Super Bowl XLVI Preview #1: Keys to a New England Patriots Victory

Tom Brady will be in full command of his top-rated New England Patriots offense against the hard-hitting New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.

As we get ever-so-close to the peak of the NFL’s 2011-2012 campaign, it’s a perfect time to take a deeper dive into the two teams competing for the Super Bowl XLVI title. For today we’ll break down the keys to success for the New England Patriots, who will look for redemption against the New York Giants, the underdog victors who overcame all odds to pull out a 17-14 win in Super Bowl XLII in 2008. Before you jump into your sports betting picks on the Super Bowl at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here, you’ll want to have as much information on the two teams as possible, in order to make the best wagers for the final NFL game of the year. Let’s start with a look at what makes the New England Patriots tick, and what they need to do in order to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana on February 5th, 2012.

Without question, no discussion regarding the New England Patriots can start without a look at Tom Brady, winner of 3 Super Bowls, 2 Super Bowl MVPs, and the man at the helm behind the NFL’s top scoring and most proficient offense in the league. Credit has to go where credit is due and for this year, with Brady leading the Patriots to an average of 36.8 points per game and 411.3 total yards per game, it’s been a truly exceptional campaign for the star quarterback who has led his team via a passing attack that averaged 317.8 yards/game. Setting the mark for the second-most yards in NFL passing history (5,235) and with a stellar 105.6 passer rating on the season, Brady was able to take full advantage of a pair of outstanding tight ends including record-setter Rob Gronkowski (1,327 yards, 17 TDs) and Aaron Hernandez (910 yards, 7 TDs), who formed the basis of the New England passing attack this year. Not to be overlooked though, Wes Welker, who easily led the NFL with 122 receptions and finished second in yardage gained with 1569, continues to be a quick, sneaky receiver capable of catching just about any ball Tom Brady throws to him, and compliments the tight end tandem of Gronkowski and Hernandez well via his ability to pull down catches even in the tightest of coverage. Though it’s still a question as to whether Gronk will be able to be effective on Sunday, as he’s continuing to deal with a high-ankle sprain, there’s little question as to whether Tom Brady will be able to find success against a Giants secondary that while greatly improved from earlier this season, still can find itself susceptible to precision passing. Remember, this is the same Tom Brady that torched the New York Giants for 342 yards and two touchdowns in Super Bowl XLII. The main question for him is whether he can improve on the two interceptions he gave up in that game, which certainly played a part in the sneaky 17-14 win for the Giants.

Another area of concern for the Patriots faithful heading into this game is how Tom Brady handles the New York Giants pass rush, which is perhaps the most formidable in the NFL behind the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul (16.5 sacks), Osi Umenyiora (9.0 sacks) and Justin Tuck (5.0 sacks). It’s been the improved health and subsequent better play of Tuck that has really seen the Giants come into their own as a top-rated pass-rush defense, and with the Giants fully set on getting at Brady once again (Brady was sacked 5 times and knocked down 8 in Super Bowl XLII), Brady is going to have to be surgical in his pass selection, and avoid standing in the pocket too long. However, with the Giants riding a tide of success throughout the playoffs hedged on outstanding defensive play (they’ve not allowed more than 20 points in their last six games), one can expect New York to be naturally on the verge of overconfidence in this match-up with New England. The Patriots and Brady could do well to take advantage of that confidence if the offensive line, now healthy and led by veterans Matt Light, Logan Mankins and Brian Waters, can help deflect the pass rush to the outside, and allow Brady time to step up in the pocket and hit his big tight ends over the middle or find Wes Welker out near the sidelines. Remember that while the Patriots O-line wasn’t physically healthy for most of the year, they’ll have a confident front-five unit that comes into the Super Bowl after allowing only 1 sack over this year’s two playoff games, against the two very talented pass rush defenses of Denver and Baltimore. If Brady can stay upright and gets time to throw against a Giants secondary that ranked 29th in the league allowing 255.1 yards/game through the air, New England stands a very good chance at overcoming the Giants on Super Bowl Sunday. If the Giants can force Brady into making questionable throws into man coverage, it could be a long night of frustration for the 7-time Pro Bowler.

