The New York Giants and the New England Patriots square off tonight in Super Bowl XLVI as both teams look to capture their 4th Super Bowl championship. The game is also a rematch of the week 9 game earlier this season that the Giants won 24-20. It also is a rematch of Super Bowl XLII that the Giants won 17-14. Below are a few keys to the game along with my prediction. I have had a change of heart since my initial prediction in the Thursday podcast. Enjoy the game.
The Gronkle - Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will play despite his injured ankle. How effective Gronkowski is in regards to both his blocking ability and route running goes will likely play a big part in what the Patriots are and aren\'t able to do on offense. If he is healthy enough to still demand coverage by a defensive back and able to get some leverage in his run blocking, the Patriots offense will be able to do a lot of the things they have done all season.
Pressing Needs - The Giants beat the Patriots earlier in the season and the Steelers were also able to show the blue print to beating the Patriots. Pressing the Patriots wide receivers in order to give the Giants pass rush time to get to quarterback Tom Brady is a must. Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco can be roughed up enough with man press coverage, but they are slippery enough to get open if Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora do not get home with the pass rush. They need to get in the face of Brady with pressure and not let him stand comfortably in the pocket.
Nicking Up The Secondary - Hakeem Nicks needs a big game if the Giants want to win. Nicks didn’t play the last time these two teams played and thus the Giants were forced to settle for underneath stuff in the passing game as a result. With Julian Edelman forced to play in the secondary, Nicks needs to draw enough attention to allow Victor Cruz the ability to work on Edelman one on one in the slot. It should be noted that Nicks has been nicked up with a shoulder injury as well. He will play though and will be the most integral part of the Giants passing attack, at least early on.
Forking It Over - Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has had a solid season and today he will need to occupy as many bodies as possible when the Giants try to run, so that inside linebackers Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes can easily fill the gaps to stop Giants running backs Ahmad Brashaw and Brandon Jacobs. If those two backs are able to gash the Patriots front early in this game, the balance shifts heavily to the Giants winning this game as they will be able to keep the Patriots defense on their heels and keep Brady off the field. Wilfork does not have to have huge box score day, just a day of being an immovable object should suffice. Watch closely how many bodies it takes to move him and if it effects the Giants ability to get off their first blocks and to the second level in a timely manner. Wilfork can also push the pocket up the middle as well and the Giants must control him off the snap, especially on obvious passing downs.
Formations & Commitments - The Patriots offense did a bad job in the first meeting earlier this season with getting the Giants to declare pre snap what they were going to do. Since then the Patriots have done a good job with their different formations that would at times even have tight end Aaron Hernandez in the backfield more than usual. The Patriots also do a good job shuttling in their various running backs in different personnel packages in an attempt to confuse defenses. Look for Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O\'Brien to empty out the playbook in this game before he heads off to coach Penn State. Brady should get his pre snap reads in this game as opposed to the last meeting.
The Obvious Keys - Explosive plays and turnovers are keys to every game and it should be no different in the Super Bowl. The Giants are +5 in the turnover differential department in the playoffs while the Patriots are a -3. The Patriots are +2 in the explosive play category while the Giants are a +4 in the postseason. Both teams look to be explosive today so it could definitely come down to a key turnover or two.
Prediction: On the podcast earlier this week I picked the Giants to win 24-20, but after diving even deeper into this game and removing my immense hope that the Patriots lose this game, I am going to flip my pick and keep the same score. It is so hard to see the Patriots losing to this Giants team twice in one season especially now that Bill Belichick has had two weeks to prepare. I see the Giants turning over the ball twice down in their own end of the field that will set the Patriots up for a few easy scores. I hope the Giants win, but my gut and my money say it will be the Patriots.
Super Bowl XLVI Score Prediction: New England Patriots 24 New York Giants 20