- Pats - Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore, Julian Edelman (somehow) - Since everybody has to play nickel in today's NFL, I've chosen the top-5 db's on both sides here. This is an obvious weakness of the Patriots simply because of missed draft picks and injuries. Chung and McCourty are legitimately talented, but the other three are below-average, scrap-heap guys headlined by Edelman who's a backup slot receiver masquerading as a nickel back.
- Giants - Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle, Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Deon Grant - This is another relative weakness for the Giants, but it simply hasn't been as exposed because of how outstanding their front 4 has been. Aaron Ross and Antrel Rolle have better names than their play, and while Webster has been fairly solid, I think Phillips is the best player of the five.
- Edge - Giants
- Pats - Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Rob Ninkovich, Dane Fletcher - This is a relative strength IMO for the Pats now that Mayo is totally healthy and Brandon Spikes has come on a bit. Mayo is a pro bowl-type guy, and while Spikes has been knocked about speed, he seems to make plays. Ninkovich is an edge rusher and is effective there, and Fletcher is simply a depth guy.
- Giants - Mathias Kiwanuka, Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn - Kiwanuka is a pass-rusher first and foremost having moved from DE, and he helps the front four with an additional guy. Boley led the team in tackles and is a solid, solid player, while Blackburn is a converted special teamer playing the middle.
- Edge - Push
- Pats - Vince Wilfork, Mark Anderson, Kyle Love, Shaun Ellis - The Pats play a 3-4 but I'll list four guys because backups play on the D-line more than just about anywhere. Wilfork is an all-pro at DT and he anchors the unit. Anderson is a pure pass-rusher who's been wildly effective after the loss of Andre Carter. Ellis is the veteran former Jet who is nothing special at this stage, and while Love has come on in the middle, he's a clear step down.
- Giants - Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph - The best D-line in the NFL when they have it going. When they play the first four guys above, every single one of them is a dominant pass rusher and with their versatility it's scary. Pierre-Paul is the physical freak, Tuck is the most versatile, Osi is the pure pass-rusher, and Canty is the versatile inside/outside guy. Oh, and Joseph has been awesome at DT.
- Edge - Giants (Significant)
- Pats - Stephen Gostkowski (K), Zoltan Mesko (P), Danny Woodhead (KR), Wes Welker/Julian Edelman (PR)
- Giants - Lawrence Tynes (K), Steve Weatherford (P), Will Blackmon (Returner)
- Edge - Push - Rather than break all of these guys down, I'll make it quick. I'd rather have Gostkowski as my kicker, Weatherford as my punter (with apologies to my Michigan guy Zoltan), Blackmon in the KR game, and Welker in the PR game. Done and done.
- Pats - Logan Mankins, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Matt Light, Brian Waters, Dan Connolly - Listing six Patriot O-lineman because Cannon has been playing a lot at tackle. At any rate, this is an experienced and talented unit that I think is certainly in the top half of the league. They certainly face a challenge in the electric Giants d-line but it helps to have pro bowlers in Mankins and Light.
- Giants - Kareem McKenzie, David Diehl, David Baas, Kevin Boothe, Chris Snee - Average at best IMO. Eli has taken many, many hits this year and that'll likely continue here.
- Edge - Patriots
- Pats - Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez - Best combination in the entire league, and easily two of the top-10 options individually at their position. There is an injury concern for Gronk, but he's a physical beast and I'd expect him to go.
- Giants - Jake Ballard, Travis Beckum - I'm actually a fan of both guys as I think Ballard has been solid in the stead of the departed Kevin Boss, and Beckum has athletic upside ever since Wisconsin, but it's average at best.
- Edge - Patriots (huge)
- Pats - Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Matthew Slater - In SLIGHT defense of this unit, they basically have wide-outs in Gronk and Hernandez as well. That said, Welker is a Pro bowler, but he's the only above-average option here. Branch is solid as a secondary guy and Edelman is Welker, Jr. but less effective. Ocho and Slater are terrible.
- Giants - Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham, Jernel Jernigan, Ramses Barden - One of the better receiver trios in the league in those top 3. Nicks is the most talented, Cruz has exploded onto the scene in a way that very few have from an undrafted platform, and Manningham is a dynamic downfield threat who's been drawing single coverage thanks to the other 2. Jernigan and Barden are non-factors.
- Edge - Giants (Huge)
- Pats - Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen - I literally have no idea here. The lawfirm is the best interior runner by a long shot but they rarely feed him extensively thanks to offensive design, and the other three are unknowns relatively to the point where no one is really sure who will even see the field. Total Belichick.
- Giants - Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, DJ Ware - Bradshaw is a beast when healthy and he's shown signs of that in recent weeks. I am in the camp that Jacobs is d-o-n-e, but there's no denying his shear girth in short yardage spots. Ware is a nice compliment and 3rd option.
- Edge - Giants (solidly)
- Pats - Tom Brady - In the discussion for greatest QB of all-time IMO. I'm a bit irrational thanks to his Michigan ties, but the numbers and 3 rings are undeniable especially considering the relative dearth of talent he's had to work with offensively in some these years. Remember when he was winning titles with Deion Branch, David Patten, and company? Or how he has NEVER had a top-10 running back (or even top-15 except for a small Corey Dillon explosion). He played poorly, by his standards, in the AFC title game, and I don't think that will repeat itself.
- Giants - Eli Manning - Having the best season of his career by a wide margin. He's certainly helped by having three upper-echelon receivers, but there's no denying his knack for making big plays in big spots, and I respect him as an undoubted top-10 QB. I'd like to see it for more than one year at this level before we all anoint him as a top-5 current QB (too late), but he's certainly up there, and no one would be shocked if he won in this spot.
- Edge - Patriots
- Pats - Bill Belichick - Considered by most as the best coach in the league. I firmly believe we can overrate coaches based on their talent, etc. but there's something to be said for a resume filled with titles, and he's certainly got that. Also, the work he's done with that patchwork defense down the stretch of this season should be commended. Hard to beat.
- Giants - Tom Coughlin - Gets killed far too often in New York and elsewhere. He's got a ring, and that can't be taken away. I'd be pretty comfortable with him as a Giants fan, and even if he doesn't bring a significant schematic advantage, he's solid.
- Edge - Patriots
So, there you have it. My quick math would tell me that the Dr. Jack breakdown ends in a 4-4-2 tie, and with the tightness of the Vegas line and national opinions on the game, that is no shock. However, in this spot, I'm going to take the better QB and the better head coach, and say Patriots 31-23. Enjoy!