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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (18-0)

Top performers

QB Tom Brady (398-of-578, 4,806 yards, 50 TDs, 8 INTs, 117.2 rating); RB Laurence Maroney (835 yards, 4.5-yard avg., 6 TDs); WR Randy Moss (98 rec., 1,493 yards, 23 TDs); WR Wes Welker (112 rec., 1,175 yards, 8 TDs); LB Mike Vrabel (12-1/2 sacks)

Patriots will win if ...

Quarterback Tom Brady, who struggled in the AFC Championship Game and has a bum ankle, puts on his hero cape and plays like Tom Brady usually plays in Super Bowls. "I'm not looking for a mediocre performance," Brady said. The Patriots offensive line, which was missing two starters in their Week 17 win over the Giants, must keep their quarterback from taking too many hits from the Giants defense, which led the league in sacks and has a fierce pass rush with Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. Defensively, the Patriots must stop Giants running back Brandon Jacobs and hope that quarterback Eli Manning comes back to earth. After throwing 20 interceptions during the regular season, he has not committed a turnover in three postseason games.

Unsung hero

A good bar bet: Sit Wes Welker in a crowd of patrons and see if anyone identifies him as an NFL player. At 5 feet 9, 185 pounds, he certainly doesn't look the part.

Undrafted out of Texas Tech and cut after one game by the Chargers in 2004, he found a job as a kick returner for the Dolphins. In '06 he actually led them in receptions.

Despite his size, the Patriots never looked down on him.

"We played against Wes his first three years in the league, we played against him twice a year and we couldn't match up with him. He wore us out," said Scott Pioli, the Patriots' vice president of player personnel.

After being traded to the Patriots this season, Welker, 26, burst onto the scene, helping the unbeaten Patriots reach the Super Bowl as he led the NFL with a club-record 112 receptions for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns.

"I never would have envisioned it," said Welker, who caught a total of 96 passes in his first three seasons. "I thought I'd be returning kicks for the rest of my career, and then I just worked hard and tried to develop the rest of my receiving skills, and it's kind of come to this."

Quotable

"I really feel you can have a perfect record. I don't know if anybody's perfect. I haven't experienced that."

Pats quarterback Tom Brady on the possibility of going 19-0

Welker's numbers

Wes Welker's first season with the Patriots was a success:

Receptions 112

Yards 1,175

Yards/game 73.4

Touchdowns 8

REGULAR SEASON STATS

Offense

Yards (total 6,580)

4,731 Passing

1,849 Rushing

First downs (393)

243 Passing

124 Rushing

26, by penalty

Defense

Yards allowed (4,613)

3,041 Passing

1,572 Rushing

POSTSEASON

Offense

Yards (total 403)

258 Passing

145 Rushing

First downs (24)

12 Passing

11 Rushing

1, by penalty

Defense

Yards allowed (350)

270 Passing

80 Rushing

Roster

Offense

83 Wes Welker WR

72 Matt Light LT

70 Logan Mankins LG

67 Dan Koppen C

61 Stephen Neal RG

77 Nick Kaczur RT

84 Benjamin Watson TE

81 Randy Moss WR

12 Tom Brady QB

39 Laurence Maroney RB

44 Heath Evans FB

Defense

94 Ty Warren LDE

75 Vince Wilfork NT

93 Richard Seymour RDE

50 Mike Vrabel OLB

55 Junior Seau ILB

54 Tedy Bruschi ILB

96 Adalius Thomas OLB

22 Asante Samuel LCB

27 Ellis Hobbs RCB

37 Rodney Harrison SS

36 James Sanders FS

Special Teams

3 Stephen GostkowskiK

6 Chris Hanson P/H

66 Lonie Paxton LS

27 Ellis Hobbs KR

83 Wes Welker PR

The Rest

7 Matt Gutierrez QB

10 Jabar Gaffney WR

15 Kelley Washington WR

16 Matt Cassel QB

17 Chad Jackson WR

18 Donte' Stallworth WR

21 Randall Gay CB

23 Willie Andrews CB

24 Mel Mitchell S

26 Eugene Wilson S

28 Antwain Spann CB

31 Brandon MeriweatherS

33 Kevin Faulk RB

38 Kyle Eckel RB

41 Raymond Ventrone S

52 Eric Alexander LB

53 Larry Izzo LB

58 Pierre Woods LB

65 Wesley Britt T

68 Ryan O'Callaghan T

71 Russ Hochstein G

74 Billy Yates G

80 Troy Brown WR

82 Stephen Spach TE

88 Kyle Brady TE

90 Le Kevin Smith DT

95 Rashad Moore DT

97 Jarvis Green DE

NEW YORK GIANTS (13-6)

Top performers

QB Eli Manning (297-of-529, 3,336 yards, 23 TDs, 20 INTs, 73.9 rating); RB Brandon Jacobs (1,009 yards, 5.0-yard avg., 4 TDs); WR Plaxico Burress (70 rec., 1,025 yards, 12 TDs); DE Osi Umenyiora (13 sacks)

Giants will win if ...

