Breaking down Super Bowl XLVI

With under 72 hours until Super Bowl XLVI, it’s time for our country to put insignificant things aside and begin to focus our attention on the NFL’s holiest day. While it may be a rematch of the Giants’ miraculous Super Bowl XLII upset over the Patriots, there is a much different aura going into this year’s game.

No longer able to play the “No One Believes in Us, Except Us” card, the Giants have already dethroned the Green Bay Packers and capitalized on a “Kyle Williams fumble”: to beat the 49ers in overtime and clinch a Super Bowl bid.

The Patriots are once again the favorites, but only by three points, unlike the 12 they were given in 2008. To be honest, the Patriots are only in this game because the Ravens “choked”: in the AFC Championship (I’m looking at you Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff).

The key to this matchup is still Brady vs. Manning. However, both teams are much different than they were four years ago. Let’s break it down by position:

h2. Quarterback

Tom Brady is no Tim Tebow, but he’s still pretty good. In the Super Bowl, Brady is 3-1 and has won the MVP twice. His only loss came at the hands of the New York Giants and Eli Manning. Eli isn’t always mentioned in the “Elite QB” conversation, but he’s proved he can perform well under pressure. Manning led six fourth quarter comebacks (including one in Foxborough in Week Nine) and set an NFL record with 15 fourth quarter touchdown passes. Brady still has the edge because of his experience and offensive line, but Eli has narrowed the gap.

*Slight Edge:* Patriots

h2. Running Back

Because of their pass-happy offenses, neither of these teams rely very heavily on the running game. The Giants have the most talented running back in Ahmad Bradshaw, but Brandon Jacobs has been very inconsistent this year. The Patriots might not have one guy who can carry the entire load, but the combination of Green-Ellis, Woodhead, Faulk and Ridley provides them with more versatility offensively.

*Edge:* Push

h2. Wide Receiver

The Patriots have the best slot receiver in the NFL, Wes Welker, and a former Super Bowl MVP in Deion Branch. However, the trio of Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham definitely gives the Giants the upper-hand at wide receiver.

*Edge:* Giants

h2. Tight End

The Giants have a solid receiving tight end in Jake Ballard, but the Patriots have two giants at tight end. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have made shutting down New England’s offense for an entire game nearly impossible. Gronkowski did sprain his ankle two weeks ago, but his height alone makes him a nightmare in single coverage and the red zone. Add Aaron Hernandez’ ability to run (eight carries for 70 yards this postseason) and it’s no contest.

*Edge:* Patriots

h2. Offensive Line

The Giants’ offensive line isn’t what it was in 2008, finishing dead last in rushing in the regular season. New England’s two Pro Bowl guards, Logan Mankins and Brian Waters, have anchored an offensive line designed to keep Brady standing upright. In their last two playoff games, Brady has been hit five times and sacked once, while Manning has been hit 19 times and sacked seven times.

*Edge:* Patriots

h2. Defense

This is where the Giants have the biggest advantage over the Patriots. Led by the triumvirate of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, New York tallied 48 sacks this season and nine more in the playoffs. The Giants’ secondary is more of a liability; it’s unclear how they will match up to the Patriots multitude of receiving threats.

Vince Wilfork is the heart of the Patriots’ defensive line, and his play in the AFC Championship displayed his wrecking ball-like qualities. The linebackers have played well as of late, but it’s the inexperienced and injury-plagued secondary that could spell disaster for New England.

*Edge:* Giants

*Prediction:* Giants 31, Patriots 28

_Kevin Thornton is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @kevinthorn10._