The New England Patriots (13-3 regular season) will square off against the New York Giants (9-7 regular season) in Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5. The road to the big game was markedly different for each team – the Giants squeaked into the playoffs on the heels of a 31-14 victory over the Cowboys on the last week of the regular season, while the Patriots have been cruising through games as of late and haven’t been defeated since Nov. 6.
Once in the playoffs the two again had different paths – the Giants, as the 4th seed in the NFC, had to play three games to make it to the Super Bowl, beating the Falcons (24-2), the Packers (37-20), and the 49ers (20-17). Meanwhile the Patriots enjoyed a first round bye, returning to action to beat the Broncos (45-10) and the Ravens (23-20). It marks New England’s seventh trip to the Super Bowl, while New York has been to five – their most recent including 2007’s dramatic Super Bowl victory over the Patriots, who will undoubtedly be eager to avenge the loss.
The Patriots are familiar with the Super Bowl routine, having been to five since the year 2000 and ranking second in the league for regular season passing yards and passing yards per game. The offensive capabilities are undermined by their performance on defense, however – they ranked second to last in overall defense during the 2011 season. Averaging 32.1 points per game helped make up for a statistically weak defense, however, and the Patriots averaged an astonishing 428 total yards per game.
The Giants, on the other hand, forced a respectable 20 interceptions and 11 fumbles on defense, en route to a turnover ratio of 7, the sixth best in the NFC. The Giants also find themselves tied for second in the league in interception returns for touchdowns. New York showed its formidable defense during the playoffs, holding their opponents to 2, 20, and 17 points in each of their three games – an average of just 13 points per game, an impressive figure.
The play off the two opposing quarterbacks, Tom Brady (NE) and Eli Manning (NYG) is another talking point ahead of the big game. The last time the two met in the Super Bowl (2008), Brady had a q.b. rating of just 82.46, well below his norm. It was Manning who won the day, hitting Plaxico Burress with a go-ahead touchdown pass with just 35 seconds left on the clock en route to a q.b. rating of 87.25 – outplaying Brady in the year’s biggest game. Brady is coming off a weak game against the tough Ravens defense in which he threw for only 239 yards and two interceptions. Manning, meanwhile, had
to contend with the ever-dangerous 49er defense but did well, putting up 316 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. It remains to be seen which Super Bowl winning quarterback will have the last laugh when the teams clash at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 3.
– Serek Hahn, Staff Writer