Commentary

First Look: Giants-Patriots Super Bowl

Here's Jeffri Chadiha's early look at Super Bowl XLII between the New York Giants and New England Patriots.

Originally Published: January 21, 2008
By Jeffri Chadiha | ESPN.com

Randy Moss and Michael StrahanGetty Images/US PresswireThe Patriots' Randy Moss and the Giants' Michael Strahan hope to make bigger impacts in Arizona than they did in their respective conference championship games.
The New York Giants seem to be unbeatable on the road. The New England Patriots are unbeatable … period. Despite your likely disappointment at not having a Favre-Brady duel, the Super Bowl XLII matchup definitely will be intriguing on many levels. Here are five early questions sure to be discussed in the next two weeks:

1. Will the Patriots find a way to unleash Randy Moss in the Super Bowl?


No. If this postseason has taught us anything about devising a game plan for New England, it's that limiting Moss' touches gives opponents a better chance of winning. He caught only one pass in the Patriots' 21-12 AFC Championship Game win over San Diego, and he had only one reception in an AFC divisional playoff win over Jacksonville.

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Going back to the regular season, both Baltimore and Philadelphia controlled Moss as well -- he had nine receptions for 77 yards combined against those teams -- and each team lost by just three points. In other words, New England is a different team when Moss is stifled.

Now does that mean the Patriots won't find other ways to move the football? No. They've proved they have plenty of other weapons, including Wes Welker, Ben Watson and Laurence Maroney.

But the point here is that Moss demoralized the Giants with his big plays in a 38-35 loss Dec. 29 (he caught six passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns, including a 65-yarder). If he does that again, New York won't win.

2. Should the New England defense still be considered a weakness?


There are still questions about the athleticism of their linebackers, but you have to give the Pats credit: They were a pain in the butt in the red zone Sunday, as the Chargers learned. San Diego made three trips inside New England's 20-yard line and wound up kicking three field goals. Simply put, you don't beat the Patriots by getting three points when you could have had seven.

In fact, the biggest play of the game came in the third quarter when Patriots inside linebacker Junior Seau stopped running back Michael Turner on a third-and-1 at New Englands' 4-yard line.

If San Diego converts that play and scores a touchdown, the Chargers take a 16-14 lead. Instead, they settled for a 24-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding that left them trailing 14-12. San Diego never came close to taking the lead again.

By the way, the Giants weren't exactly phenomenal in the red zone in their 23-20 overtime win over Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, but they did score two touchdowns on five trips inside the Packers' 20-yard line.

3. Which players will be X factors in Arizona?


There's no question that New England backup running back Kevin Faulk will have to keep making the plays he has produced this postseason.

When the Chargers took away Tom Brady's favorite receiving options, diminutive Faulk always made a clutch catch to keep the chains moving. He finished with eight receptions for 82 yards, and his critical, third-down catch late in the fourth quarter helped New England put the game away.

In short, Faulk can kill an opponent with his open-field running ability and sure hands.

For New York, it's become quite apparent that rookie running back Ahmad Bradshaw is a valuable weapon. At 5-9, 198 pounds, he doesn't have the size of starter Brandon Jacobs, but he definitely runs just as hard. In fact, he's one reason the Giants controlled the football for a little more than 40 minutes against the Packers.

If Bradshaw continues to produce solid numbers (he had 63 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries against Green Bay), New York will have a strong one-two backfield punch to throw at the Patriots.

4. Should the Giants be concerned about their pass rush?


No. Even though New York failed to sack Brett Favre, the defense made key contributions in other areas. It forced two turnovers, the last of which was an interception by cornerback Corey Webster that led to the winning 47-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes in overtime.

The defense also limited Packers running back Ryan Grant to 29 yards while allowing Green Bay to convert just one of its 10 third-down opportunities. Although sacks would've been nice, those numbers meant just as much to the Giants' success.

However, the Giants certainly will need more pressure on Brady. They led the NFL with 53 sacks and have the athletes to create problems for any quarterback.

One thing that definitely would help the New York cause is getting defensive end Michael Strahan going. He struggled with Packers right tackle Mark Tauscher, and the Giants will need a big game from him against a Patriots offensive line that is as good as any in the NFL.

5. So why should anyone believe the Giants can beat the Patriots when they couldn't do it in the season finale last month?


Simply put, the Giants are more confident and focused than they were at the end of the regular season. They used that loss to the Patriots to grow, and they've become more dangerous with each passing week.

New York certainly proved it had the talent to compete with New England in the regular season. Now, the Giants think they're good enough to win a championship.

The problem, however, is that the Patriots have grown, as well. New England has maintained the intensity that fueled an undefeated regular season and the Pats realize how close they are to making history.

You can bet the Patriots will be just as eager to pounce on the Giants as they were in that season finale. And that's what will make them so tough to handle a second time around.

Jeffri Chadiha is a senior writer for ESPN.com.