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Super Bowl capsule

Stat pack

rushing yards

passing yards

total yards

Rushing yards allowed

passing yards allowed

total yards allowed



110.2 (20th)

89.2 (32nd)

317.8 (2nd)

295.9 (5th)

428.0 (2nd)

385.1 (8th)

117.1 (17th)

121.2 (19th)

293.9 (31st)

255.1 (29th)

411.1 (31st)

376.4 (27th)

AFC champ New England Patriots (15-3)

Coach: Bill Belichick (139-53, 16-5 playoffs)

Super Bowl history: 3-3; XX — lost to Bears 46-10; XXXI — lost to Packers 35-21; XXXVI — defeated Rams 20-17; XXXVIII — defeated Panthers 32-29; XXXIX — defeated Eagles 24-21; XLII — lost to Giants 17-14

NFC champ New York Giants (12-7)

Coach: Tom Coughlin (74-54, 7-3 playoffs)

Super Bowl history: 3-1; XXI — defeated Broncos 39-20; XXV — defeated Bills 20-19; XXXV — lost to Ravens 34-7; XLII — defeated Patriots 17-14

POINTS per game

Patriots Scored — 32.1 (3rd) Allowed — 21.4 (15th) Giants Scored — 24.6 (9th) Allowed — 25.0 (25th)

Three big questions

1. Does the Giants' defense have an answer for the Patriots' dynamic tight end duo?

2. Can the Giants' Eli Manning — the best postseason QB in his family — rise to the occasion again?

3. How much will the New England no-huddle offense neutralize the Giants' ferocious pass rush?

Three players to watch

Vince Wilfork, Patriots defensive tackle

You might look at New England's defense, ranked 31st during the regular season, and make assumptions about its personnel. But watching Wilfork during the past few games has provided a reminder that he remains one of the best in the business. There's a reason he was voted to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time. He single-handedly destroys offensive lines.

Victor Cruz, Giants receiver

For a guy who came close to being cut in 2010, Cruz has proved he can do more than salsa dance (which he does quite well, thank you). He's as crafty a receiver as you'll see, particularly when lined up in the slot and working against zones. That's where he did much of his damage in the NFC title game, in which he caught 10 passes for 142 yards.

Aaron Hernandez, Patriots tight end

Hernandez is half of what has become the league's most fearsome tight end tandem (with Rob Gronkowski). But who knew he could play tailback, too? The former Gator has provided a wrinkle for the Patriots' offense, rushing eight times for 70 yards in the postseason. It adds another dimension to an already prolific offense.

Probable starters

Patriots OFFENSE

WR: Wes Welker 83

LT: Matt Light 72

LG: Logan Mankins 70

C: Dan Connolly 63

RG: Brian Waters 54

RT: Nate Solder 77

TE: Rob Gronkowski 87

WR: Deion Branch 84

QB: Tom Brady 12

RB: Danny Woodhead 39

TE: Aaron Hernandez 81

Patriots defense

DE: 75 Vince Wilfork

NT: Kyle Love 74

DE: Brandon Deaderick 71

LB: Mark Anderson 95

LB: Jerod Mayo 51

LB: Brandon Spikes 55

LB: Rob Ninkovich 50

CB: Devin McCourty 32

CB: Kyle Arrington 24

FS: 25 Patrick Chung 25

SS: James Ihedigbo 44

Special teams

PK: Stephen Gostkowski 3

KO: Stephen Gostkowski 3

P: Zoltan Mesko 14

PR: Julian Edelman 11

KR: Danny Woodhead 39

Giants offense

WR: Victor Cruz 80

LT: David Diehl 66

LG: Kevin Boothe 77

C: David Baas 64

RG: Chris Snee 76

RT: Kareem McKenzie 67

TE: Jake Ballard 85

WR: Hakeem Nicks 88

QB: Eli Manning 10

FB: Henry Hynoski 45

RB: Ahmad Bradshaw 44

Giants defense

DE: Justin Tuck 91

DT: Linval Joseph 97

DT: Chris Canty 99

DE: Jason Pierre-Paul 90

LB: Chase Blackburn 93

LB: Michael Boley 59

CB: Corey Webster 23

CB: Aaron Ross 31

FS: Antrel Rolle 26

SS: Deon Grant 34

S: Kenny Phillips 21

Special teams

PK: Lawrence Tynes 9

KO: Lawrence Tynes 9

P: Steve Weatherford 5

PR: Will Blackmon 36

KR: Jerrel Jernigan 12

Injury report

Giants Probable: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), WR Hakeem Nicks (shoulder), S Tyler Sash (foot), DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle, knee), CB Corey Webster (hamstring), LB Jacquian Williams (foot).

Patriots Questionable: T Marcus Cannon (ankle), S Patrick Chung (knee), LB Dane Fletcher (thumb), TE Rob Gronkowski (ankle), DT Kyle Love (ankle), G Logan Mankins (knee), LB Rob Ninkovich (hip), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), T Sebastian Vollmer (flu, back, foot), WR Wes Welker (knee), LB Tracy White (abdomen). Probable: WR Deion Branch (knee), C Dan Connolly (groin), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder), T Matt Light (flu), WR Matthew Slater (shoulder).

The Giants win if

Their receivers consistently win their matchups against the porous New England secondary. The Giants kept the 49ers on their heels in the NFC title game, and they look to do the same against the Patriots. Also critical is the Giants' ability to make Patriots QB Tom Brady throw prematurely with their pass rush.

The Patriots win if …

They can keep the ball away from the Giants' offense. Though the Patriots often invoke thoughts of quick-strike scoring plays, they often embark on long scoring drives using short passes to their tight ends and receiver Wes Welker. If QB Tom Brady can play more efficiently than he did in the AFC title game — he had two interceptions and was sacked five times — it might be tough for the Giants to get enough possessions to win.

Our take

We lean toward the Giants when determining the more complete team. The Patriots' biggest advantage in most of their games is quarterback Tom Brady, owner of three Super Bowl rings. But as was the case in the Giants' run to the Super Bowl title for the 2007 season, QB Eli Manning seems to play at a different level in the postseason. This season he was among the elite passers during the regular season, too. Though the Patriots have overcome their shortcomings on defense, their unreliable secondary might be overmatched. Giants receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz will make their share of plays, and if New York's defensive front has a big night, the Patriots will struggle to trade scores.

Prediction: Giants 29, Patriots 27

Super Bowl capsule 02/04/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 4, 2012 8:54pm]
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