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If online searches are any indication of who will win this year’s game, the New England Patriots would come out on top – this year they had 50% more Yahoo! searches than the New York Giants.
Still, the Patriots are in for a real fight when they take on the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. The Patriots’ pass defense isn’t what it was four year ago when these two franchises tussled in Super Bowl XLII, and Eli Manning is running a far more productive passing game. Tom Brady’s offense isn’t quite as explosive as it was four years ago, and the Giants’ pass rush is every bit as ferocious as it was back then. Also, receiver Hakeem Nicks and running back Ahmad Bradshaw will play in this game, and neither player was available in the Week 9 game won by the Giants, 24-20.
However, there are aspects to the Patriots’ game that set them up for victory in ways that were not evident in the last Super matchup. Randy Moss is gone but the Pats compensate for their lack of a deep attack with some of the best formation diversity in the NFL. Tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are the main men in the Pats’ aerial attack, and when they’re on the field together, they’re nearly unbeatable.
Gronkowski’s ankle sprain has been a big subject since he was hurt in the AFC Championship game, but I don’t think “Gronk” will be most valuable going out on routes. Where the Patriots will need him is as a blocker – and with all the things the second-year man does well, he blocks better than any tight end in the game. Brady balked against the furious pass rush of Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck in XLII, and the G-men still have Tuck to contend with. Add in Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora, and it’s a handful. But Gronkowski blocked at a dominant level in the AFC Championship game, even after he was hurt. He could make the difference right there.
Brady will still have problems with the Giants’ defense, and if the Pats do win, I don’t think he’ll be the deserving MVP. I see defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who has been as dominant as any defender in the game over the last few weeks, continuing his rampage through the NFL in the Super Bowl and picking up the award if the voters aren’t too quarterback-centric.
Could the Giants win? Without question, and that’s what makes this particular matchup to intriguing, These teams tend to play close most of the time, and if Eli Manning gets in a groove like he was against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, the Pats could be in trouble. But between their improved defense, their just-good-enough passing game, and a few new wrinkles in their secondary, I think New England exacts a measure of revenge for what was the biggest upset in the history of the Super Bowl.
Call it a flip of the Week 9 game – the Patriots will beat the Giants this time, 24-20.
Editor, Yahoo! Sports Shutdown Corner Blog