Patriots’ Passing Game vs. Giants Secondary:
Tom Brady to Randy Moss is one of the most devastating passing combinations the NFL has ever seen, so the Giants’ game plan will likely revolve around stopping the deep pass to Moss. Sam Madison will draw the responsibility of covering Moss and he is a smart, veteran player who can frustrate him a little bit with his technique in press coverage if the Giants choose to use it. Gibril Wilson is an active, heady safety who should be able to help out over the top in many situations as well.
The other matchups might be where the Giants have the most trouble. Aaron Ross doesn’t quite have the quickness to match up with either Dante Stallworth or Wes Welker in the slot, and Corey Webster is a liability at times despite his game-changing interception last week against Brett Favre and the Packers.
The Giants do have some athletic linebackers to help cover the middle of the field, however, so the Patriots many good tight ends can be contained as long as the other guys don’t cause trouble and open things up for the tight ends underneath. Ben Watson and company are all adept at finding the open spots in the zone and for the Patriots.
Another guy the Giants will have to keep an eye on at all times is running back Kevin Faulk for the Patriots. Faulk is perhaps New England’s most overlooked weapon and he is a go-to guy in the screen game and on swing passes who picks up key first downs via the pass in big games. Faulk is one of Brady’s go-to guys when the going gets tough but it’s hard to focus on him because of all the other targets Brady has.
Giants’ Passing Game vs. Patriots Secondary:
The Giants have an excellent passing game because of their smart, physical wide receivers, with one catch: much of it is dependent on the running game being effective. Without a running game, Eli Manning can get antsy in the pocket and make mistakes.
If the Giants are able to at least establish a threat of the run, however, they can exploit a few matchups in the secondary against New England. Plaxico Burress is a world-class talent because of his incredible size and quickness. When he’s motivated and healthy as he is now, he can be as good as just about any receiver in the league. New England CB Asante Samuel is physical and tough enough to cover him for much of the game, but his backfield mate Ellis Hobbs could be in trouble if matched up on Burress. The Giants will try and get those two matched up through motion if possible.
Amani Toomer is Manning’s second-favorite target and the Michigan alumnus is one of the smartest and toughest wideouts in the league. He is quick and good at finding open spots in zone coverages, and he’s usually pretty sure-handed despite some recent struggles with drops. Toomer has stepped up big in the playoffs and could be one of the key players for New York in this game.
Steve Smith is coming along as the slot guy and can make some big catches if not enough attention is paid to him. Meanwhile, Kevin Boss has filled in nicely for injured Jeremy Shockey for the Giants and is a big target that Eli Manning can go to when under duress. Boss will need to be on top of his game and not let the crafty New England linebackers like Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel bait him into a dangerous situation where one of Manning’s passes can get intercepted.
Overall: The Patriots win these matchups, but don’t be surprised if Burress has a big game as he tries to match Moss catch for catch.