At about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, the last two teams standing in the NFL -- the New York Giants (12-7) and the New England Patriots (15-3) -- will face off in Super Bowl XLVI. It's a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, when the Giants edged out the Pats, 17-14. This time, though, the Patriots are looking for redemption. Here's a closer look at the final two teams.
Quarterbacks: Eli Manning (Giants) and Tom Brady (Patriots)
Manning, the younger brother of superstar Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, is making his second Super Bowl appearance. Though he has been inconsistent in the past, he's been red-hot this postseason, throwing for 316 yards and two touchdowns in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. Brady was terrific in the postseason opener against Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos, throwing for six touchdowns. However, in the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens, he threw no touchdowns and two interceptions. Still, "Tom Terrific" wins the matchup between these QBs.
Running Backs: Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw (Giants) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Patriots)
After having the league's worst rushing offense in the regular season, the Giants' running game continued to struggle against the 49ers as they rushed for only 85 yards on 26 carries, for 3.3 yards a carry. The Patriots were not much better during the regular season, with the 20th ranked running game in the league. This will be a key facet on the offensive side of the game, because both teams have terrific passing games. I see Green-Ellis having a breakout game.
The Giants have one of the best young receiving corps in the game, with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz. Manningham is capable of breaking out at any moment, and both Nicks and Cruz surpassed the 1,000-yard milestone for this season. For the Patriots, there is Wes Welker, who caught 122 passes this year for 1,569 yards, and Deion Branch. A bright spot for the Pats is their duo of tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Ron Gronkowski, a Williamsville native. Even though "Gronk" was the Pat's leading receiver with 1,327 yards, the Giants still have the edge in this matchup.
Both of these teams have fairly mediocre defenses, so expect a shootout. One bright spot for the Giants is their vicious pass rush, led by Jason Pierre-Paul, with a team-leading 16.5 sacks. Brady will definitely be rushed around the pocket by this rush, much like Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers' quarterback, was forced to in the divisional matchup, a game that saw the Giants blow out Green Bay, 37-20. The Patriots are a dismal 31st in the league in pass defense, and 17th in run defense, while the Giants sport the 29th-best pass defense in the league and 17th in run defense. The Giants and their bloodthirsty defensive line win this matchup.
This is actually a fairly even matchup, and should be an enjoyable and entertaining game. Brady and the Patriots come in with plenty of Super Bowl experience, but the Giants also have some experience in football's biggest game. Expect the Patriots to be more than ready for a rematch, eager to redeem themselves after the Super Bowl XLII loss to the Giants. But Brady will quickly find that the Giants' defense is not very kind to opposing quarterbacks, and eventually the Giants' offense will come away with the win. I predict the MVP to be Victor Cruz, the New York wideout, and for the Giants to win again, by a score of 31-23.
Sean Wright is a freshman at Clarence High School.