The New England Patriots and New York Giants will once again meet in the Super Bowl just four years after the Giants pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history, beating the Patriots, 17-14. The Giants were 12-point 'dogs entering that game and the Patriots were on their way to wrapping up the greatest season in NFL history.
We all know how the script went from there. Eli Manning hit Plaxico Burress in the end zone with only seconds remaining, the Pats were sent packing and the Giants were Super Bowl champs.
Entering this postseason, the Patriots hadn't won a playoff game since January 2008, the year of that Super Bowl loss to the Giants. The AFC's No. 1 seed, New England beat the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens to get here. The Giants, meanwhile, were NFC East champs entering the postseason and won all three games to get here, beating the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers.
Looking at these teams, the story lines are going to be on the offensive side of the ball as both teams ended the regular season as top 10 offenses.
What The Patriots Do Well: Score points. A lot of 'em. They finished the regular season third in points scored and second in total yards on the season. They finished the regular season 20th in rushing yards yet third in rushing touchdowns. The real strength is Tom Brady and the passing game, which includes guys like Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The two tight end sets of Gronkowski and Hernandez are particularly troublesome for the opponents.
What The Patriots Don't Do Well: They've been known to give up a boatload of yards. The Patriots are actually in the middle of the pack in points allowed but it's a little concerning that the Patriots can be so porous on defense, especially against a team like the Giants who have guys that can take advantage of a weak secondary.
What The Giants Do Well: It's almost not worth looking at most of the Giants numbers on the season because they're clearly on another level since the Cowboys game to end the regular season. But, like the Patriots, they're a top 10 offense and the passing game is very, very good. Eli Manning has two 1,000 yard receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks and they're more than capable of stretching the field as Hicks showed us in the divisional round (165 yards) and Cruz showed us in the NFC Championship game (142 yards). When the running game is going, the Giants are tough to beat. Defensively, their pass rush, which includes one defensive set with four defensive ends on the field at once, is once again leading the way.
What The Giants Don't Do Well: They don't run the ball very well, at least not consistently. The Giants offense, when their running game is a threat, is terrific. But that just doesn't happen very often. Injuries to Ahmad Bradshaw haven't helped and Brandon Jacobs is nearing 30 years old (which is ancient for NFL running backs). The Giants running game hasn't been very good on a week-to-week basis ranking dead last in yards per attempts and the Patriots biggest deficiency is in the secondary so we may not see many rushing attempts in this game.
Early Super Bowl Prediction: The Patriots are going to avenge their Super Bowl loss four years ago and beat the Giants. They're three-point favorites at the moment so the oddsmakers agree with that pick. New England's offense has a new layer with Gronkowski and Hernandez that I just don't see the Giants consistently stopping. The Giants pass rush will make it hard on Brady, but the Patriots win the game, 30-27.