(Sports Network) – Despite being held in check by Pittsburgh’s formidable defense last week, the Patriots still boast one of the NFL’s most potent and dangerous offenses that tops the league in first downs (25.7 avg.), stands second in passing yards (324.7 ypg), third in total yards (437.1 ypg) and fourth in third-down conversions (50.6 pct.). The key to it all is obviously Tom Brady (2361 passing yards, 18 TD, 8 INT), who’s enjoying another stellar season even though he’s had twice as many interceptions as he did during his MVP campaign of 2010. The standout quarterback has four quality options to throw to, led by prolific slot receiver Wes Welker (57 receptions, 824 yards, 6 TD), the league’s leader in both catches and receiving yards per game. Former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch (30 receptions, 3 TD) provides a reliable outside presence to the mix, while second-year tight ends Rob Gronkowski (36 receptions, 495 yards, 5 TD) and Aaron Hernandez (29 receptions, 4 TD) are both lethal inside the red zone and often Brady’s preferred choices in that area. New England also has an interesting collection of running backs, with leading rusher BenJarvus Green- Ellis (400 rushing yards, 5 TD) a physical and sure-handed performer between the tackles and 13-year vet Kevin Faulk now back from an ACL tear to reprise his longtime role as the team’s third-down specialist.
Brady and his cast of receivers will be taking on a New York defense that’s played quite well against the pass in recent weeks, albeit the Pats do represent a step up in class. The Giants have yielded just four touchdowns through the air and bagged eight interceptions over their last five games, with cornerbacks Corey Webster (26 tackles, 3 INT, 9 PD) and Aaron Ross (24 tackles, 3 INT, 8 PD) each recording three picks during that stretch, and allowed a scant 101 net passing yards to Miami’s anemic offense last Sunday. The duo is backed by an excellent pass rush that’s amassed a league-best 26 sacks thus far and is now at full strength now that valued end Justin Tuck (7 tackles, 2 sacks) is over neck and groin injuries that have limited him to three games. The 2010 All-Pro honoree teams with two-time Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora (12 tackles, 6 sacks) and second-year phenom Jason Pierre-Paul (35 tackles, 8.5 sacks) to give New York an outstanding collection of pressure-creators. Umenyiora has racked up six sacks in just four games since returning from early-season knee surgery. The Giants haven’t fared well in containing the run, however, having allowed at least 145 yards on the ground in five straight outings and owning an unwanted 28th overall ranking in rush defense (130.1 ypg).