It's the two elite quarterbacks that have taken the spotlight heading into Super Bowl XLVI. Eli Manning vs. Tom Brady. Number one vs. number 199. The bright lights and big stage on draft days vs. a shaming tearful walk before that fateful phone call.
One was born with the football equivalent of a silver spoon in his mouth, the other struggled through the basics and worked his way into every opportunity he ever received.
A contrast? Yes, a stark one indeed.
The stories of how Eli and Brady got to this very point are divergently different. But, it is the fact that they are here that makes them great.
What will be five Super Bowl rings and seven appearances between the two is astounding. The mere appearance of each quarterback in Sunday's big game is a testament to their level of excellence.
Yet, the meeting of Brady vs. Manning on the turf inside Lucas Oil Stadium will not decide the outcome come Sunday evening. Sure, the quarterback's will play a prominent role and likely even receive the MVP award at the game's end, but the offensive success revolves around much more than just that of Tom or Eli.
In preparation for one of the best offensive showdowns in recent Super Bowl history, let's break down some of the key offensive elements of Sunday's Super showdown in Indianapolis.
This category is essentially a wash, it's only being discussed for mere posturing purposes in reality. On any given Sunday, given the choice between Brady and Eli, I would consider myself a very fortunate head coach.
To have either quarterback manning (unintentionally intentional) my offense would be an honor and a blessing. It would be much more an issue of fortune than that of misfortune. A gift far before it could ever be considered a curse.
Four Super Bowl rings between the two, passing yards galore and a whole mess of game-winning drives are just a few of the long list of statistics and accolades that prove each player's immense reputation league-wide.
Pick your poison and by night's end, even if you're not wearing the hat or hoisting the trophy, you'd know that your decision was a good one no matter how you slice it.
Why: The mere fact of Brady's superior standing in terms of big game accolades, three rings and two MVP's, would give him the slight bump over Eli.
If there is an NFL team better suited to breakdown the Patriots beastly pass blocking line, it would be the Giants.
The combination of essentially four top-line end rushers in Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Matthias Kiwanuka offer the Giants a great opportunity at getting to Brady and at the very least disturbing the pocket and disrupting his timing.
On the other hand, the Patriots have been stellar in front of Brady all season long. The likes of Pro Bowl guards Logan Mankins and Brian Waters along with Matt Light, Nate Solder and the return of All-Pro tackle Sebastian Vollmer offer a massive and physical line in front of the two-time MVP. Given the big boys up front, withstanding New York's pass-rush is a legitimate possibility.
As for the Patriots' pass rush, Vince Wilfork will lead any charge New England's front seven make on Sunday. The massive defensive tackle played possibly his best football in the AFC Championship game, six tackles and a sack, disrupting nearly every dropback from Ravens' QB Joe Flacco.
Wilfork's push on the inside coupled with the likes of Mark Anderson and a healthy Shaun Ellis on the outside could cause problems for David Diehl and Eli's offensive line.
In the end the Giants have a number of big bodied lineman with a great history of solid protection and physicality. Chris Snee, David Bass and Kareem McKenzie are no chumps and should find a way to neutralize Wilfork and the Pats.
Why: The Patriots are extremely talented up in front of Brady but there is no denying the talents of the Giants pass rush. With Chris Canty up the middle and JPP and Co. coming off the edge it would be absolutely shocking if Brady went the entire night without a sack.
The Patriots front four are good, the Giants are better. Ipso facto the Giants offensive line should hold up better come Sunday.
The running game for both the Giants and Patriots has been a secondary thought all season. Heading into 2011, the Giants were expected to rely more on newly anointed lead-man Ahmad Bradshaw, but a bevy of injuries and inconsistent play led to a more platoon attack by year's end with Bradshaw working off the tackles and bruiser Brandon Jacobs working inside the numbers.
Overall, New York saw minimal production from their ground game finishing dead last in the NFL with just over 89 yards per game. This inability to establish the running game could be a concern for Tom Coughlin in Indy as the Patriots may have the opportunity to drop more backers into coverage and leave a strong defensive line with the duty of maintaining Bradshaw and Jacobs.
In recent weeks the platoon has shown some signs of life, busting out for a few needed first downs and scoring a few timely touchdowns. The question is whether they can find a level of consistency on Sunday.