New York can make Tom Brady uncomfortable in the pocket. The Patriots quarterback has a sprained ankle and his mobility will be limited, so getting inside pressure and preventing him to step up in the pocket is the key. Brady smoked the Giants secondary in the last meeting, completing 32 of 42 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns while only being sacked once. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will dial up some blitz schemes and hope cornerbacks Sam Madison, Corey Webster and Aaron Ross can contain Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth in man coverage. Offensively, the Giants have to run the ball early, often and into the fourth quarter. The Patriots have some older linebackers who could wear down hitting the 260-pound Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.

Local flavor

Keep an eye on Giants linebacker Kawika Mitchell. The former University of South Florida star was injured in the Week17 meeting against the Patriots.

"College football and the NFL are a totally different animal," Mitchell, 28, said. "But just having Jim Leavitt as a head coach (at USF) - a hard-nosed guy who likes things a certain way - I think really helped me bring some discipline into the league with me. Then I had Wally Burnham as my linebacker coach and he had a lot of experience with NFL players coming out of Florida State. They stayed in my ear and prepared me for the discipline of the NFL."

This will be the fifth time Mitchell has played against the Patriots. He went 1-1 against New England while playing for Kansas City.

"To be on this stage and get another chance, I'm very excited," Mitchell said.

Remember Week 17?

The game was supposed to be meaningless for the Giants, who couldn't improve their position in the postseason. With a wild-card playoff game looming at Tampa Bay the next week, the Giants could've mailed it in. Instead, coach Tom Coughlin approached it like a playoff game. Despite losing 38-35 and getting three starters injured in the process, Coughlin and his players never regretted the decision and credits the confidence gained from that game as the reason for sweeping to road wins at Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay in the playoffs.

Stat of the week

The Giants led the NFL in sacks with 53. Guess which team was second? The Patriots with 47. They just get it done in a different way, using an array of blitzes in the 3-4 scheme.

REGULAR SEASON STATS

Offense

Yards (total 5,302)

3,154 Passing

2,148 Rushing

First downs (321)

167 Passing

119 Rushing

35, by penalty

Defense

Yards allowed (4,880)

3,317 Passing

1,563 Rushing

POSTSEASON

Offense

Yards (total 884)

560 Passing

324 Rushing

First downs (56)

33 Passing

17 Rushing

6, by penalty

Defense

Yards allowed (871)

620 Passing

251 Rushing

Roster

Offense

17 Plaxico Burress WR

66 David Diehl LT

69 Rich Seubert LG

60 Shaun O'Hara C

76 Chris Snee RG

67 Kareem McKenzie RT

89 Kevin Boss TE

81 Amani Toomer WR

10 Eli Manning QB

27 Brandon Jacobs RB

39 Madison HedgecockFB

Defense

92 Michael Strahan LDE

96 Barry Cofield NT

98 Fred Robbins DT

72 Osi Umenyiora RDE

53 Reggie Torbor SLB

58 Antonio Pierce MLB

55 Kawika Mitchell WLB

31 Aaron Ross LCB

29 Sam Madison RCB

37 James Butler SS

28 Gibril Wilson FS

Special Teams

9 Lawrence TynesK

18 Jeff Feagles P/H

93 Jay Alford KLS

51 Zak DeOssie PLS

87 Domenik Hixon KR

25 R.W. McQuarters PR

The Rest

2 Anthony Wright QB

12 Steve Smith WR

13 Jared Lorenzen QB

22 Reuben Droughns RB

23 Corey Webster CB

26 Danny Ware RB

33 Geoffrey Pope CB

35 Kevin Dockery CB

43 Michael Johnson S

44 Ahmad Bradshaw RB

52 Torrance Daniels LB

57 Chase Blackburn LB

59 Gerris Wilkinson LB

61 Adam Koets T

65 Grey Ruegamer G

71 Dave Tollefson DE

75 Manuel Wright DT

77 Kevin Boothe G

79 Guy Whimper T

83 Sinorice Moss WR

85 David Tyree WR

86 Jerome Collins TE

88 Michael Matthews TE

91 Justin Tuck DE

99 Russell Davis DT

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