Super Bowl Preview #2: Keys to a New York Giants Victory

Eli Manning and the New York Giants shoots for a second Super Bowl victory in 4 years over the New England Patriots.

After taking a look at the New England Patriots’ keys to success in Super Bowl XLVI this Sunday in Indianapolis, we’ll flip the coin over and breakdown the ways in which the New York Giants can overcome in this rematch of Super Bowl XLII, and carry home with them once again the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy. For online sports betting at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here, it’s essential to have as much information about both teams at your disposal before making the last wagers of the NFL football season, so let’s jump into what makes the Giants tick, and what they can do to overcome the favored New England Patriots in tomorrow’s big game.

Without a doubt, this year’s New York Giants team has been a work in progress, and much progress has been made in the second half of the season. After hearing rumors of head coach Tom Coughlin being on the hot seat as the Giants suffered 4 straight losses from Weeks 10 through 13 and the Giants sat at 6-6 with four games to play, all of that talk has been squashed as New York overcame adversity, a league-worst rushing attack, and a lingering confidence problem to finish first in the NFC East. Winning three of their last 4 games including 2 against division-rival Dallas, Eli Manning and the Giants enter tomorrow’s Super Bowl with perhaps more confidence than they’ve had in 4 years, winning 5 straight games now and holding all opponents to under 20 points a game during that stretch. While Eli Manning has certainly shown his moxy as an elite quarterback, it has to be said that without the stand-up performance of the Giants defense down the home stretch, New York would be sitting at home watching this game from the comfort of their collective couches, instead of fighting for their second Super Bowl ring in just 4 years.

While the season statistics for the Giants defense certainly don’t highlight the talent and confidence of this unit, finishing 29th in the NFL against the pass (255.1 yards/game) and 19th against the run (121.3 yards/game), since Week 16 New York has by far and away been the best defense when it matters most. Blanking the Atlanta Falcons at home and holding quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner to no offensive points in a 24-2 win was a statement, but detractors could point to Ryan’s poor road form, and the Falcons lack of success in the postseason as a major factor as well. But once the divisional round came, with the Giants having to take on Aaron Rodgers and the 15-1 Green Bay Packers, you could no longer have any doubts that New York was peaking at the right moment. Holding Rodgers to 264 yards through the air and the Packers offense to just two touchdowns at home, the bend-but-don’t break philosophy was played out to perfection, as the Giants walked out of the historic confines of Lambeau Field with a shocking 37-20 upset over the Super Bowl favorite Packers. Despite allowing 25 first downs, 388 yards of total offense and 6.4 yards per carry to Rodgers, James Starks and Ryan Grant on the ground, it was the turnover margin (4:1) along with heavy pressure on Green Bay’s star QB (4 sacks, 5 hits) that really contributed to the Giants’ success. While you couldn’t discount Eli Manning’s solid day, throwing for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns on a 21 of 33 passing day (114.5 QB rating), the fact that the Giants held strong on defense and only allowed 20 points to the league’s most proficient scoring team (averaging 35 points per game overall, 40.1 points while going 8-0 at home during the regular season), spoke volumes for the improved efforts both on the defensive line and in the secondary, and solidified their position as a legitimate contender for the Super Bowl once more.

Breaking down the Giants on defense, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has without a doubt been the star of the show this season, finishing 4th in the league with 16.5 sacks in just his second season, 3rd in opponents’ yards lost (112), and by far and away the most tackles out of any top pass rusher (86 total tackles, 16 more than anyone with 8 or more sacks). At 6’5″ and 278 lbs, he’s a match-up nightmare with his quickness and long frame, and it will be of utmost importance for him to have some success getting at Tom Brady, one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game. As mentioned in the Patriots breakdown on Thursday, Brady could find success stepping up into the pocket to avoid the outside pass rush, so on the flipside of that, New York needs to be good at closing down the pocket entirely, and make Brady uncomfortable enough that he has to move outside his comfort zone. Brady is one, if not the, least mobile of the elite quarterbacks in the league, and heaping pressure on him is job number one for JPP. What’s great for the Giants however is the fact that they have not one, but a handful of capable pass rushers to throw at Brady, perhaps an even better squad than the one that hounded the Pat’s star QB in Super Bowl XLII, sacking him 5 times, intercepting him twice, and knocking him down 8. Among the top players on the Giants increasingly proud and confident defense, Justin Tuck truly is the leader for the Giants on the defensive line, steadily improving after being hampered by injuries late in the season, and turned in a solid performance in the win over San Francisco, getting 1.5 sacks and 4 tackles. Adding in fellow defensive end Osi Umenyiora (9 sacks), tackle Chris Canty (4 sacks) and linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka (84 tackles, 3.5 sacks), there’s little doubt that after the 5th straight game holding teams to two touchdowns or less, this unit is playing at the top of their game, and getting a good performance against an elite quarterback and one of the league’s most able scoring machines in the Patriots will be essential towards a Giants win on Super Bowl Sunday.

