January 29, 2008

SI.com's Don Banks talked to a veteran NFC insider about the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl matchup.

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They're the underdog to be sure, but you can't dismiss the Giants' chances after watching them go into Dallas and Green Bay and do what they did. They're on such a nice run, and they're playing really good, solid football right now. That Packers game went into overtime, but New York didn't just eke out a win. They really dominated the game in many ways.

Something that probably got overlooked in the win at Green Bay was how much of a difference in the game it made for New York to hold the Packers receivers without much YAC (yards after the catch) yardage. Other than the Donald Driver touchdown when Corey Webster fell down, as soon as the Packers caught the ball, the Giants defense swarmed and really controlled Green Bay's receivers. If the Giants are going to have any success against New England, they've got to do that again. But it'll be tougher this time, because with Randy Moss being able to stretch the field, Giants safeties James Butler and Gibril Wilson have to stay back and play it more honest. They can't sneak forward and run downhill to the ball like they did against the Packers.

Eli Manning has been playing so well and so confidently that giving him a week off isn't going to cool him down. I know New York is a momentum team and some people think the bye week will hurt it, but I think having just played New England so well a few weeks ago will give them the ultimate confidence going into the game. They went into that game not knowing if they could stay with the Patriots, but they came out of it realizing that not only can they compete, but also that they can beat this team if they don't turn the ball over and force a couple turnovers themselves. This is a very good Giants team the past month or so.

On offense for New York, you're going to see a lot of Brandon Jacobs. He's just the tone-setter for this offense. The stats don't always reflect it, but what he does is sets the tone by running tough and strong. They need him to soften up the Patriots front seven. They can't just rely on Eli to pass the ball all the way down the field. Jacobs has to run smash-mouth style against the Patriots, and get them back on their heels a bit.

The Giants passing game right now is just Manning to Plaxico Burress. Amani Toomer and Steve Smith are getting a chance or two a game to make plays, but they're not the primary focus in the passing game. They have to catch balls and make plays when afforded the opportunity, but New England is really only worried about Burress. The Patriots have to try to limit what he does, and if they do, they'll cool down the New York passing game. That's why Jacobs has to help move the ball consistently.

Defensively, the Giants are hoping the Patriots keep it simple with two-receiver sets, but that's not likely. I expect New England to spread them out, and that's going to be tough for New York's defense to handle. The Giants have done a great job with their front eight, having a safety come down and help fill against the run. If you can get linebackers Antonio Pierce and Reggie Torbor off the line of scrimmage a bit, they're just not as effective.

For the Giants defense to work against the Patriots, they've got to get a legitimate pass rush with their four front guys. Most of the pressure we've seen the past few weeks from them has been from their down linemen, with support from their linebackers too. But against New England's passing game, getting rush from their front four is so important. Justin Tuck has been playing great both at end and inside. He, Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan are all legitimate pass rushers who can win in one-on-one situations. If they can get pressure by winning those situations, New England will be in some trouble. Umenyiora, especially, is the key. He got some great rushes against Patriots left tackle Matt Light in Week 17, and if that happens again, Tom Brady could be in for a lot of contact.

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