I feel like I might have missed something in the wake of all the Pro-Bowl hype and awesomeness. ... Oh, wait, never mind, the game that everyone talks about and decides the NFL championship is this week. My bad.
Yes, a week after the irrelevancy contest that is the NFL Pro Bowl, the Giants and Patriots square off in a rematch of the 2007-08 Super Bowl, when Eli Manning, David Tyree's helmet, and the New York Giants' pass rush derailed a Patriots offensive juggernaut cruising for a perfect season.
For my take on the game itself, hit the jump. Otherwise, this is your open thread until gametime. As always, Open Thread Responsibly (TM).
Four years ago, the Giants took down the Patriots in a defensive struggle cemented by a dominant pass rush and one of the toughest catches that I can ever recall seeing. A Patriots offense that put together a league record 589 points and 50 passing touchdowns, and had allowed all of 21 sacks on the season, was held to 274 total yards and one passing touchdown (in the fourth quarter to Randy Moss) and allowed five sacks to a unit that collected 52 of them during the season.
Now, looking at prior games won't tell us a damn thing. But the same formula applies. This year, the Giants picked up 48 sacks after struggling defensively with injuries most of the season. The Patriots come in with an offense scoring 39 passing touchdowns and racking up 5084 passing yards (allowing 32 sacks), to go with 18 rushing touchdowns and 1764 rushing yards.
When the Patriots have the ball, I see it as being more of the same - Brady chased by a dominant New York pass rush. Whether Bill Belichick can scheme the offense differently to account for the pass rush (because whatever he did in 2007 didn't exactly work) will likely be the difference in this game. Rob Gronkowski will be extremely helpful here, as tight end Ben Watson wasn't exactly the receiving threat in 2007-8 that Gronkowski (and Aaron Hernandez) are.
When the Giants have the ball, it could be a similar story, though I'd say it's still in the Giants' favor. Manning the Younger was sacked 28 times himself and the Patriots picked up 40 sacks, so they're no slouches, with ten sacks being taken by ex-Bear Mark Anderson and another ten by Pro Bowler Andre Carter. Factor in Vince Wilfork, Pro Bowler himself, having an excellent year stopping the run and the line could be set up for a game.
While the Patriots have an edge at tight end, I'd give the receivers edge to the Giants, working against a mediocre-to-not-good pass defense. The Patriots do rank second in interceptions, which the Giants had 16 of during the regular season, but the Giants' offense has had only one turnover in the playoffs, and only two since their last loss to the Redskins in Week 15.
Then there's the run game. The Patriots have Vince Wilfork, sure, but if the Giants can spring one decent run, they can get their play-action passing game working - and I shouldn't need to mention Victor Cruz having a 1500-yard season under that as an UDFA. Oddly enough, the Patriots have more rushing yards and one more rushing touchdown than do the Giants, yet they can't run the ball and the Giants have a rushing offense. Hm.
The bottom line for me is this... Both teams throw the ball, with much effectiveness, and both are top-ten offenses in general. But the Giants have the edge in both weapons depth to make plays and stretch the field, and in pass rush, and to me, that's the difference.