1. Rematch Matchups
Four years ago, Eli Manning was the MVP as the Giants beat Tom Brady and the unbeaten Patriots 17-14. That game will be in the back of everyone’s mind because the players and fans certainly don’t forget. But there are a lot of new players now and different energies involved.
How does the Patriots offense stack up against the Giants defense? The Giants defensive line has been playing great, but I don’t like to bet against Brady. In the AFC Championship, he had two interceptions and zero touchdown passes, but he still found a way to score points. He got it done. Guys like Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck will have to really work this game to get him out of his comfort zone.
How does the Giants offense stack up? Eli has some great young and hungry receivers. So you’ve got that going against a defense that has played exceptional throughout the playoffs. Still, I think New England’s defensive backs are really going to have their work cut out covering that 1-2-3 punch of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. They have shown that they can make big plays when needed, whether it’s a deep or crossing route or a hitch play that turns into a 70-yard touchdown.
2. Forget the Numbers
People bring up stats like the Patriots having the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense or whatever, but you just throw the stats out now. Things that you achieved during the season don’t matter anymore. You see players who’ve had a huge impact, get to the Super Bowl and have little impact. On the other hand, there are guys you barely know who rise up and have a championship play or game to remember.
3. Special Teams and Turnovers
They say that special teams can tilt the field in your favor, and that happened with the Giants punt coverage guys who jumped onto two 49ers flubs in the NFC Championship. It’s all about field position. You can’t give your opponent 20 to 30 yards to score, and give them momentum. Special teams have as big of a role as offense and defense. So do avoiding mistakes and pouncing on any your opponent makes.
4. Who to Watch
Of course you have two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, but I’d look out for Nicks and Cruz on the Giants. And I’ll give another shout out to Patriots safety and former Oregon Duck Patrick Chung—it’s on him to really play smart and adapt quickly to whether it’s a run or pass. He’s going to have to come up and be in on a lot of plays. And if you twist my arm, I’m picking New England to win.
UPDATE: Giants won, 21-17.
See the next page for my party tips—and the winner of the game-worn cleats!