Ok, I've read and thought about this a lot. Peter King had the cover story in SI on the matchup between the Patriots offense and the Giants defense. Though it was not his intent, he convinced me that will not be the key matchup.
I think the result when those two sides face off will be about the same as the last time they met. If anything, the Patriots will have the advantage: they're getting some O-line and blocking types back and the Giants secondary was very beat up at the end of the season.
Brady will get his yards. The Giants will do what everyone else has done in the last I-don't-know-how-many-weeks: take away the long pass and make them be patient with short passes and runs, and the Patriots will take them (in general).
No, the key matchup will be the Giants offense against the Patriots defense. It was the key matchup last time. The Giants scored on their first possession with the key play being a 52 yard pass from Manning to Burress.
(Watch the NFL Network's highlights of the game. Click on the 'Play-By-Play' tab for specifics.)
The next Giants score came off of a returned kickoff for a touchdown.
With another touchdown off of more measured plays, that put the Giants up 21-16 at the half. Contain those two big plays and you're talking about, maybe, 7-16 (not to mention more time of possession by the Pats).
Finally, the Patriots allowed too many rushing yards in the Giant's first drive of the second half, and they scored.
After that, they settled down and didn't allow the Giants to score again until the game was out of reach.
There is no doubt in my mind that this will be the Patriots' game plan in the three phases:
1. The offensive approach will be the same as if has been back at least to the last time they played the Giants: Assume the Giants will double- and triple-cover Moss to prevent the big play. So the Pats will probably have to take the short passes and runs in the face of a great Giants pass rush that didn't get to Brady last time and won't this time. The Pats will look for the long ball to Randy. Playing in great weather on ideal turf (at least before the halftime show) will prompt them to watch for the long play, and even try it, but not force it. Paging Wes Welker ... We will also need a good game from Maroney, Faulk, and Watson, especially (the normal hot read/outlet receivers).
2. Defense: Focus on the running game, the Giants' strongest asset with two good, young, strong runners. Second, stop the big play to Burress.
3. Special teams: Do not allow a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown on pain of death! Belichick hates that stuff and prides himself on having good special teams. Of course, beyond that, they'll want to play error-free on special teams, with no long returns.
That game plan adds up to a Patriots' victory. I don't claim to be astute (or dumb) enough to predict a score. Even if the Giants score as well as they have been since the last Patriots' game, they will not be able to outscore the historic Pats' offense. And I'm sure Belichick will pull out all the stops to ensure the Giants don't score as much as they have been.
What do you think?
Burress guaranteed a victory and even predicted a score. I don't think this will have a huge effect as bulletin board material, being that this is the Super Bowl.
Macon suggested I live-blog the game, which I don't think I will. However, he and I are talking about doing some chatting during during the game. Feel free to join in the fun (in Gmail or Google Talk. And if you don't know how, email me, of course).