Last week I convinced you that the Patriots are going to win the Superbowl. A normal game preview would be wasted here because you and I both know what the outcome will be. So, I have decided to rank the top 38 starters in the Superbowl that are not offensive lineman. I apologize to any offensive lineman readers out there. Maybe Tom Brady can buy you guys some Rolexes and Uggs to make it up to you.
The Space Fillers:
38. The Other DB on the Patriots (Ihedigbo, Brown, McCourty)
37. Chase Blackburn
36. Kyle Arrington
35. Gary Guyton/Dane Fletcher
34. Kyle Love
The best possible scenario for these players is for you to not even notice that they are there. Do not expect to see these guys much on Sunday unless it is on the opposite end of a big play. They won’t be able to keep up with the top tier offensive players, so they won’t be assigned to cover them. Hopefully they don’t blow it for their teams. I’m looking at you, Sergio Brown.
The Might-Have-an-Impact Players:
33. Jake Ballard/Henry Hynoski
32. Steve Weatherford
31. Patrick Chung
30. Antrell Rolle
29. Deion Branch
28. Rob Ninkovich
These players are a little better then the Space Fillers. They aren’t ever going to be superstars. Despite this, I guarantee that one of these guys will make a game-changing play. Whether it is a Ninkovich sack, a Rolle interception, or a Weatherford punt deep into Patriots territory, one of them will directly impact the outcome of the game. That player won’t win the MVP (sorry Deion Branch), but the contribution will be critical to the success of the team.
32. Sterling Moore
27. Lawrence Tynes
It’s a short list, but these two saved the seasons for their respective teams. Tynes’s field goal in overtime sent the Giants to the Superbowl. Moore made the same play Alex Rodriguez made a few years ago. The only difference is that in football, slapping the ball out of a receiver’s hands is legal and saved the Patriots season. These guys elevated their games when it mattered, and for that, I salute them by giving them their own category in this countdown.
Semi-Important Defensive Role Players:
25. Brandon Spikes
24. Chris Canty
23. Kenny Phillips
22. Aaron Ross
21. Mark Anderson
These defensive players are close to the Might-Have-an-Impact Players, but there is one major distinction. These guys all need to be steadily involved in the defense for their teams to win. They need to execute effectively all game long, even if they aren’t in the highlight reel. Spikes and Anderson have emerged late in the season as important role players on a Patriots defense late in the season. Ross, Canty, and Phillips will need to keep their assignments under wraps so that the Giants’ defensive studs can worry about stopping Brady.
The Patriots Special Teams:
20. Zoltan Mesko
19. Steven Gostkowski
One thing the Patriots are great at this year is kicking the ball. Zoltan is one of the best punters in the league. He was able to pin opposing offenses inside their own 20 yard line on 24 different occasions with only four touchbacks this season. This will give the Pats an opportunity to pin the Giants deep if they have to punt. Zoltan also wins for best name of a punter, with Sav Rocca of Washington a distant second. Gostkowski has missed only two out of 21 field goal attempts since week 10. It usually turns out well when the Pats have to kick.
The Running Back Committees:
18. Ahmandon Jacobshaw
17. DanJarvus Greenwood-Ellishead
If you combined the Patriots and Giants running backs into these two, you would get two of the best fantasy football running backs in the NFL; instead they infuriate fantasy football players and defensive units alike as two headed monsters. I gave Green-Ellis and Woodhead the edge over Jacobs and Bradshaw because of their greater effectiveness. The Giants running backs are more skilled and highly touted, but the Patriots running backs always have more room to run because of the attention Brady commands. These players are the X-factors in this game. While everyone is focused on Brady and Manning, expect each duo to rush for over 100 yards.
The Defensive Core:
16. Mithais Kiwanuka
15. Corey Webster
14. Michael Boley
13. Jerod Mayo
12. Justin Tuck
The Giants linebackers are underrated. Boley and Kiwanuka are effective against the run, blitzing, or in coverage. Despite this they will be responsible for the outstanding Patriots tight ends, and Brady will test them all game long. Mayo is an up-and-coming star that really needs to shine on the Patriots defense. He will have to continue to be a superb run stopper for the Patriots in this game given the weakness of the defensive line. Webster is the best defensive back in the Superbowl, but he will be challenged in coverage on Welker. Tuck is a great defensive lineman that I expect to have a big impact in pressuring Brady.
