The big game is finally upon us and it’s time for our comprehensive, yet entertaining Super Bowl preview. We’re going to go into more detail than “the team that scores more will win,” but less detail than the ramifications of the Giants “heavy nickel package.” We’ve already looked at the Patriots offense versus the Giants defense, and now we’re moving on to how the New York offense matches up with the New England defense.
What Do They Do Best?
The Giants have the most explosive trio of receivers in football and field position means virtually nothing with their offense. They can strike quickly and are never out of a game despite the score.
New England isn’t a line-up and stifle their opponent type of defense, but they do a great job of masquerading coverages. The Pats can play a 3-4 or 4-3 depending on their opponent and they can manufacture a pass rush despite not having an elite rusher.
New York finished dead last in the NFL in rushing and they are especially bad in short yardage situations. Although he’s big, Brandon Jacobs doesn’t find holes and Ahmad Bradshaw isn’t built for inside running. There is no big play tight end and as great as the wide receivers are they will drop passes from time to time.
The Pats have one elite player on defense and that’s Vince Wilfork. Aside from him they are very mediocre at most positions and as physical as linebacker Brandon Spikes is, he’s a major liability in coverage. New England plays wide receiver Julian Edelman at nickel cornerback, and although he’s been serviceable he is still no match for good NFL wide receivers.
What’s Most Important?
If New York can decipher the Patriots coverages, Eli Manning will have great success. New England will do whatever they can to limit the exposure of Julian Edelman, but they have to be careful to leave their cornerbacks on islands against Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz.
The Patriots must get pressure on Eli Manning or else he and the Giants wide receivers will connect for big plays no matter how many defenders New England drops in coverage.
What Can We Expect to See?
The Giants should be able to employ a solid screen game and test the edges of the New England defense with the run. As much as New York is a pass-first type of team, you can expect to see a concerted effort to keep balance as long as the score is copacetic.
New York will obviously try to get any of their three talented receivers isolated against Julian Edelman and continually exploit that matchup.
The Patriots are going to show a lot of different looks on defense and bring pressure from different spots. New England will try to force the Giants to throw to the tight ends as they will be isolated against linebackers. Jake Ballard or Bear Pascoe could play a big role in this game.
Top Matchup To Watch:
Giants slot receiver vs. Julian Edelman– This is the matchup that everyone is pointing to as a major edge for the Giants. It’s doubtful that Edelman will be left alone too often but when he is New York must exploit him for some big plays in the passing game. If Edelman can hold his own, New England will be able to get a little more exotic with blitzes and still be able to defend Hakeem Nicks on the outside.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie