Super Bowl 2012: How they match up

Patriots pass offense vs. Giants pass defense

This is a closer matchup than some might think, even with Tom Brady running the league’s second-most productive offense. Nobody is better at attacking the middle of the field. The health of tight end Rob Gronkowski’s ankle is an issue. New York has a ferocious defensive front featuring at least four exceptional pass rushers on the field at any given time. It was that pass rush (with different personnel) that tilted the scales the last time these teams met in the Super Bowl. Brady gets the nod, but it’s close. EDGE: Patriots

Patriots run offense vs. Giants run defense

Both teams will want to establish the run to keep the opposing quarterback off the field and to set up the play-action passing game by luring up the safeties. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a solid running back who has never fumbled in his career. Rookie Stevan Ridley is more explosive, but he’s fumbled three times in the last four games. Although they’re best known for getting to the quarterback, the Giants do a respectable job of stopping the run too. EDGE: Giants


Giants pass offense vs. Patriots pass defense

There’s no question now whether Eli Manning is among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, and no one was better in the fourth quarter of games this season. He has turned receivers Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham into stars, and they will present big problems for a pass defense ranked second to last this season. The Patriots gave up a league-high 79 plays of 20 yards or longer, and the Giants have a stable of players who can bust open a play after the catch. EDGE: Giants

Giants run offense vs. Patriots run defense

One of the things that made Manning so impressive this season is how he put up those numbers with no running game. The Giants had the league’s worst ground attack this season, although it has improved in the postseason. The Patriots are decent at stopping the run, and they’ll face Ahmad Bradshaw for the first time this season. Moving Vince Wilfork, New England’s mountain in the middle, will be a big challenge for New York. Still, this game is about the passers. EDGE: Patriots


Special teams

Field goals made the difference in all three of New England’s Super Bowl victories, but the latest was seven years ago with Adam Vinatieri kicking. Now, it’s the Giants who have the more seasoned kicker in Lawrence Tynes, whose field goals lifted New York in its last two conference championship victories. The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski had a statistical edge during the regular season, successfully kicking 84.8% of his field goal attempts to Tynes’ 79.2%. New York’s Steve Weatherford, an excellent directional punter, gets the nod over New England’s Zoltan Mesko. EDGE: Giants


Picking against Bill Belichick feels like sacrilege, considering he’ll be in Canton before Tom Coughlin. But Coughlin has had New England’s number of late -- a 17-14 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, and this season snapping the Patriots’ 20-game home winning streak, 24-20. In defeating San Francisco, the Giants picked up their seventh postseason road victory under Coughlin. That’s tied with Dallas’ Tom Landry for the most in NFL history. If the Patriots win, Belichick would tie Pittsburgh’s Chuck Noll for the most Super Bowl rings (four) by a coach. EDGE: Giants

Farmer’s pick This figures to be a down-to-the-wire game, and the Patriots have the edge in intangibles, considering they’re inspired to avenge their Super Bowl loss to the Giants four years ago and put the ideal finishing touch on a season dedicated to Myra Kraft, the late wife of team owner Robert Kraft. But the Giants defensive front could be the scale-tipper for teams that otherwise are pretty evenly matched. Giants 31, Patriots 28