scoring contest, and my bold prediction is that both Manning and Brady throw for over 300 passing yards in the game.
Prediction: Giants 31 – Patriots 35