By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots are coming off of a dramatic victory two weeks ago against the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. On Sunday they will be facing the Giants in the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. Here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.
WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live on WHDH Channel 7 at 6:20 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
The Giants arrive to the Superbowl after an overtime victory in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco. This game was a tough defensive battle, and ultimately New York prevailed.
The Giants are a huge challenge for the Patriots as they are pretty balanced on both sides of the ball. On offense, there is no question that quarterback Eli Manning has raised his game this season. He is playing at a high level, and also showed his toughness as he took the best shots from the San Francisco defense, and continued to put the Giants in great positions to succeed.
He has three quality receivers to throw to with Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Mario Manningham all having a solid season. The Patriots defense will have their work cut out for them in slowing down this trio.
In the running game, they have two solid running backs that the Patriots will have to deal with. Brandon Jacobs is your power back who is very tough to bring down. Ahmad Bradshaw is more elusive, and could be a threat to break longer runs.
On defense, the Giants have one of the best front four defensive lines in the NFL. This foursome is led by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul who had 16.5 sacks this season. Along with Paul, the Patriots offensive line needs to be aware of Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Chris Canty.
The weakness of this defense has to be in the secondary which is average at best. Corey Webster and Aaron Ross are average corners in the defensive backfield. The safety duo of Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle are at that same level, but could get exposed by the Patriots offense.
The Giants are playing great football right now and peaking at the right time. However, the Patriots are playing on the same level, and this has the making of a tremendous Super Bowl.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
1. The Patriots have to be physical on all three levels of the defense. First, I believe the Patriots defensive line can really take advantage of the Giants offensive line. I think Vince Wilfork has the ability to do a number on Giants center David Baas. The line will be responsible for stopping the run, but also collapsing the pocket around Manning.
The linebackers have the ability to be real physical. I am hoping to see Brandon Spikes make an impact on run and passing blitzes. His play in this game could be very key to this unit. I think the Patriots also need to see Rob Ninkovich and Jerod Mayo be just as physical.
The secondary has been much maligned this season. However, this is there chance to be aggressive. I expect this unit to be flying around, and hitting – legally – the Giants receivers. Hopefully the Patriots will allow their corners at some point to play man coverage so they can hit the Giants receivers at the line of scrimmage.
2. Devin McCourty needs to raise his game on the biggest stage. McCourty has been a huge disappointment this season. He has been moved to safety in the last few games. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play corner in this game. He has a chance to redeem himself in the biggest game of the year. If he plays well in the Super Bowl, I think much will be forgotten about his poor regular season.
3. The offensive line needs to protect Tom Brady. This could be the biggest key in the game. It sounds so simple, but if the offensive line can prevent the defensive line of the Giants from getting to him and harassing him the way he was four years ago, Brady should be able to carve up the Giants secondary.
4. The Patriots should feature a good amount of the “hurry up” offense in this game. If it was me, I would open up with this offense, and continue to use it when it is appropriate.
When the “hurry up” is used correctly, it sets the fast tempo to the game which I feel works in the Patriots favor. It will also tire out the pass rush of the Giants. We have seen time and time again, that this style of offense really effects a defense over time. It could be a huge weapon in this game.
5. Deion Branch is my X-Factor in this game. Branch might not be the player he used to be, but he is still a very consistent receiver that has the trust of the quarterback. He could very well be in single coverage most of the game, so he could have several opportunities to make a difference.
His history is of a player that has stepped up in the biggest game of the season. In Super Bowl 38, he had 10 receptions, one touchdown and had 143 yards. In Super Bowl 39, he had 11 receptions with a total of 133 yards. He was also the MVP of that Super Bowl
With so much attention probably being put on the tight ends, and Wes Welker, this could be the game to see a huge performance by Branch who has done it before on the biggest stage.
In concluding, the Giants deserve to be in the Super Bowl, but I think they are being hyped a little too much on both sides of the ball. I actually feel that the Patriots on both sides of the ball will win their battles, and take over this game. It will be close in the first half, but I see the Patriots pulling away in the second half, and that is why I am predicting a 31-20 Patriots victory against the Giants.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.