Over on the New England sideline, the rushing attack has become more important to Bill Belichick and Co. over the course of the season, as the hoodie began relying on some force between the tackles to steady his passing game. But, the onus of the Patriots offense still lies within the hands of the Tom Brady.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been the feature back for much of the season, although it is Danny Woodhead that has seen the most action during the postseason. The combination of the thunder and lightning pair can be lethal for opposing defenses, if not properly accounted for during preparations. The Patriots love to bust out a long run-heavy drive with BJGE every now and again and the use of Woodhead out of the shotgun can stagger even the best pass rushing ends.
If Stevan Ridley can be trusted to hang onto the football, his addition would go along way in the Patriots establishing the ground game in Sunday's Super Bowl.
Why: My gut tells me that by night's end the Giants will have put up a higher total of rushing yards, but it's the runners effect on first and third downs that will have the greatest impact and I look for Benny and the former Jet (Woodhead) to blaze through in key situations and open up more opportunities for Brady.
The talk all week has been about Rob Gronkowksi and the health of his left ankle. Media Day was full of ankle talk and since Tuesday, nearly every major media station has shown the clip of Gronkowski walking off the turf, bootless mind you, on average about 30-40 times per hour.
So, with that in mind, the Gronk's health is clearly a key in determining which team has the better skill position players.
The Giants have arguably the NFL's best receiving corps, with the likes of Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham roaming the outsides and causing problems for even the league's best secondaries - never mind it's worst.
For the Patriots it all comes down to a few guys really: Wes Welker, Deion Branch and of course the Tight End's Gronk and Aaron Hernandez. The grouping of all four together is a dangerous combination, but without one fully in the mix there is a serious sense of vulnerability against quality defenses.
A lot is riding on Gronk's ankle this weekend, more so than just his massive 6'6" 260-pound frame. The entire Super Bowl could very well come down to RG's ability to cut on routes and finish off plays this Sunday.
If Gronk doesn't play or even underwhelms, a wild-card to keep an eye on is someone plenty of people have been keeping tabs on this week: Chad Ochocinco. Ocho is certainly a talented playmaker with the ability to break out on a big play at almost any moment.
The proof hasn't been too obvious so far this year, but a great example of his desire and ability was seen during the Giants game in the regular season. The receiver formerly known as Johnson worked well on his routes and put himself in good positions to make plays all afternoon.
It would be unwise to put too much faith in the inconsistent superstar, but keeping tabs on his status throughout certainly wouldn't hurt.
Why: It's almost as even as the quarterback play, if not even closer. Cruz's emergence during the NFC Championship game was the ultimate decider as his knack for the big play and ability to create something from near things is too much to overlook.
Manningham and Nicks are extremely good, but so are Welker and Hernandez. A healthy, or even adrenaline filled, Gronkowski could change the dynamic but that type of judgment will have to wait until Sunday.
Super Bowl XLVI Overview: Seeing that this will take the place of my weekly breakdown, I'll throw down a quick prediction for good time's sake. Brady and Manning trade touchdowns for much of the game and each side throws up 17+ in the second half.
Player Outlooks: Eli tosses three touchdowns and a lone pick, while Brady pops in a pair of TD's and Woodhead busts through for another big one late in the third quarter.
Victor Cruz gets held in relative check, 3 catches for 45 yards, and Manningham shows off his mitts with 7 catches for 102 yards.
Deion Branch busts out with a big game, 6 catches 76 yards and a TD, and Gronkowski finishes with 4 grabs for 84 yards.
The Giants defense finds it's way to Brady throughout the night, but only brings him down once and never forces him to throw an interception.
Meanwhile on the other side, Wilfork leads a strong Patriots' pass rush and NE gets to Manning twice, both times with the pressure by Mark Anderson.
Final Prediction: Patriots 35, Giants 31.
Just for Fun: Some Super Bowl jingles and a masshole sports fan in China
I found a bevy of Patriots and Giants fans/degenerates making Super Bowl videos and figured it would only be appropriate to post them along with this piece. (Warning: Videos may contain obscenity).
So, here you go. Enjoy!
- PATIOTS VIDEOS -
- GIANTS VIDEOS -