FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots celebrates after he scored a 12-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
The Giants and Patriots will meet in Super Bowl XLVI and there are a number of key matchups to consider, including how the Giants stop the Patriots tight ends. SB Nation's Super Bowl roundtable looks at the most important matchups in this game.
The New York Giants will meet the New England Patriots in the 2012 Super Bowl and there are a number of key matchups in the game. How the Giants secondary lines up against the Patriots tight ends, how the New England secondary handles Eli Manning and his receivers, and how the Patriots defensive line matches up with the Giants offensive line, to name a few.
SB Nation's Super Bowl roundtable is trying to answer the question: What's the most important matchup in Super Bowl XLVI?
Ryan Van Bibber: The rematch between the Giants defensive line and Tom Brady is going to get all the headlines, along with the Patriots tight ends and the back seven of the New York defense. But I think what might decide this game is how well the Patriots match up against the Giants wide receivers. The Patriots' secondary shocked me with how well they played against the Ravens, but Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith still combined for 183 yards and a touchdown on nine catches between them.
When the Giants beat the Patriots during the regular season, it had more to do with Eli Manning and his receivers than the storied New York defensive line. The Giants sacked Brady twice that day, But Victor Cruz had 96 receiving yards, while Jake Ballard and Mario Manningham each had a touchdown. Hakeem Nicks was out that week. With Nicks, Cruz and Manningham all on the field, the Patriots are going struggle to get the matchups they need to slow down the Giants' passing attack. Throw in a big, physical tight end like Jake Ballard, and it might be the Giants offense that wins them the title this time.
Jason Garrison: With the lack of a great wide receiver outside of Wes Welker on the Patriots roster, the biggest matchup of this game will be the Giants secondary against the Patriots tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Tom Brady relied heavily on his two tight ends, especially Gronkowski in the red zone, as the two combined for 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns in the regular season. Gronkowski, who had 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns, broke league single season records in 2011. Gronkowski is hurt but with two weeks between games he is expected to be healthy enough to play.
When these two teams met in Week 9, the two tight ends combined for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The Giants still won that game but if they want to have a shot at beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl once again, they will need to figure out a way to stop, or at least limit, Gronkowski and Hernandez. The Giants secondary, especially safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle, will need to be at their absolute best as they're going to face the best tight end duo in the league with one of the best quarterbacks throwing them the ball.
David Fucillo: This could very well come down to the Giants offensive line versus the Patriots pass rush. The Patriots did a decent enough getting to the quarterback in 2011, finishing 14th in the league with 40 sacks. The Giants offensive line had its share of struggles protecting Eli Manning as they finished 26th in sacks allowed (28). Everybody knows the Patriots secondary will not be able to consistently keep up with the Giants receivers if Eli Manning gets enough time to let the routes develop.
In their previous meeting, Eli did not get sacked once and he made the Patriots pay. In the second round of the playoffs, Manning got a ton of time against the Packers and carved them up. A week later he was sacked six times and hit over 20 times in a game the Giants narrowly won against the 49ers. The Patriots secondary has been consistently bad for much of this season and Eli Manning will tear them apart if he has enough time in the pocket.
Joel Thorman: The most important matchup in this game is how the Giants secondary handles the Patriots tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Along with Wes Welker, trying to stop the Patriots offense is like picking your poison -- one of them is going to beat you.
Gronkowski is dealing with an ankle injury, which could slow him down, but he's expected to play. The Giants can't let Gronkowski and Hernandez run free in the middle of the field. The Patriots offense is great because of the presence of those tight ends, and the Giants must cover the middle of the field where Gronkowkski and Hernandez will be lurking. Gronkowski is one of those guys Brady will throw it to even when he's covered so he'll get his opportunities no matter what. Stopping him and Hernandez should be priority No. 1 for the Giants.