The Every Down Receivers:
11. Mario Manningham
10. Wes Welker
9. Hakeem Nicks
8. Aaron Hernandez
Both the Patriots and the Giants have several talented players at receiver (I know, Manningham might not be number 11 in this game, but it gave me a category. Give me a break!). Welker’s quickness will test Webster all night. He should get his underneath routes in the zone and be a dark horse MVP contender. Nicks is a great receiver who is only helped by the emergence of Cruz on the other side of the offense. Hernandez would be the best tight end on any team that didn’t have Rob Gronkowski. Though I don’t think he minds.
The Defensive Leaders:
7. Osi Umenyiora
6. Vince Wilfork
These two players have been great defensive lineman for several years. Umenyiora gets to the QB quickly and often, which is how to fluster Tom Brady. I expect to see him all over the backfield while Brady is dropping back. On the other hand, Wilfork has always been a huge run-stopper in the middle. He is supposed to be a mountain of a man that just stands there and clogs up the entire middle of the field. Apparently no one told him this. Over the past two games he has become the Patriots best pass rusher. He has shown the ability to overpower any lineman and put pressure on a QB right up the middle. He should have a huge impact in this game and get to Eli Manning a few times.
The Final Five:
5. Victor Cruz
He has been nothing short of amazing this year for the Giants. He also scares Pats fans the most. Anyone who saw Torrey Smith get open deep three separate times against the Patriots game last week knows that Cruz will do the same; the difference is Eli Manning can make the throws that Joe Flacco could not. I expect one long touchdown from Cruz this game against a defense that just can’t keep up with him.
4. Eli Manning
Elite? Maybe. I’m just kidding. This season he has become elite. He is a great quarterback and he will put up some numbers in this game. As a side note I am extremely excited to see the various faces Payton Manning makes when they show him during the coverage. I am hoping that we can see the mix of “I am making a trillion dollars on commercials right now,” “If my brother wins people will start saying he is better than me,” and “I hate to see Tom Brady win.” It should be great.
3. Jason Pierre-Paul
Sixteen and a half sacks. That’s a lot of sacks. He is a physical freak who will run by the Patriots offensive line all game long. Hopefully the Patriots can weather Hurricane JPP and keep his influence to a minimum. My fear is that Brady will get to know him pretty well this game.
2. Tom Brady
There isn’t too much more I can say about Brady. He is a great quarterback and if he can win this game the debate of Greatest of All Time will rage on. He would tie Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana for the most Superbowl wins, and win or lose he will have played in the most Superbowls. I think it’s an open and closed case; he will be the G.O.A.T. if he can win this one. But then again, I am a little biased.
1. Rob Gronkowski
“Yo soy fiesta.” The Gronk. He can singlehandedly dominate a game. I don’t care what the media says about his injury. He will be on the field and he will run all over the Giants. Crazy people have a way of convincing themselves that they don’t feel pain, and this man is crazy. He will be the best player on the field, and it will show. Hopefully the Patriots have at least 15 more years of the Fiesta.
Oddly Specific Game Prediction
The Fiesta will score the first two touchdowns of the game. The Giants will come roaring back on a strip sack by Umenyiora and a 70 yards touchdown pass to Cruz. After a few field goals Brady will drive the Pats down the field and score on a QB sneak. His celebration will involve him holding the ball on his head Tyree style. The Patriots win the game 31-20. And yes, my box pool numbers are 1 and 0.
Kelly Clarkson National Anthem: Over 1:34 -120
Kelly Clarkson Wears: Colts Jersey or Shirt +700
Coin Toss: Heads -105
Team to Receive Kickoff: NYG -285
Will Madonna wear Fishnets at any time during halftime: Yes -120
How many times Peyton is shown on TV: Over 3.5 -130
How many times Giselle is shown on TV: Under 0.5 +150
How many times the Helmet Catch is shown: Over 1.5 EVEN
Longest Touchdown: Over 49.5 -115
Color of Gatorade Dumped on Winning Coach: Red 13/2
MVP: Fiesta 12/1