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It’s been almost four years since the drive, the catch, the upset. While Super Bowl XLII proved to be one of the greatest NFL games of all time, the Giants-Patriots rematch this Sunday may be a bust. Both teams are beleaguered with injuries, and New England’s pass defense is in shambles. The highlight of the matchup will most likely be the quarterback battle (which might just end up a skirmish).
Eli Manning is having a career year even though his receiving corps has been less than consistent. He’s been putting up huge numbers week in and week out, but his No. 1 target Hakeem Nicks is out with a hamstring injury. That means Victor Cruz, this season’s surprise hero, will have to continue to step up. The Pats have the worst pass defense in the league so as long as Manning sticks to high percentage passes, the Giants should be fine.
In the backfield, Brandon Jacobs will have to do his best to plow through his opponents without Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw, the Giants top rusher, is out with a cracked bone in his foot. Bradshaw and Jacobs have been effectively teaming up for years, but their numbers have dropped in Manning’s pass-happy campaign this year. Jacobs only has 126 yards so far in 2011.
Yes, the Giants lead the league in sacks, but three of their biggest names are injured. Justin Tuck returned last week from the injury list. Osi Umenyiora has only played four games and has struggled with back and shoulder injuries, and the man who has stepped up in Umenyiora’s absense, Jason Pierre-Paul, suffered a concussion in practice this week. JPP leads the team in sacks but won’t be playing on Sunday.
While the iconic image from Super Bowl XLII is David Tyree’s circus catch, the best plays came from the Giants defense. They notched five sacks against Tom Brady and really rattled him, especially toward the end of the game. They’ll have to repeat that performance if Big Blue is going to win this week. If the Giants keep the heat on Brady and avoid turnovers, they might pull out a win in Week 9.