New York Giants vs. New England Patriots (-3, 53.5)
THE STORY: Two Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks, a rematch of one of the biggest upsets in the game's history and fervent fan bases that share much of the same geographic region.
Storylines abound for Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI matchup between the New York Giants and New England Patriots, yet much of the hype has centered on the left foot of a second-year tight end. An injury to New England's Rob Gronkowski, who is expected to play but it is unclear how much due to a high ankle sprain, could have the biggest impact on the outcome when the Patriots and Giants clash in the Super Bowl for the second time in five seasons.
New York won the previous matchup as a double-digit underdog, spoiling New England's bid for a perfect 19-0 season with a 17-14 victory in February 2008. The Giants are also the last team to beat the Patriots, who have won 10 straight games since a 24-20 loss to New York in Week 9 that snapped New England's streak of 20 consecutive regular-season home victories.
In both matchups, Giants quarterback Eli Manning – the MVP of Super Bowl XLII – led a last-minute comeback to upstage Patriots QB Tom Brady, a two-time Super Bowl MVP.
TV: NBC, 6:30 p.m. ET.
LINE (Check out our in-depth action report on the Super Bowl odds): Oddsmakers opened the Patriots as big as 4-point favorites. Action on the Giants has moved the spread down to -2.5. The total opened at 55 points and dropped to as low as 53 this week.
ABOUT THE GIANTS (12-7, 11-7-1 ATS): New York has taken a path that is eerily similar to its Super Bowl run four years ago, shaking off a mediocre regular season to rattle off five consecutive victories that included beating the NFC’s top two seeds – Green Bay and San Francisco – on the road.
Defense has sparked the turnaround for the Giants, who have surrendered only 39 points in three postseason victories while registering nine sacks and forcing seven turnovers. Manning threw for a career-high 4,933 yards with 29 touchdowns vs. only 16 interceptions in the regular season and has been steely efficient in the postseason with eight TDs and one pick.
Manning threw for a league-high 15 fourth-quarter touchdowns in the regular season, including two in the victory over the Patriots. Receivers Hakeem Nicks (4 TDs in the postseason), Victor Cruz (NFC-high 1,536 yards) and Mario Manningham (3 TDs in the postseason) give Manning plenty of weapons.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who missed the regular-season meeting, rushed for 74 yards in the NFC title game. He’ll be complemented by bruiser Brandon Jacobs, who ran for 72 yards against the Patriots in November.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (15-3, 10-8 ATS): Brady followed up a record-setting effort against Denver with one of his worst postseason performances in a 23-20 win over Baltimore in the AFC title game. He finished with 239 yards and was picked off twice while failing to throw a touchdown pass for the first time since Week 17 of the 2009 season.
Brady overcame a wobbly start to throw for 342 yards and two TD passes against New York in November, but eight of his completions and one TD went to Gronkowski, who has been limited in practice since being injured. Gronkowski was the centerpiece of the Patriots’ high-powered offense, hauling in 90 receptions and setting league records for TDs (17) and receiving yards (1,327) by a tight end.
Brady, who threw for 5,235 yards, 39 TDs and 12 interceptions, will join John Elway as the only quarterback to start five Super Bowls and can surpass Joe Montana (16) for the most postseason victories. Receiver Wes Welker had a league-high 122 catches, including nine for 136 yards against the Giants. The big question is whether New England’s much-maligned defense can stop Manning when it counts.
SUPER BOWL HISTORY
GIANTS (3-1): Def. Denver 39-20 (1986); def. Buffalo 20-19 (1990); lost to Baltimore 34-7 (2000); def. New England 17-14 (2007).
PATRIOTS (3-3): Lost to Chicago 46-10 (1985); lost to Green Bay 35-21 (1996); def. St. Louis 20-17 (2001); def. Carolina 32-29 (2003); def. Philadelphia 24-21 (2004); lost to N.Y. Giants (2007).
BETTING TRENDS (Check out our in-depth betting trends and stats article):
* Under is 4-0 in the last four meetings in New England.
* Giants are 5-1 ATS in their last six meetings.
* Under is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Underdog is 5-1 ATS in their last six meetings.
1. Sunday’s game will mark the first time that both starting quarterbacks have been former Super Bowl MVPs.
2. New York is the second team to advance to the Super Bowl (Arizona 2008) by beating three playoff opponents with better records.
3. The previous four Super Bowl appearances by New England, all coming in a seven-year span, were decided by three points.
4. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and New York’s Tom Coughlin each served on the same staff with the Giants under Bill Parcells.
5. In the Week 9 meeting, the Patriots and Giants played the first scoreless opening half of the season.
PREDICTION (Take a look at our Covers.com staff picks for Super Bowl XLVI): Giants 27, Patriots 23 - A hobbled Gronkowski is too much to overcome for New England’s offense, particularly in the red zone, and New York makes it two Super Bowl wins in five seasons.