A missed field goal here, a muffed punt there and whaddayaknow, the Patriots and Giants have themselves a date with destiny in Peyton Manning’s backyard.
Seems only appropriate that a Patriots season dedicated Myra Kraft, a season that’s seemed touched by an angel, will end with an opportunity to avenge the most shocking loss in team history: Giants 17, Patriots 14.
The Super Bowl XLII defeat ruined what would have been the first perfect 19-0 season in NFL history (not that we needed to remind you). Those wounds probably won’t ever fully heal, but a win two weeks from today in Indianapolis would sure feel good, wouldn’t it?
We’ll have two weeks to break down every inch of the Super Bowl XLVI matchup (hopefully without having to relive the David Tyree catch too many times), but here are a few things to whet your whistle:
* A brief look back at the season archive reminds us that Tom Brady struggled in a 24-20 loss to the Giants in Week 9. From Mike Reiss’ column off that game:
“Much like Super Bowl XLII, Brady was pressured by the Giants' powerful defensive line and couldn't get into a rhythm until late in the fourth quarter. He finished 28-of-49 for 342 yards, with two touchdowns, two interceptions and one lost fumble, the high yardage not truly reflective of how much he struggled at times."
In that game, the Giants sacked Brady twice, intercepted him twice and forced him to fumble. Even with that, they needed a fourth-quarter comeback led my Eli Manning (stop us if you’ve heard this one before) to beat New England.
* The Giants have a pair of pass catchers in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz that can create matchup problems for even the best defensive teams. How the Patriots account for the duo will be an area to watch in this game. Nicks missed the Week 9 meeting with an injury.
* The Patriots’ defense (ranked 31st) and the Giants’ defense (27th) have one thing in common: They’re peaking at the right time. After giving up just 14 points in each of the last two games of the regular season, the Giants defense has given up an average of 13 points per game in the playoffs.
* Eli Manning is the best quarterback the Patriots will have faced since ... they lost to Eli Manning in Week 9 (which, incidentally, is their last loss, period). Consider this, from Scouts Inc.’s Gary Horton’s early breakdown of the Super Bowl matchup:
“Manning is playing at an elite level, making great adjustments during the game and it seems like it is impossible to stop him right now. When the run game wasn't working against a tough San Francisco 49ers run defense, he went to a pass-heavy approach, ending up with 318 yards and two TDs on 58 attempts. What makes these numbers so impressive is that he read his progressions and made good decisions while under duress all night, spreading the ball around to eight different receivers. San Francisco sacked him six times -- and had another 12 QB hits -- and yet Manning continued to make plays. He now has an excellent three wide receiver package with tight ends and backs who can catch the ball, and they can really spread the field with creative schemes.”
* ESPN Insider’s KC Joyner thinks he has the formula for the Giants to beat the Patriots: Force Brady into short passes and creating turnovers. Read more of his take HERE.
* The early line on Patriots-Giants has New England favored by 3 points.
What do you think of the matchup? Share your thoughts in the comments section and vote in the accompanying polls.