Super Bowl XLVI Preview

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Usually when two teams meet head-to-head who are from the same part of the country, the matchup doesn’t draw a big nationwide audience.

This year’s Super Bowl features two teams from the Northeast, but fans across the nation will still be tuned into this week’s mega-event, because when all is said and done, it’s still the Super Bowl. The New York Giants will be facing the New England Patriots Sunday in Indianapolis to decide who the champion will be.

New York Giants

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New York Giants' Eli Manning (10) stretches with teammates during practice, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, in Indianapolis. The Giants will face the New England Patriots in the NFL football Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5.(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eli Manning and the New York Giants earned a trip to the Super Bowl by getting hot when it really mattered. The Giants finished the regular season with a 9-7 record, including losses to the sub-.500 Redskins and Seahawks, and barely squeaked into the postseason as a wild card.

In the playoffs, Manning led his team to a 22-point victory over the Atlanta Falcons. New York next beat national favorites and reigning Super Bowl champs, the Green Bay Packers. Most recently, the Giants continued their winning streak and clinched a Super Bowl appearance by stopping the red-hot San Francisco 49ers in overtime, 20-17.

Now the Giants look to slow down quarterback phenom Tom Brady. New York has a pair of defensive ends who caused havoc for Aaron Rogers and Alex Smith; look for the defensive line to put a lot of pressure on Brady.

With a pass defense ranked 29th in the league, the best defense might be a good offense, or simply keeping Brady off the field. Manning has big-time receivers in Victor Cruz and Hawkeem Nicks, who both pulled in more than 1,000 receiving yards this season. The Giants have won 6 of their last 7 playoff games.

New England Patriots

For Bill Belichick and his superstar quarterback, Brady, this game is an opportunity to enter the history books as the best team of the last decade.  The Patriots are making their fifth trip to the Super Bowl in 10 years, having won in 2002, 2004 and 2005 while losing in 2008. Brady has the opportunity to join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana, the only two quarterbacks in history that have four Super Bowl victories.

The Patriot Way, a coaching philosophy established by Belichick, led to 13 wins in the regular season and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The team has blitzed through the regular season once again, piling up touchdowns through the air and making stars out of unheralded players.

With a defense built around massive defensive lineman Vince Wilfork (6-2, 325 pounds), the Patriots plowed their way to the second worst ranked defense in the league. The numbers are deceptive though, because the NFL ranks defenses by yards per game. Defenses have been making their way up and down the field against New England, but have averaged 21.4 points per game.

The strength of the team is one constant of the Belichick era in Boston – an offensive line that keeps pressure off Tom Brady. In 2007, the Patriots worked the ball deep to Randy Moss. In 2011, the team has unleashed tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in a break from traditional NFL offenses.

The Rematch

The Giants and the Patriots faced off in the Super Bowl in 2008. Tom Brady and the Patriots were undefeated throughout the entire year and came into the game as 10-point favorites. But New York stunned the nation by rallying in the fourth quarter to claim the victory, 17-14.

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But the two teams are different from when they faced each other in 2008. They also played earlier this season, with Eli Manning throwing a last-minute touchdown pass to win the game, 24-20. Brady threw two interceptions, giving the Giants an opportunity to keep the game close.

Will the game be a replay of the game earlier this season? Will Tom Brady find time in the pocket to hit his open receivers? Will the Giants find the ability to run the ball and control the clock?

We’ll have to wait and see.

Prediction: Patriots 27 – Giants 24

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