Just like in 2008 the silver trophy game comes down to New York versus New England. In 2008, New York, because of a miraculous 4th down catch, provided the biggest upset in championship history over New England. Four years later, and NY will be looking to provide fireworks again as an underdog.
New England goes into the game as a 3 point favorite. At this point, although New England is favored, most Pro Football betting handicappers are backing New York, 60% to 40%, but the number is off for the simple fact that the game is still quite a ways away. On paper, the two teams appear to be evenly matched meaning that another close, tough, game will be in the works at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana on February 5.
Things have changed for both the New York Giants and the New England Patriots since the 2008 Super Bowl. The New England Patriots went 16 and 0 during the regular season in 2007. The Pats sent eight players to the Pro Bowl that year including a wide receiver named Randy Moss. Four years later and Moss is no longer with the team. Neither is cornerback Asante Samuel nor linebacker Mike Vrabel. The season ended with a 14 to 17 loss to the G-Men in Super Bowl XLII.
But the team that New England sends to Super Bowl XLVI isn't all different. QB Tom Brady, who will be playing in his fifth Super Bowl on February 5 and who has three Super Bowl rings already, will be under center at kick-off. Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback to ever step onto an NFL football field, has thrown for 5235 yards and 39 touchdowns leading up to this season's Super Bowl. He has wide receiver Wes Welker, who played on the 2008 Super Bowl team, to throw the ball to. Mr. Brady also has two of the most talented tight-ends in football, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, to deliver the pigskin to. Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez are a three-headed monster that teams had trouble containing almost every week during the regular season.
On defense, the Patriots, who ended the season allowing over 400 passing yards per game, appear to have rounded into form. With linebacker Jerod Mayo now healthy, the Patriots can help left end Vince Wilfork pressure the quarterback. Pressure on the QB forced Denver signal-caller Tim Tebow into a 9 out of 26 night in the Patriots' 45 to 10 victory over Denver in the Divisional Playoffs Round and Baltimore QB Joe Flacco into an interception in New England's 23 to 20 victory over the Ravens in the AFC Championship.
Like the Patriots, the New York Giants return some players from that 2008 Super Bowl victory. QB Eli Manning has put himself into the elite category by leading his team to a second Super Bowl. The younger Manning, who has thrown for 4933 yards and 29 touchdowns leading up to Super Bowl XLVI, is coming off of an 82.3 QB rating against the San Francisco 49'ers in the Giants' 20 to 17 victory, but before that, he was stellar. Eli produced QB ratings of 129.3 versus the Atlanta Falcons in the Wildcard Round and a QB rating of 114.5 versus Green Bay in the Divisional Playoffs Round. Manning has his own three-headed monster to throw to in wide receivers Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham. All three have been impressive. Manningham has 3 touchdowns in the Giants' three playoff games this season on only 7 catches. Cruz caught 10 passes for 142 yards versus San Francisco's stout defense and Nicks had 7 catches for 2 touchdowns and 165 yards against the Green Bay Packers. The Giants' rushing game is decent, as opposed to New England's, which is close to non-existent. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are both serviceable and can break a long 20 to 30 yard run in certain situations.
The Giants' defense, like New England's, has gelled. The G-Men allowed Atlanta to rack up only 247 yards. The D gave up only 388 yards and 20 points to Green Bay, not bad considering that the Packers averaged 405 yards and 35 points during the season. Then, in the NFC Championship, the Giants allowed San Francisco to score only 15 points.
Although there are many Super Bowl stories to discuss leading up to the game, good defenses, great pass-catchers and solid future hall-of-fame coaches in Bill Belichick for New England and Tom Coughlin for the New York Giants, the real story regarding Super Bowl XLVI will come down to the duel between Eli Manning and Tom Brady. Can Manning, who hails from one of football's most famous families, win his second Super Bowl? Can Tom Brady, the former 6th round pick who took over for the Patriots in 2001 and led his team to a Super Bowl title as a decided underdog versus the St. Louis Rams, avenge his only Super Bowl defeat?
Football bettors had better get ready. Super Bowl XLVI on February 5th promises to be one of the most exciting ever.