|Dr. Z's Positional Breakdown|
|How the Patriots and Giants match up for Super Bowl XLII|
|Ty Warren(94) |
Has had a fine year. Dedicated run-stopper, second on the team, behind Bruschi, in tackles. Works well with Vrabel, rushing from the power side. Would get our edge against practically anyone but Strahan.
|LE||Michael Strahan (92)|
Has had to conserve his energy, at 36, but at 255 he's playing lighter than he has in years. Gets more relief than he ever has, which is why Justin Tuck (91) is so valuable. Does it with brains and technique, and still is one of the league's best.
Pro Bowl honors finally heaped his way for the excellent season he's had. Seldom comes out on third down now. Has developed into a fine, interior power rusher.
|Barry Cofield(96) |
Plugger, two-gapper, early down defender. Will come out when Tuck (91) enters the game and RDT Robbins (98) moves over.
|Richard Seymour (93)|
Took a while to come back from injury -- the club is hinting might have been in the knee area. A front runner who doesn't do well against the power blockers. Two tackles, total, against the Giants last time. Lines up at RDE, then reduces down in pass rush situations.
|RT||Justin Tuck (91)|
Doesn't start but will get most of the reps. Ranks with Albert Haynesworth as the NFL's best inside pass rusher and he's the Giants' best defensive player, which is why the New York wasn't bashful about sending a $30 million contract his way. Will play any position on the line. Great ball instincts. Fred Robbins (98) starts and then moves over to LDT. Another active lineman.
Lines up on the edge and can rush, from a stand-up position, or drop into coverage. Fits into the zone scheme. Smart, with good ball instincts. I have a feeling, though, that Jarvis Green (97), a more conventional, straight up lineman, will start in a 4-3, designed to cover the guards and nullify their pulling ability.
His 13 sacks got him into the Pro Bowl, but six were against Eagle back-up Winston Justice. No postseason sacks so far, but has been consistently around the QB. Didn't do much against Pats' LT Light last time. A sleek, 261-pound speed rusher.
|Mike Vrabel (50) |
Sacks off the edge got him all-pro recognition, but then he settled down into being a functional zone OLB without the same rush responsibilities. His postseason stats are minimal (two T, two A, in two games), but he's a proud old warrior who will get it up Sunday.
|Reggie Torbor (53)|
Strongside plugger who comes out in the nickel. Figures to see minimal action against multiple Patriot wideouts. I'm guessing Sam Madison will be the nickel back, with R.W. McQuarters as the dime. I think that the 33-year old Madison will be Brady's prime target.
|Tedy Bruschi(54) |
At 34, I thought his years were showing, and against the Giants, he just looked like a little guy getting shoved around. But he came up big against the Chargers and looked like his old self, with tackles all over the field.
|MLB||Antonio Pierce (58)|
Has had a terrific postseason, climaxed by a near manic performance against Packers, stopping them dead at the end. An inspirational player and fine leader.
Has remade his game entirely, and is no longer the wild freelancer he was in San Diego. Plays the Belichick scheme to perfection and is one of the solid old hands on the unit -- but he IS 39. Nickel replacements for Seau or Bruschi or Thomas are, in order, Randall Gay (21) then Brandon Meriwether (31). Eugene Wilson (26), once the starting free safety, has mysteriously sunk to the botton of the barrel.
|WLB||Kawika Mitchell (55)|
Another relentless force in a defense that relies so much on concerted, non-stop pressure. He's the LB most likely to blitz, and I'm guessing they'll work combination schemes with Mitchell and one of the safeties, trying to get gut pressure on Brady. If they don't, he'll eat up that secondary, which will be viulnerable to the Patriots multiple wideout alignments. (Have we mentioned that already?)
An opportunist. Plays back and waits for the out pass he can swoop down on and pick off. Has been called a shutdown corner. Sorry, uh, no. Not what you'd call a punishing tackler. Playing for a new contract.
Has been hurt late in the season and in and out of the lineup, which is the only reason I'm not giving him the edge. A good, active coverage man, but a rookie, and Brady likes to work against those. Usually lines up on the slot receiver.
|Rodney Harrison(37) |
Was it a mirage? At 35, there he was -- taken out of his zone and manned up against the Colts' Dallas Clark and doing a hell of a job. Had he found the fountain of youth? Yes, he's still effective and a valuable player. I can see him doubling with the corner on Burress.
Frankly, I'm not sure he's going to hold up. He's made mistakes, been burned. His speed is only OK. Brady would love to get him in man coverage, but he might be working against rookie Michael Johnson (43) at times.
|James Sanders(36) |
Will make his share of tackles, will do a competent job in the zone. Doesn't thrill you, doesn't make many errors.
Has returned to his best days as a rookie, active near the line, passionate, able to make big hits to discourage the receivers.
A cover-two guy, a zone corner. Competent, sound, pretty good at tracking the ball. If the Giants can get him in man coverage on Burress for long stretches, they'll celebrate.
He screwed up early in the season, and the Giants were faced with the question -- do we want to get beaten mentally, or physically, with Sam Madison? So they chose Madison, and when it got too bad, back came Webster, who's been one of the stars of the playoffs. Has been given the MDR (most dangerous receiver) assignment man-to-man.
|TOTAL: Giants 6-4-1.|
Their defense has been coming on; Patriots' has been getting by.
|Dr. Z's Breakdowns: Offense | Special Teams|