Pete Carroll stood in the center of the locker room and gathered his Seattle Seahawks around him.
CLEVELAND - Groundhog Day just passed and it sure does feel like déjà vu for Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. The same quarterbacks and coaches do battle again with a championship on the line, four years after their classic in Super Bowl XLII.
But this time there are some new variables that will change the complexion of the matchup. Here's your Super Bowl XLVI preview and prediction.
Giants offense vs. Patriots defense
Former Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman is used to doing a little bit of everything on the field. The Patriots drafted him to play wide receiver but with a rash of injuries in the defensive secondary they have turned to Edelman as a defensive back. It's a spot that the Giants should look to test early against the Patriots' AFC-worst pass defense.
Say what you will about Eli Manning's path getting to this point but it's difficult to no longer consider him among the game's best quarterbacks. Tim Tebow got all the hype for 4th quarter comebacks in the 2011 season but it was really Manning who was the comeback king. He led his seventh game-winning drive of the season in beating the 49ers in the NFC Championship game.
The difference for Manning is the chemistry he has established with undrafted wide receiver Victor Cruz, one guy who was not in Glendale four years back. Cruz has flair for the big, game-changing reception and opposing fans have to shudder at the thought of his salsa dance, like a wrestler would his opponent's signature move.
Vince Wilfork was a beast against the Ravens and should plug up the Giants rush game up the gut. Ahmad Bradshaw is capable of breaking off a dynamic gain in the short passing game and Hakeem Nicks is another option but this matchup really comes down to the Patriots containing the Manning and Cruz combination.
Patriots offense vs. Giants defense
There will be lots of great skill players on both sides when these two units take the field. Tom Brady was as good as ever in 2011 in reaching his fifth Super Bowl. Like Manning though it's a new weapon that has become Brady's dynamite.
Rob Gronkowski set a new standard for tight ends this season, pulling in a record 17 touchdowns but his health for Sunday's game is a question mark after he suffered a high ankle sprain against the Ravens. Gronkowski is undoubtedly Brady's favorite red zone target and his size makes him extremely difficult to defend in that tight area. If he's not at 100 percent, it's a huge advantage for the Giants, as they can put more focus on Wes Welker.
A key in the Giants' success against the Patriots has been pressuring Brady. Their defensive line is ferocious with pass rushers Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Chris Canty and Justin Tuck.
If you pressure Brady, he does not look like the same quarterback, which was very evident in Super Bowl XLII.
The spectacle and nerves that may go along with playing in a Super Bowl shouldn't be a big factor for coaches and quarterbacks who have already experienced it. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick know this stage well, three-time Super Bowl winners with the Patriots. You have to imagine Brady will relish this opportunity to get revenge for losing the perfect season at the hands of the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
It's funny how the Giants' fortunes have changed so dramatically on special teams the past two seasons. Last season, it was disaster with DeSean Jackson's game-winning punt return, a blow from which they never recovered. This time around Kyle Williams' special teams mistakes helped them get to Indianapolis.
Brady is one of the best to ever play quarterback but It just seems like Eli Manning has the Patriots' number. He has led game-winning drives against them in their last two contests.
The last three Giants vs. Patriots games have all been close, the final scores: 38-35, 17-14, 24-20. Expect another nail biter, as with the Giants a field goal away from forcing the first ever Super Bowl overtime, Manning victimizes New England again, throwing the game-winning touchdown in the final minute.
Prediction: Giants 28, Patriots 24
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