New York's got Big Blue fever right now and the kickoff to Super Bowl 46 can't come soon enough.
The next few hours are going to be filled with tons of discussion about the Giants' chances of stuffing the Patriots short of the title for the second time in five years so we thought it would be a good idea to give everyone a little help making their cases. While our local rooting interests are clear, the spirit of competition demands that we give equal time to both sides.
Why the Giants Can Lose to the Patriots
1. The dirty little secret obscured by the endless yapping of the Giants defensive line this week about how they can rattle Tom Brady is that the pass rush wasn't overwhelming in the team's 24-20 win in Foxborough earlier this season. The Patriots were trying to get Chad Ochocinco going in that game and saw Brady miss on passes he usually completes in his sleep. Neither one is likely to happen again.
2. Pace is going to be very important to this game and the biggest vulnerability the Giants have is if the Patriots find momentum with a no-huddle offense that can keep them in advantageous situations against a defense that can't make substitutions. The Giants want to force the Pats into a lot of third-and-longs, but the Patriots offense can avoid those by hitting the Giants soft spots.
3. Pass rush isn't just something the Giants can use to their advantage. Despite not sacking Eli Manning in that earlier meeting, the Patriots pressured him often and hit him a lot, two things that should be worrisome for a Giants team that has seen their offensive line play fall off a cliff this season.
4. Bill Belichick has gotten this team to the Super Bowl despite a lack of talented wide receivers and a defense that had to be almost completely made over in the middle of the season. He's had two weeks to plan for this one and you can be sure that he's come up with some wrinkles that the Giants haven't contemplated.
5. Luck is a hard thing to decipher, but the Giants have had remarkably good fortune in the turnover department this year, especially when Manning lets loose one of his pressured throws into traffic. Two of them fell incomplete when 49ers defenders ran into each other in the NFC title game, but the Patriots might have the bounces go their way come Sunday.
Why the Giants Can Beat the Patriots
1. All disclaimers above still qualify, but the Giants pass rush is definitely good enough to make life miserable for Brady. The Pats offensive line is good, but Logan Mankins and Matt Light have been exposed before by the Giants and it won't take more than a few big rushes to force the Patriots out of their comfort zone.
2. The Giants have too many weapons at wide receiver for a Patriots secondary that relies on castoffs, cornerbacks moved to safety and converted wide receiver Julian Edelman. Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks are all capable of turning an innocuous catch into a backbreaking touchdown and Manning is comfortable throwing to all three of them whenever the matchup presents itself.
3. Speaking of Manning, there's no situation that daunts the Giants quarterback. Whether he faces third-and-15, time running down in the fourth quarter or another breakdown by his offensive line, Manning has proven time and again that he can make the play that needs to be made. That's a nice safety net to have under your team.
4. Call it a hunch, but it feels like Ahmad Bradshaw is due for a big day after a season spent battling injuries and sitting behind the sluggish Brandon Jacobs far too often. His speed will be a problem for the Patriots front seven and his skill as a pass blocker will help the Giants remain unpredictable as long as he's in the game.
5. We talk a lot about things like coaching, momentum, confidence and game plans but, ultimately, football comes down to talent more often than not. The Giants have more of it than the Patriots this year and that makes for the easiest reason to see them hoisting the trophy when all is said and done.