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Inside the Matchup
Super Bowl

By: Damon Autry | Sal Marcoccio | Chris Eakin | Kyle Smith

 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Autry 47 18 72.3
2 Marcoccio 47 20 70.1
3 Smith 43 23 65.2
4 Eakin 40 28 58.8

Giants vs. Patriots - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Eli Manning had a terrific regular season that was highly overshadowed due to the play of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. He threw for 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns, and his excellence has continued in the postseason. In his three playoff games, Manning has thrown for an average of 307.6 yards and a total of eight touchdowns with just a single interception. As fantasy owners surely know, he has an outstanding receiving corps, with wideouts Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz averaging a combined 193 receiving yards per game. Nicks didn’t play when the Giants and Patriots when toe-to-toe back in Week 9, but Cruz six catches for 91 yards and tight end Jake Ballard added 67 yards on four catches, including a touchdown.

The Patriots were second-to-last in total defense during the regular season, mostly because they gave up 293.9 passing yards per game, which was 31st in the NFL but 34.1 yards worse than the Saints, who were 30th. They faced Tim Tebow in the Divisional round of the playoffs, so there isn’t much to glean from that game, but allowed Joe Flacco to throw for 306 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the AFC Championship game, which was his third-highest total of the season. When the Pats and Giants played way back in early November, Manning threw for 250 yards and two scores with one interception, but as we mentioned, that was without Nicks.

Running Game Thoughts: The Giants feature a running back duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, each of whom has had success at different points of the season. Overall, Bradshaw ran for 659 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season, and Jacobs ran for 571 yards and seven scores. The postseason started out well for Jacobs, as he gained 92 yards on 14 carries against the Falcons, but he’s run for only 35 yards on 14 carries since then, despite having the team’s only rushing score in that time. Bradshaw, on the other hand, has been pretty consistent throughout the postseason, with games of 63, 63, and 74 rushing yards, as well as 94 receiving yards, and is the better fantasy option right now.

New England was 17th in the league against the run during the regular season, and though both the Broncos and Ravens collectively ran for over 100 yards against the Patriots in the postseason, neither team managed to run for more than 3.7 yards per carry. Bradshaw didn’t suit up against New England in the team’s first meeting, but Jacobs rumbled for 72 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

Eli Manning: 295 yds passing, 3 TD, 1 INT
Hakeem Nicks: 90 yds receiving, 1 TD
Victor Cruz: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Mario Manningham: 45 yds receiving
Jake Ballard: 30 yds receiving, 1 TD
Travis Beckum: 15 yds receiving
Ahmad Bradshaw: 65 yds rushing / 30 yds receiving
Brandon Jacobs: 35 yds rushing, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady was second in the NFL in passing yards during the regular season with 5,235, and nearly 2,900 went to the duo of Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski. Brady tossed 39 touchdowns as well, with 26 going to the same pair of pass-catchers. Gronkowski, who had arguably the best single-season ever for a tight end, reportedly has a high ankle sprain, but he’ll almost certainly be on the field during the Super Bowl. If he doesn’t go, look for an even bigger workload for fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez. Even if Gronkowski does play, Hernandez will get enough touches to be a valuable fantasy commodity. He was third at the tight end position in fantasy points during the regular season, and has added running the ball to his repertoire this postseason, making him that much more valuable to fantasy owners.

Like the Patriots, the Giants were at the bottom of the league rankings in pass defense during the regular season. They were 29th in the league in that statistic, but in their three postseason games, only Aaron Rodgers has thrown for at least 200 yards against them. New York held Matt Ryan to 199 yards and Alex Smith to 196 yards. Brady threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants when the team’s first played this season, but he also threw a pair of interceptions. Also, both Welker and Gronkowski collected over 100 receiving yards in that game, with tight ends Hernandez and Gronkowski adding touchdowns (as usual).

Running Game Thoughts: The Patriots are obviously a pass-first team, which limits the fantasy outlook for their main running back, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The Law Firm was the team’s leading rusher this season, but with just 667 yards, a total that was 27th in the league and fewer yards than three separate players for the Carolina Panthers. Still, he did have 11 touchdowns, and if the team is going to score on the ground, it will be BGE who will do it (barring another Tom Brady sneak, of course).

New York was 19th in the NFL in run defense during the regular season, having allowed 121.3 yards per game on the ground. They’ve been much better against the run in their trio of playoff games, holding Michael Turner to 41 yards and Frank Gore to 74. Green Bay didn’t run much against the Giants, with Aaron Rodgers being the team’s leading rusher with 66 yards. Green-Ellis didn’t have a noteworthy contest against the Giants in November, gaining 52 yards on 12 carries.

