I'LL TAKE THE MENTALLY TOUGH PATS OVER THE OVERHYPED GIANTSBy Mike Reiss
Help me out here. When did the New York Giants go from the 9-7 team that had to win in the final week to clinch a playoff berth to the sure-fire Super Bowl winner? When did the team that was outscored 400-394 in the regular season become such a lock?
The Giants are a solid team. Well-coached. Tough and physical. And the way they play presents some matchup issues for the Patriots, specifically how they can generate a pass rush with the standard four rushers.
A lot of attention has been placed on what the Giants can do, and in the process, my sense is that many are overlooking what powers the Patriots.
As lethal as the Giants' pass rush can be, the Patriots' offense can be just as devastating. This is a high-powered attack, especially when it decides to shift into no-huddle mode, something the Giants didn't see too much of when the teams met Nov. 6. Let's see how that attacking defense looks in the fourth quarter if the Patriots turn up the heat with some high-pressure, no-huddle offense.
While a less-than-100-percent Rob Gronkowski is naturally a concern for the Patriots, they still have dynamic playmakers in Wes Welker (NFL-high 122 receptions in the regular season) and Aaron Hernandez (79). The offensive line, a key in this matchup, has protected well and will likely be getting starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer back after he missed the last seven games.
Add in a defense that has grown over the course of the season, with lineman Vince Wilfork playing the best football of his career, and the question is this: If both teams play their best games, who wins?
I'll take the 13-3 team that has generated positive momentum in the playoffs over the 9-7 team that has done the same.
There is a tie-in here from the days leading up to the Patriots' Nov. 13 game at the Jets.
Around that time, many were jumping off the Patriots' bandwagon. I went the other way based on a feeling that a group of strong-minded, talented players would band together and find a way to pull through in a critical moment. They did.
I think the same thing happens Sunday.
Mike Reiss is in Indianapolis covering the Patriots in the Super Bowl for ESPNBoston.com.
Big Blue's even better than the last time they beat PatsBy Ohm Youngmisuk
When the New York Giants stormed into the visitors' locker room at Gillette Stadium following a 24-20 win over the Patriots in early November, they celebrated one of their best wins of the season by lifting Tom Coughlin.
They had not only beaten Tom Brady in his house but they beat him in the same fashion that the Patriots' clutch quarterback sometimes pulls out his victories. They won with a last-minute drive and they did so without the injured Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw and David Baas.
Three months later, the Giants and Patriots meet again in Super Bowl XLVI and Coughlin's team is considerably better than the one that stunned Brady and Bill Belichick in Foxborough.
While the Patriots have won 10 straight and are a better team since that game, the Giants went through the gauntlet of a killer schedule and not only survived but their defense and overall chemistry have improved tremendously. And their confidence continues to soar.
The Giants believe there isn't any obstacle or team they can't overcome. They've survived numerous season-ending injuries and have overcome various fourth-quarter deficits with incredible comebacks. The Giants have developed the kind of battle-tested armor that can only come from having faced premier teams like Green Bay, New Orleans, San Francisco and New England.
It doesn't matter whether they play on the road in hostile territory in the Green Bay cold or the driving rain in San Francisco. Eli Manning has found a way to move the ball against even a 49ers defense that hit him 12 times.
The Giants' defense has been rolling since beating Rex's Jets on Christmas Eve. Even the special teams, a unit that was maligned in 2010, is making game-changing contributions like the two forced fumbles on punts against San Francisco.
And the Giants know they possess the Patriots' kryptonite. Not only is Eli a Pats-killer but the Giants' pass rush has a way of making Brady look more like Clark Kent than Superman. In November, when the Giants' defense wasn't as good, Perry Fewell's squad had Brady looking confused and out of rhythm for three quarters.
The Patriots may not have lost since then, but the Giants have become a much better team. And with Nicks and Bradshaw playing this time, they believe they'll make it three straight wins over Brady and Belichick.Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.