Newyorkjets.com has profiled each NFL playoff game this postseason, with a special eye on Jets angles in each of the matchups. Today: Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis:
(4) NEW YORK GIANTS (12-7) vs. (1) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (15-3), 6:30 p.m. ET, NBC
There is no shortage of great stories for this matchup between the best teams each conference has to offer. Foremost is the revenge factor. These teams met in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., with Eli Manning and the Giants playing David to Tom Brady and New England's Goliath. The Giants spoiled the Patriots' bid for a perfect 19-0 with their 17-14 win and hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as the Pats looked on in disbelief.
Although the 2007 Patriots shattered records, their accomplishments were rendered moot without a Super Bowl ring. Now is their chance to seek retribution on the Giants, who will once again take on the role of underdogs despite having beaten the Patriots in their last two meetings (in the Super Bowl and in Week 9 this season).
When healthy, TE Rob Gronkowski has emerged as the game's best tight end, blending his elite blocking ability with supernatural athleticism. It remains to be seen in what capacity "Gronk" will be able to contribute Sunday after sustaining a high ankle sprain against the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. Although he returned to the game, he served merely as a decoy, and was visibly limping. Gronkowski is expected to play, but keep an eye on his health throughout the week.
New England isn't the only team dealing with an injury to a key player. Giants WR Hakeem Nicks suffered a shoulder injury during the NFC Championship Game in San Francisco when he came down hard after making a catch. He had already been nursing an ankle injury before the game and did not practice at all last week. The Giants have no shortage of talent at WR, but a healthy Nicks would open up their offense immensely.
The reputations of both teams are well known. New England can move the ball through the air better than most, but struggles to stop opposing offenses. The Giants want to throw it all day and will disrupt your offense with a relentless pass rush.
The matchup may be a nightmare scenario for Jets fans, but for those who truly enjoy football, Super Bowl XLVI is a must-watch.
The game marks the first time in Super Bowl history that both starting quarterbacks are former Super Bowl MVPs. Brady has won the award twice in his four trips (XXXVI and XXXVIII) while Manning won it in his only appearance (XLII). Brady is one of four players to win Super Bowl MVP multiple times, joining Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr.
In reaching the Super Bowl, the Giants became only the second team to register three straight playoff wins over teams with better records. The 2008 Cardinals accomplished the same before falling to the Steelers, 27-23, in SB XLIII. The Giants defeated the Falcons (10-6), 24-2, at MetLife Stadium on Wild Card Weekend. They then beat down the Packers (15-1), 37-20, at Lambeau Field. Finally, the G-Men escaped San Francisco with a 20-17 overtime win over the 49ers (14-3) in the NFC Championship Game.
Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, entering their fifth Super Bowl together, continue to bolster their legacy among the greatest quarterback-coach combo in NFL history. No other QB-coach pairing has reached more. Brady's 16 postseason victories are tied with Montana for the most by a quarterback in league history. Belichick has won 17 postseason games, tied for third all-time with Joe Gibbs.
For the Giants, Manning is coming off a career year throwing for 4,933 yards and eight 300-yard games, both franchise records. The benefactors of Manning's passing prowess this season include WRs Nicks (1,192 yards) and Victor Cruz (1,536). Cruz set franchise records for receiving yards and most 100-yard receiving games (7) in a season.
The Giants defense has turned around a disappointing regular season and is proving to be a formidable group in the playoffs. They allowed no points in the 24-2 wild card victory and held the high-flying Packers, who had been averaging 40 points per game at Lambeau this season to half that. In the postseason, the Giants are allowing 13 points per game after giving up an average of 25 in the regular season.
The Patriots offensive juggernaut led by Brady was the most prolific in franchise history, gaining 6,848 net yards. Brady's 5,235 passing yards were the second-most in an NFL season behind Saints QB Drew Brees and the 5,476 yards he threw for also this season.
Brady has no shortage of weapons on his side, with Gronkowski and WR Wes Welker both recording career years. Gronkowski set NFL tight end season records with 1,327 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. Welker led the league with 122 receptions and was second with 1,569 receiving yards.
The teams' overall series, including playoffs, is tied at 5-5. The most recent meeting resulted in a 24-20 Giants victory in Foxboro. The Patriots went ahead, 20-17, with 1:36 remaining on a touchdown pass from Brady to Gronkowski. But on the ensuing possession, Manning led the Giants 80 yards in eight plays and found TE Jake Ballard with the winning score.
The Giants have never defeated the Patriots in three consecutive meetings. The last team to have that distinction resides in the host city — the Indianapolis Colts, who beat the Pats in 2005 and twice in 2006, the second time for the AFC championship.
The Giants have won seven NFL championships (1927, '34, ;38, '56, '86, '90 and 2007). Their overall playoff record is 23-24 but they've won seven of their last eight postseason games. The Patriots advance today to their seventh Super Bowl and their fifth since 2001. They won three from the 2001-04 seasons. Their overall playoff record is 23-15 and it's 16-5 since the first Belichick-Brady Super Bowl.
The New England roster has plenty of Jets flavor sprinkled throughout. DE Shaun Ellis spent 11 years in green and white. RB Danny Woodhead played in 11 games for the Jets in 2009-10. S James Ihedigbo played three seasons for the Jets. Patriots DL coach Pepper Johnson was a Jets linebacker in 1997-98.
Giants RT Kareem McKenzie (Willingboro, N.J.) was the Jets' third-round draft choice in 2001 and played four years for them. RB D.J. Ware was a member of the Jets practice squad in 2007 and now sees limited action in blue. The Giants sideline has plenty of Jets influences including LBs coach Jim Herrmann, secondary coaches Peter Giunta and David Merritt, assistant special teams coach Larry Izzo, and assistant strength coach Markus Paul.
The New York/New Jersey area will be well-represented in Super Bowl XLVI. New England CB Devin McCourty (Nanuet, N.Y.) and WR Tiquan Underwood (Lawrenceville, N.J.) are Rutgers alumni. Among the Giants' locals making Super Bowl appearances are DTs Chris Canty (Bronx, N.Y.) and Jimmy Kennedy (Yonkers, N.Y.), OL Chris Snee (Edison, N.J.) and Cruz (Paterson, N.J.).