Cairns Analysis: Who will win Super Bowl XLVI?

INDIANAPOLIS - The New York Giants and the New England Patriots will take pro football's biggest stage on Sunday night in Indianpolis for Super Bowl XLVI. Are you tired of all the hype and ready for the big game? Have you watched enough of the Super Bowl commercials online and are ready to see the real thing? Here are some final thoughts before the big game Sunday:

The Giants and the Patriots will meet in the big game for the second time in the last four years. In 2007, the G-men pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.

The Patriots have been installed as a slight favorite by the odds-makers in Las Vegas and rightfully so. Tom Brady is the best quarterback in pro football today and he has the numbers to prove it. In 2007, Brady threw for 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, and he has been almost as good this year. The two-time league MVP has tossed 39 touchdowns to just 12 inteceptions. His 5,235 passing yards is the second highest total in league history and he has something to prove against the boys from New Jersey.

Super Bowls define great players. Tom Brady knows that. The Patriots have lost to the Giants the past two meetings, including a rare defeat at home in New England from Eli and company back in week 9 this season. One of Brady's top targets, tight end Ron Gronkowski will be a game time decision, still bothered by a high ankle sprain suffered during the AFC Championship game over Baltimore.

But Brady has other targets. Wes Welker has rebounded nicely from an injury-plagued season to catch 122 balls for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. Clearly, the Pats can put up points. Their 32.1 points-per-game average was one of the best in the NFL.

The bigger question, can Brady's offensive line hold off a red-hot Giants defense that has been on the best in the league over the past seven weeks? It's no surprise when the Giants get to Tom Brady bad things start to happen to the Patriots offense. The Patriots using a running back by committee, but none of the players they use will scare you very much. New England is a throw-first football team, but they need to run the football some to keep the Giants defense guessing, even a little bit. If the Patriots can protect Brady and give him some time to make plays, New England has a chance to win this game. The Patriots defense has been very suspect this year, but have been solid in the postseason and that's all that matters, but do they have one more big game in them?

Eli Manning and the Giants looked like their season was over back in November when a loss to Washington left the team with a 7-7 record and in a must-win situation for the remainder of the season. The Giants won those must-win games and then some, carrying their momentum into the post season with wins over Atlanta, at defending Super Bowl Champ Green Bay and then a win at San Francisco to advance to Indianapolis.

While Tom Brady may have been the best quarterback in the league all season, Eli Manning has been the best quarterback over the last five weeks. Manning has been outstanding in leading the Giants into this game. Eli threw for 4,933 yards for 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. But Manning has been almost perfect in the playoffs. Eli is a big-game quarterback and the Giants, as a team, feed off him. Eli, like Brady has plenty of weapons as well, and the Giants may have the better of the two teams' wide receivers with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, both recievers who went for more than 1,000 yards receiving this season, combining for 16 touchdowns.

Defensively, nobody does it like the Giants. Once banged up and pourus at times, a now-healthy frontline has wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks throughout the last five weeks. The Giants defense has allowed just 39 points in the postseason, and they've given up 67 while producing 20 sacks over their five-game winning streak, and not allowing any of their opponents to throw for more then 251 yards in that span.

The Giants front four will again be called upon to harass Tom Brady, much like they did in 2007. Both teams will bring back healthy players that were not available when the two teams met in week 9 and that will also play a major role.

Since 2001, the Patriots and the Giants have met four times, each winning twice, but this will be a game every one will remember. The Patriots didn't beat a team with a winning record during the regular season, joining the '99 Rams and the '74 Steelers as the only Super Bowl participants to fall into that category.

I think both teams will get their points, but turnovers will be the deciding factor as they always are. Protect the football and your quarterback, easier said then done. So, who wins this football game? Here is my prediction. I am going with the hot team. I know the Patriots are favored and haven't lost since week 9, but I think Eli Manning and the Giants are on a roll that won't be stopped on Sunday.

Giants      35

Patriots    27

Tell me who you think will win. Enjoy

the game.

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