The New York Giants will try for their fourth Super Bowl title Sunday, and for the second time in five seasons the New England Patriots are the team that stands in their way. The NFC champion Giants and AFC champion Patriots meet Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. in the 2012 Super Bowl. Game time is 6:30 p.m. on NBC.
The Patriots are a 2.5 to 3.5-point favorite depending on what oddsmaking service you go through.
The game is a rematch of Super Bowl XLII in 2008. The heavily-Patriots, 18-0 entering that game, were upset by the Giants, 17-14, in that game. David Tyree's famous 'helmet catch' led to a last-minute game-winning touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress to seal the victory for New York.
The Giants have been to the Super Bowl four times, winning three of those. If the Giants win Sunday evening this will be the second Super Bowl titles for Manning and coach Tom Coughlin, and there has been much discussion in the buildup to the Super Bowl that a second title would be enough to eventually get both Coughlin and Manning into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
To get that title, the Giants will once again have to go through one of the most successful franchises in sports history, and a quarterback/coach combo in Tom Brady and Bill Belichick who are already considered locks for the Hall of Fame.
This marks the Patriots fifth appearance in the Super Bowl in 11 seasons, and New England won the first three of those before being knocked off by the Giants in 2008. The five Super Bowl appearances marks the most ever by a coach/quarterback combination.
Brady has two Super Bowl MVP trophies and can set a host of other Super Bowl passing records on Sunday. Manning was the MVP in the Giants' 2008 victory over New England, making Sunday's game the first time in Super Bowl history that quarterbacks who have each won Super Bowl MVPs will oppose each other in a Super Bowl game.
Brady and Manning operate two of the league's most high-powered offenses. Brady passed for 5,235 yards this season and Manning for 4,933. Their 10,168 combined passing yards is the most all-time by a pair of quarterbacks facing off in a Super Bowl.
Brady's favorite targets are wide receiver Wes Welker (122 receptions), and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (90 and 79 receptions, respectively). The health of Gronkowski, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship Game, has been a major source of concern. Gronkowski is expected to play.
Manning's favorite targets are wide receivers Victor Cruz (a team-record 1,536 receiving yards during the regular season) and Hakeem Nicks (1,192 yards receiving).
The Patriots ranked second in the NFL in yards per game during the regular season, averaging 428.0 per game. The Giants averaged 385.1, eighth in the league.
Defensively, both teams are better than their regular-season stats would indicate.
The Giants finished the season 27th in the league in overall defense, allowing 376.4 yards per game. They surrendered 25 points per game, 25th in the league. In the playoffs the Giants have allowed only 321 yards and 13 points per game.
They are led by All-Pro defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, along with fellow defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. The Giants' defensive effort Sunday will be predicated upon getting pressure on Brady, trying to force quick throws and mistakes.
The Patriots finished the regular season 31st in the league defensively, allowing 411.1 yards per game. New England has also been better in the playoffs, allowing 325 yards and 15 points per game. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork is the key player on New England's front seven. The other key for the Giants will be avoiding mistakes against a Patriots defense that was second in the league with 23 interceptions, and also recovered 11 fumbles during the 2011 season.
The game matches two of the most successful active NFL coaches. If the Patriots win today Belichick will tie legendary Pittsburgh coach Chuck Noll with four Super Bowl titles, most by a coach in NFL history. Belichick has 17 postseason victories, tied with former Washington coach Joe Gibbs for third-most all-time.
Coughlin joins Bill Parcells as the only Giants head coaches to lead two teams to the Super Bowl. Coughlin has led the Giants to five postseason appearances, tied with Parcells for most in team history.