Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this Sunday may come down to which quarterback has the ball last.
New England field general Tom Brady is regarded by many to be the best in the business after winning three Super Bowls in four appearances.
New York’s Eli Manning, the younger brother to Peyton, who was injured this season and is the only four-time NFL Most Valuable Player, has one championship on his shelf.
A second would secure his bust at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The oddsmakers favor the Patriots (15-3) by three points, but the match should be even.
New England’s riding a 10-game winning streak, and easily handled the Denver Broncos 45-10 in the divisional round, but held on for a 23-20 win over Baltimore in the AFC title game.
Maybe Las Vegas thinks revenge is in the back of New England’s mind after suffering a 17-14 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII? The setback was the only blemish on the Patriots’ run to a perfect season.
New England’s tight end tandem of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are unstoppable, but Brady will be under duress from New York’s potent defense, which is led by Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.
Hernandez caught seven passes for 66 yards against the Ravens, while Gronkowski (injured ankle) accounted for 87 yards on five catches.
Brady’s other weapons include Wes Welker (six grabs for 53 yards versus Baltimore), Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, and Danny Woodhead.
In the title game, Brady was intercepted twice and failed to throw a touchdown. He did have a short scoring run and passed for 239 yards.
The Patriots are 20th in rushing and rely on bruising back Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, who finished with 68 yards and scored a touchdown in the title game.
New England’s pass defense is ranked 31st, while its run defense came in 17th, and is paced by Vince Wilfork.
Like four years ago, New York’s peaking. The Giants have a five-game winning skein and have victories over the New York Jets (29-14), Dallas Cowboys (31-14), along with playoff wins over the Atlanta Falcons (24-2), the defending champion Green Bay Packers (37-20), and the San Francisco 49ers (20-17) in the NFC title clash.
Manning had been much-maligned until he piloted the Giants to that three-point triumph over New England.
Manning was brilliant against the 49ers, throwing for 316 yards with two scoring passes.
But it’s been the emergence of Victor Cruz that’s made the Giants (12-7) the fifth-best passing team. Against the 49ers, Cruz corraled 10 passes for 142 yards.
Manning will also throw to Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, along with running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.
New York’s rushing attack is 32nd, and in the title game, Bradshaw had 74 yards while Jacobs garnered 13.
The Giants will have to do a better job running the ball, and they should. But the key is Manning, who is playing at a higher level than anyone in the league.
It’s going to be close. The call: New York 31, New England 24.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.