Tom Brady: 330 yds passing, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rob Gronkowski: 110 yds receiving, 2 TD
Wes Welker: 105 yds receiving, 1 TD
Aaron Hernandez: 65 yds receiving
Deion Branch: 35 yds receiving
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 55 yds rushing, 1 TD
Danny Woodhead: 20 yds rushing

Prediction: Patriots 34, Giants 28 ^ Top

Giants vs. Patriots - (Autry)

Passing Game Thoughts: There was a stretch during the second half of the season when Eli Manning tossed 11 interceptions over an eight-game period. Needless to say, he’s been the catalyst behind New York’s surge into the playoffs. Manning has eight TDs in this year’s playoffs with just one INT. And when you consider he led the Giants in defeating the top two seeds in the NFC on the road, you realize that Eli is indeed one of the elite QBs in the league. There are whispers that Hakeem Nicks has been limited in practice, and with his history of bumps and bruises, that may raise an eyebrow or two. But Giants fans shouldn’t be concerned about his availability. Victor Cruz rounds out a dynamic receiving corps that should find success against a Patriot defense that shouldn’t be confused with Patriot defenses of yesteryear.

New England’s defense finished the year ranked 31st against the pass, leaving many to second guess the supposed genius of Bill Belichick. While the defense held an inept Denver passing attack in check during the divisional round of the playoffs, a Baltimore offense that’s not known as one of the league’s best had its way against New England in the Conference Championship. Expect New York to duplicate the success the Ravens found throwing against the Patriots. With the Giants’ superior receiving threats, however, New England’s secondary will have a much more difficult time keeping up.

Running Game Thoughts: The Giants were the league’s worst running offense in 2011, and they haven’t done much to improve that status in the playoffs. Sure, they rumbled for 172 yards against an uninspired Atlanta Falcons team in the wildcard round, but they’ve averaged only 90 yards in the two games since. Don’t expect either Ahmad Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs to be much of an overwhelming factor. This game will be won or lost by the play at the QB position, no doubt about it.

New England’s defense didn’t have many bright spots this season, but their run defense was the only component on that side of the ball that mattered. They even limited Ray Rice last week to a paltry 3.1 yards per carry on 21 attempts. They should do just as well against the Giants, a team that doesn’t rely on the running game anyway.

Eli Manning: 265 yards passing / 3 TDs / 1 INT
Hakeem Nicks: 110 yards receiving / 1 TD
Victor Cruz: 75 yards receiving / 1 TD
Mario Manningham: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Jake Ballard: 30 yards receiving
Ahmad Bradshaw: 55 yards rushing
Brandon Jacobs: 40 yards rushing

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady has played in 21 playoff games and last week’s contest against Baltimore was his worst. It was the first time he went without a TD pass in the postseason, and beyond that, he looked completely out of sync the entire game. Baltimore’s defenses has a way of making opposing QBs look bad, but nobody expected Brady to be shut down to such a degree. It will be imperative that TE Rob Gronkowski (ankle) is as healthy as he can be, because his presence and productivity are key to New England’s success. Both Gronkowski and Wes Welker had huge games when these teams met in the regular season. They will need to duplicate those games if the Patriots are to win this game.

Part of the success the Giants had against New England when these teams played in the Super Bowl several years ago was the pressure New York was able to put on Brady. Their defensive front has been on a rampage this postseason, and they will rely on that upfront disruption to try to stall the potentially explosive Patriot offense. New York’s secondary has battled through injuries all season long but still have a way of limiting teams’ productivity through the air. Brady should rebound nicely in this game despite the formidable defensive pressure he’s sure to be under.

Running Game Thoughts: New England’s running game has been, at best, a complementary component of the team’s offense, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis in particular has been its most productive player. That’s not saying much, considering he’s averaged only 25 yards rushing per game over the last seven, including the playoffs. He does have a nose for the end zone though, with his five rushing TDs over that stretch being proof. But make no mistake, Brady could easily have 45 pass attempts in this game, leaving little, if any, opportunity for stellar rushing numbers.

The Giants have given up almost 300 yards on the ground over the last two playoff games, but they’ve limited individual players from doing much on the ground. They held Frank Gore to only 74 yards, and he earned every inch. Again, this game will be won or lost by how well the QBs play. BJGE could sneak and get a short score, but beyond that, his production could be limited and perhaps even trumped by the likes of Danny Woodhead.

Tom Brady: 320 yards passing / 3 TDs
Wes Welker: 120 yards receiving / 2 TDs
Deion Branch: 45 yards receiving
Rob Gronkowski: 90 yards receiving / 1 TD
Aaron Hernandez: 55 yards receiving
Danny Woodhead: 40 yards rushing
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 30 yards rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Patriots 31, Giants 27 ^ Top