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Fearless Rick's NFL Week Super Bowl XLVI Picks

Rick Gagliano | January 30, 2012

All times Eastern - Click here for final analysis.

Sunday, February 5

Super Bowl XLVI

New York Giants


New England

New York Giants vs. New England Patriots (-3, 55) - Don't expect to see this line moving much, if at all, in the days leading up to the NFL finale. A recast of the 2008 Super Bowl in which the Giants miraculously ended the Patriots' dreams of an undefeated season - the first since the 1971-72 Miami Dolphins - with a 38-35 victory.

Many of the same players are back, including the two most important: QBs Tom Brady and Eli Manning, so, this game is being billed as a revenge issue for the Patriots, while the Giants have nothing left to prove, except that they are the best team of this season.

We've broken the game analysis down into segments, which will be rolled out daily as we progress toward the event. The breakdown looks like this:
Special Teams, Coaching, Intangibles & Final Analysis

There are also a couple of special interest pages:
Super Bowl Scores: 1967-2011
Super Bowl Quiz

So, make sure to check back on these pages as the big game approaches.


On the surface, offensively, this looks like a mismatch in favor of the Patriots which finished the regular season third in the NFL and tops in the AFC in points scored, at 32.1 per game. By contrast, the Giants were 9th overall, scoring at a rate of 24.6 points per outing.

That's a difference of 7.5 points, in favor of the Pats, though one could maintain that the Giants, who were 9-7 during the regular season, had a more difficult schedule than 13-3 New England.

In the playoffs, the Patriots racked up the highest point total of any team, scoring 45 at home against the Broncos in the Divisional round in a 45-10 rout, and gutted then gutted out a 23-20 win over Baltimore to advance to the Super Bowl. So, the Pats are averaging right at their seasonal average during the playoffs, scoring at a 32 points per game pace.

The Giants only had one home game, their Wild Card weekend, 24-2, win over the Falcons, followed by a 37-20 triumph at Green Bay and the 20-17 overtime win at San Francisco to capture the NFC title. That translates into 27 points per game during the playoffs, which closes the gap on the Patriots.

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Additionally, one would have to assume that playing Atlanta, Green Bay and San Francisco was a rougher gauntlet to run than New England's wins over a one-dimensional Denver squad, though their win over the Ravens was hard-earned.

Breaking the offenses down even further, we find that the Patriots were second, behind New Orleans, in passing offense, at 317.8 yards per game, while the Giants were a close up fifth, at 295.9 during the regular season.

Neither team really ran the ball well, with New England registering at about the middle of the league, with 110.3 rushing yards per game. The Giants were dead last in the NFL, as their backs carried the ball, on average, for only 89.2 yards per game.

Obviously, both teams rely on their quarterbacks more than their running backs, so the game comes down to a showdown between two of the league's premiere throwers, Tom Brady and eli Manning.

As for efficiency, the Patriots were also superior, with 24.9 first downs per game on average, while converting 45.9% of their third down opportunities. The Giants averaged 20.7 first downs and converted 37.4% of their thrid downs during the regular season, though Eli and his gang stepped that up considerably in the playoffs.

Against Atlanta the Giants racked up 19 first downs and converted 8 of 15 third down tries. They were about the same against the Packers, with 19 first downs and 8-16 on converting third downs. They recorded 20 first downs against the 49ers, though they were only 7-21 on third down conversions against the league's best defense.

In New England's two playoff games, the opposing defenses made a big difference. Against the Broncos, the Patriots racked up 31 first downs and were only stopped on third down three times in six tries. Against Baltimore, a different story emerged. The Patriots had 25 first downs but were just 5-11 on third down efficiency.

The key players for the Giants on offense - after Manning - are running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, who are both capable inside runners with limited speed. On the outside, receivers Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham have evolved into a fleet corps of wideouts who can stretch the defense and make nice moves after the catches. Tight end Jake Ballard isn't a huge threat over the middle, and the Giants have been putting Travis Beckum into the slot on occasion and are trying to work him into the offense. A real wild card is fullback Henry Hynoski, who can carry the ball with authority in short yardage situations, catch passes out of the backfield and provide valuable lead blocking for the regular backs.

--- Story continues below ---

For the Patriots, as goes Brady, so goes the offense. If given time, Brady can tear apart any defense, as he's proven throughout his star-studded career. The o-line usually provides good protection, but Brady suffered 32 sacks this season, the most since 2003, so that's a concern.

Running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead are a contrast in styles. Green-Ellis is more a downhill runner, while the diminutive Woodhead (5'8") is speedy and slippery, though most of his runs are off-tackle and inside as well. Between them is rookie Stevan Ridley, who has been getting more playing time. Ridley, out of LSU, is more a traditional tailback with good speed to the outside.

The wide receivers for New England - Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco - took a back seat to tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, along with slot receiver Wes Welker, who had great hands and lightning-like moves. The 6'6" Gronkowski set various tight end records this season and is a load to bring down, while Hernandez is a skilled runner in the open field.


At the start of the season, these two defenses were about even, but New England had problems holding down opposing offenses while the Giants continued to evolve over the course of the 17 weeks.

By season's end, the Patriots finished about in the middle of the pack in points allowed, at 21.4 per game, while the Giants were close to the bottom, allowing 25 points per contest on average. However, the roles were reversed when it came to yardage, though both units were not good. The Giants were 27th overall, allowing 376.4 yards per game, but the Patriots were 31st, giving up 411.1 ypg. Neither defense seemed capable of stopping anything, though that all changed when the playoffs came around.

Against Atlanta, Green Bay and San Francisco, the Giants allowed just 39 points, an average of just 13 per game, a number that would have put them at the top of the league in overall points allowed. The Falcons' only points came on a safety; the Giants forced four turnovers against Green Bay and held the 49ers to just 15 first downs and 1-13 on third down conversions.

Looking for the best NFL Handicapper? Good luck. Most of them suck.

New England's defenders were also vastly improved in the playoffs, allowing a total of 30 points in their two wins, but they were not quite as good as the Giants. Denver was limited to 7-18 on third down conversions, though the Broncos did convert on two of three 4th down tries. The Ravens racked up 398 yards of offense and were 9-17 on third down conversions, and did score two touchdowns. The big difference in their conference championship win was Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff's miss on a field goal attempt that would have tied the game with seconds to play.

The most potent unit of the defenses is New York's defensive front. Jason Pierre-Paul has emerged into one of the best pass rushers and run stuffers in the league at one end position, with Osi Umenyiora usually occupying the opposite end. Justin Tuck, Chris Canty and Linval Joseph are interchangable at the tackle positions and linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka will occasionally settle into a three-point stance. It is this unit that will have to keep Tom Brady from settling into a rhythm and tearing up the secondary, though the Giants DBs have improved as the season has progressed, especially corners Corey Webster and Aaron Ross.

For the Patriots, the line comes down to one man: Vince Wilfork, the impressive mass of humanity that provides an unmovable force in the middle of the line. He and Gerald Warren will be responsible for clogging up the running game, while defensive end Shaun Ellis and linebackers Rob Ninkovich and Gerald Mayo provide pressure from the edges on passing downs.

The secondary is a patchwork bunch, with Julian Edelman, normally a slot receiver and kick returner filling in on nickel situations. Cornerbacks Devn McCourty and Kyle Arrington will be under pressure to keep the Giants' receivers from running wild in the secondary. The one stabilizing influence has be SS James Ihedigbo, who can cover and deliver hits with the best of them.

All times Eastern - Special Teams, Coaching, Intangibles & Final Analysis

Copyright 2011, 2012, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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