NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed
Two long weeks of waiting and the Super Bowl is finally almost upon us.
There’s a lot to be decided in Saturday’s game.
Will Tom Brady go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history? Will Bill Belichick go down as the greatest coach in NFL history? Will Eli Manning pass his brother in Super Bowl rings?
Will Tom Coughlin be the Tom Flores of this generation? Will Danny Woodhead return a kick passed the 22 yard line? Will Ochocinco be sitting next to Peyton Manning in the owners’ box? Will Dane Fletcher ever not drop back into coverage when he’s lined up at defensive tackle?
I’m not sure which of the four things I’m about to mention are the most amazing.
1. The Patriots have three players remaining from their first Super Bowl victory ten years ago.
2. One of those players is a running back in an era where players of that position barely last five years.
3. Tom Brady might just now be in his true peak as a player.
4. Matt Light has somehow been underrated and unheralded as the blind side protector for one of the greatest QBs of all time for the entirety of both their careers.
I don’t think I need to tell anyone that us Patriots fans have been unbelievably lucky over the last ten years. Does that mean I don’t want a fourth ring? No way. Three rings only makes me want a fourth that much worse.
When Mike and I were down in Mobile, people kept talking to us about the Patriots and basically how lucky we were. I would only half-jokingly say to them, “Yeah, but we NEED that fourth ring.” It sounds absurd, but it’s something only Patriots fans would understand.
That being said, here are some things I’ll be looking for in Sunday’s game:
PATRIOTS PULLING OUT ALL THE STOPS
I feel like Belichick has been holding out on us a little bit all season, and I’m hoping on Sunday he reveals his full deck.
First, I think the no huddle offense has been underutilized all season. The Patriots use it in spurts when I feel like they could probably be using it all game if they really wanted to. The Pats are at their best with Woodhead, Gronk, Hernandez, Welker and Branch on the field and Brady constantly keeping the opposing defense off balance with draws, screens and intermediate passes.
Second, I think there are some blitz schemes we haven’t seen since the first couple preseason games. We don’t have all the same personnel anymore with Andre Carter, Myron Pryor, Mike Wright, etc. now out. But I’d like to see some blitzes up the middle with our linebackers on Sunday.
Third, Nate Solder, pass catcher. We’ve waited for it all season, and hey, maybe everyone’s expecting so much at this point that it would be more of a surprise if he doesn’t get a ball thrown his way this game. He was a tight end in high school and the beginning of his college career, so he definitely has the experience and I’ve seen him run some pretty solid routes.
GETTING VOLLMER BACK
That leads well into my next point. If the Patriots have Sebastian Vollmer back on Sunday, that means they get to use Solder exclusively as a tight end. With Rob Gronkowski obviously still ailing from a high ankle sprain, they’ll likely need to give him some rest. Enter Nate Solder, best blocking TE in the league. New England doesn’t even need to take Gronk out only in obvious rushing situations. It would add another element of unpredictability to the offense if Solder can be out running routes.
For the record, I’m expecting almost full health from Gronk on Sunday.
Will Edelman be covering Victor Cruz one on one? Probably not, though you never really know with Belichick. Will Edelman be a key cog in the defense? I think so. Edelman is a valuable nickel back, he brings a level of electricity to the defense and when he, Patrick Chung and Brandon Spikes are all out on the field together, there seems to just be bodies flying all over the place. The Patriots actually lined Edelman up at linebacker a few times this year, I wouldn’t mind seeing a 3-3-Edelman on the field against the Giants.
ATTACK THE GIANTS WEAKNESSES
I covered it the last two days, but the Giants biggest weaknesses are probably their offensive line and their secondary. We could see a very nice game for the Patriots much maligned pass rush. According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants have the 64th and 65th best tackles in the NFL, the 58th and 76th best guards in the NFL and the 29th best center in the NFL all playing on Sunday. Just a reminder to everyone, there are only 32 teams in the league. So that’s uh, bad.
To put the Giants offensive line truly into perspective, the Giants allow pressure whether it’s a sack, QB hit or QB pressure every 14.44 pass drop backs. The Patriots allow pressure ever 26.99 pass dropbacks. The Giants defense generates a pressure every 11.63 times they rush the passer, the Patriots defense generates a pressure every 11.18 times they rush the passer. The Giants rush the passer a lot more than the Patriots do, but the Patriots are still right up there when they are getting after the QB.
As for the Giants secondary, they come out in a big nickel package with three safeties the majority of the time. That would work pretty well against the Patriots tight ends, but Antrel Rolle is currently allowing a 72.9% catch rate. That won’t get it done on Sunday.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME?
Everyone keeps bringing up the Giants beating the Patriots earlier this season in Foxboro. So what happened in that game?
-Gostkowski missed a 27 yard field goal in the first quarter.
-A Spikes and Guyton injury forced Tracy White into coverage on the final Jake Ballard touchdown.
-A Chung and Josh Barrett injury forced Sergio Brown onto the field for a key pass interference call in the final drive on Victor Cruz.
-The Giants won the turnover battle.
Other than that, the Patriots played pretty well in that game, especially their defense.
What this game might really come down to, is turnover ratio. I’ve been spouting it all year, but it’s the single most important aspect of this Patriots team. They’ve gotten lucky the last two games winning despite a negative turnover ratio. That all changes this week. They can’t win without winning the turnover battle and in this writer’s opinion, they WON’T lose the turnover battle.
Score prediction: 37-17 Patriots.