On Wednesday, NFL Network aired the infamous Super Bowl XLII, in which the Giants ended the Patriots’ undefeated season, 17-14, in Arizona. It brought back memories of dark, dark days around New England. But the game wasn’t simply on for the heck of it. Everybody knows that the Patriots and Giants are squaring off this Sunday (4:25 p.m., CBS) at MetLife Stadium. Everybody knows that the Giants once again have a chance to end an undefeated season – though the date obviously isn’t nearly important as last time. And everybody knows that Tom Brady and the Patriots would love nothing more than to shut up 82,500 loud, obnoxious New Yorkers. Here’s what to look for Sunday:
1. Not your older brother’s Giants
Take a look back at the scores to the two Super Bowls between the Patriots and the Giants. New England’s offense was held to just 14, and 17 points, respectively. The Giants had a top-10 defense the year of Super Bowl XLII. The Patriots had an injured Rob Gronkowski the year of Super Bowl XLVI. This year, neither of those things are true. In fact, the Giants have arguably the worst defense in the NFL this season, allowing an average of 422 yards per game, last in the NFL. Only the Raiders allow more yards through the air than the Giants (307.8). In other words, Tom Brady is going to throw for 700 yards.
2. ODB coming in hot
Malcolm Butler has held down the No. 1 cornerback spot fairly well this season, but he’s going to have his hands full this Sunday with Odell Beckham Jr. on the other side. It wouldn’t be much of a shock to see safety help coming that way, as Beckham already has a lengthy highlight reel in only his second NFL season. We also know that Eli Manning loves throwing it that way — as his 17 targets last week against the Buccaneers would prove. The Giants don’t have much of a running game to speak of, so you’ll see plenty of Beckham Jr. on Sunday.
3. Who’s the other back?
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Dion Lewis was such a great story and fun player to watch this season. It’s a shame it had to end last week on a torn ACL. Lewis made everybody forget about Shane Vereen (who is now a Giant) with his ability to create missed tackles in the open field. It was truly something special. So now what? “Next man up” is the saying. That next man could either be second-year back James White, who was a healthy scratch last week, or veteran special teamer Brandon Bolden, who caught a TD pass last week once Lewis went down. Protect Brady and catch the pass in the flat — that’s the job.