Looking at the other side of the offensive coin for New England, lead running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (181 carries, 667 yards, 11 TDs) is another key factor for the New England Patriots, even if he hasn’t been a huge contributor on a regular basis this season. In the AFC Championship game against Baltimore two weeks ago, the ‘Law Office’ ran hard, and looked strong against the league’s top-rated rush defense, putting down 15 carries for 68 yards and a TD while Tom Brady struggled with just 239 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. While we likely can’t expect a 100-yard rushing day ahead, as New England leans so strongly on the passing game, giving Green-Ellis 15-20 touches will certainly help to alleviate some pressure and some hits on Tom Brady, and keep the Giants a little more honest on defense. What I’d also like to see is a bit bigger contribution from the speedy Danny Woodhead (77 carries, 351 yards, 1 TD), who could be a sneaky option for head coach Bill Belichick to keep his offense mixed up well against the Giants’ formidable defensive line. While Woodhead, like BenJarvus Green-Ellis, hasn’t been given many attempts this year due to the pass-heavy nature of the Patriots’ offense, the strength of GreenĀ­-Ellis to plow forward combined with the agile nature of Woodhead to avoid tacklers could end up burning the Giants, who will hedge their defensive game plan heavily on getting at Tom Brady. It’s been all quiet in regards to talk about New England’s rushing attack leading up to the big game, so New England could find an advantage leaning more on their running game (20th in the NFL during the regular season at 110.3 yards/game) behind an offensive line that continues to get healthier and more confident.

Now on to the ugly part, the New England Patriots defense. Ranking next to last in the league allowing 293.9 yards/game through the air, the Pats secondary has been almost a laughing stock for the better part of the season, however there has been notable improvement in this year’s playoffs that should give Pats fans a little relief heading into the match-up against the hot hand of Eli Manning and the very talented Giants receiver corps. New England has been very opportunistic against the pass, generating 23 interceptions on the season (T-3rd in the NFL), and with the return of safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Brandon Spikes, New England has shed 85 total yards from their bottom line (411 total yards/game allowed during the regular season, 325 in the playoffs), and looks to be much improved for the Super Bowl as they’ve had a few weeks to prepare with a cohesive unit that is building confidence. It has to be noted that New England hasn’t played with the same core group of players for more than two weeks at a time this season, so with time to heal and get on the same page before the Super Bowl, we can likely expect the best defensive effort on the season for the Patriots secondary.

Luckily for New England, who has a reasonably stout rush defense, the main focus of preparation will be against the pass, as New York ranked dead last in the league at 89.2 yards/game on the ground behind Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. While the Giants did have plenty of success on the ground against Atlanta on Wild Card weekend (generating 172 total yards rushing), that occurred due to the fact that Atlanta was never in the ball game, and after the first half Eli Manning didn’t have to do much other than hand the ball off. Therefore, all Patriots eyes will be turned towards stopping the likes of Giants’ receivers including the stand-out Victor Cruz (82 catches, 1536 yards, 9 TDs), Hakeem Nicks (76 catches, 1192 yards, 7 TDs), and Mario Manningham (39 catches, 523 yards, 4 TDs). Tasked with handling the brunt of those assignments will be the previously injured trio of Kyle Arrington, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, who lead a ragtag grouping of defensive backs that more resembles the team built by Gene Hackman’s character Jimmy McGinty in the 2000 film ‘The Replacements’, than an elite-level, Super Bowl contender. Safety James Ihedigbo, a former special teams player, and cornerback Sterling Moore, an undrafted free agent, will have to step up and find a way to limit the effectiveness of the Giants receivers, especially after the catch. As we’ve seen with Victor Cruz most notably, New York’s receivers are elusive, shifty, and can break tackles that create extra first downs and big yardage plays. The Patriots defensive backs, while not expected to shut down Eli Manning and an elite receiving corps like the Giants have, must do their best to limit the overall damage done, and if they can pull in an interception or two and hold Manning under 300 yards for the game, can consider themselves successful in the Super Bowl.

So there you have it. The New England Patriots, a familiar team in the Super Bowl, will certainly have a well-built game plan derived from one of the best head coaches to ever oversee the game, and will lean heavily on Tom Brady as per usual to carry the team towards victory. However, it’s the less glamorous roles for New England, namely along the offensive line, the running back group, and the defensive secondary that truly need to fill big shoes in this year’s NFL title game in order for the Patriots to emerge victorious over the New York Giants. If you’re backing the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, make sure to check out the best betting lines and odds across the top online sportsbooks found right here, and place your wagers soon for what is certain to be a fantastic rematch between two of the NFL’s most storied franchises. We’ll take a deeper look into the New York Giants’ keys to a Super Bowl victory ahead, so make sure to stay tuned for more updates here to get you better prepared for online sportsbook betting on the biggest sporting event in the world!

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