Flipping the coin over to the offensive side of things, it’s finally safe to say that after two Super Bowl appearances in 4 years, and a season in which he threw for 4,933 total yards and 29 touchdowns with a 92.9 QB rating, Eli Manning deserves his standing as an elite quarterback in the NFL. Especially considering the Giants running game, which was almost non-existent for the better part of the year and produced less than 90 yards per contest during the regular season, Manning’s ability to carry the team with the passing game and turn in clutch performances late in games solidifies him as one of the best contenders in the game today. That said, one big area the Manning has to be in control of against an opportunistic Patriots defense, is avoiding the big interception and the costly fumble. While he’s a top-5 quarterback in total yards, yards/game (308.3) and completed passes (359), as well as top-10 in QB rating and touchdowns thrown, he’s also a top-10 QB in interceptions (16) and fumbles lost (4). Giving the Patriots more opportunities with the football due to costly turnovers will very likely result in points scored against the Giants, so Manning must be careful with the football when the Patriots rush at him, and avoid trying to do too much just to get away from a sack. The Patriots secondary, while one of the worst on the season overall allowing 293.9 yards/game through the air, love it when opposing quarterbacks try to force the football at them, and will make Manning pay if he’s not careful.

Looking to the brighter side of things for the Giants offense, it’s all about the receiving corps, which despite not producing a Pro-Bowl nomination, remains as one of the most dangerous fleet of targets in the league for Eli Manning. Victor Cruz is at the center of any discussion regarding the New York passing game, turning in an outstanding year with 1,536 yards on 82 catches and 9 touchdowns. It’s absolutely criminal that Cruz, who broke the single-season yardage record for the Giants, and finished 9th in catches, 6th in touchdowns, 4th in yards/catch (18.7) and 3rd in yardage, was not a consideration for a Pro Bowl spot. However, none of that will matter if Cruz has a big performance tonight that contributes to a Giants Super Bowl victory. Against a Patriots defense that is very shaky against the pass, Cruz will see plenty of balls come his way, but for him to have a stand-out game tonight, it’ll be crucial for the Giants’ receivers to collectively have success, and force the Pats into man-to-man coverage for most of the game. Any opposing team certainly can’t discount the presence of Hakeem Nicks (76 catches, 1,192 yards, 7 TDs), who while not turning in a huge game against San Francisco in the NFC Championship (5 catches, 55 yards), absolutely torched the lesser pass defenses of Atlanta and Green Bay for a total of 13 catches, 280 yards and 4 touchdowns. Also, the presence of Mario Manningham (39 catches, 523 yards, 4 TDs in the regular season) has to be taken into account. While he’s the third option for Eli Manning amongst the Giants’ wide receivers, he’s also had touchdown catches in all three playoff games thus far, and with the Pats’ focus in the secondary hedged on limiting Cruz and Nicks, Manningham once again could be a sneaky target in the endzone, and a difference maker in the game.

Lastly for the New York Giants we take a look at their running game, which through the regular season was almost non-existent mainly due to lingering injuries to Ahmad Bradshaw (171 carries, 659 yards, 9 TDs), but will be a key factor in the Super Bowl on Sunday. Both Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs (152 carries, 571 yards, 7 TDs) come off their poorest performances in a season in recent memory, averaging collectively 3.7 yards/carry and contributing to the Giants being the worst rushing team in the league in yards/carry overall (3.5). However it’s interesting to note that between them Bradshaw and Jacobs have combined for 16 touchdowns on the season, to which adding in the 1 rushing TD produced by Eli Manning, puts New York as the 6th best scoring rush attack in the league this year. That means that when the Giants do inevitably get down in the red zone, Bradshaw and Jacobs are going to have to be productive, and convert on touchdown tries. While the Pats are susceptible against the pass, they’ll be even more so if the Giants can get these two bruisers running downhill through the New England defensive line. The Patriots have been much improved against the run, most recently holding Ray Rice to 67 yards and a 3.2 yards/carry in the AFC Championship, so for New York to avoid becoming too one-sided on offense, they have to get at least a few break-out runs from their two hard-headed backs. Brandon Jacobs especially could pose a big issue for the Pats defensive line, as if he’s utilized enough and wears out opposing tacklers, the New York O-line will have an easier time defending against the pass rush later in the game.

While the Giants have a lot going for them coming into this year’s Super Bowl match-up, having the momentum on their side after 5 straight victories, playing the best defensive football at the right moment, and also will have the Indianapolis crowd on their side (the Patriots have no love in Indy, while the Manning family is well-loved there), this game boils down to whether or not the Giants can execute their game plan behind Eli Manning, and overcome a poised, well-coached team in the Patriots, led by one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game. You can pretty much throw everything that’s happened previously out the window when it comes to the Super Bowl, as on the biggest stage in all of sports, it’s simply a matter of which team makes the fewest mistakes, and which team plays better for 60 minutes. As an underdog, I think the New York Giants are the best pick for the money heading into this match-up, as they’ve shown incredible defensive poise, and have also shown that they have the offensive capabilities to go tit-for-tat with one of the highest scoring offenses in the league. Through all the breakdowns across all the ranks of both teams, and all the analysts, bookmakers and pretenders collective predictions, Super Bowl XLVI might simply come down to no more than which elite quarterback gets the last shot with the football, and whether that quarterback can deliver the right pass at the right time before time runs out. Eli Manning has certainly proven himself to be the man that can bring home another trophy for the New York Giants’ faithful, and when looking at which team will be able to hold up in the waning moments of the game, I definitely like the Giants chances more than the Patriots, as in this case, defense will be what gives up the championship, not what necessarily wins it. Though Tom Brady and the Patriots are certain to be in the mix late in this game, Manning and his fleet of talented receivers are what I’m getting behind to secure a victory in this year’s pinnacle of the NFL season, as they’ve proven that even when down and seemingly out of the ballgame, they have the ability to remain poised and clutch under pressure to overcome all odds.

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