Patriots Strengths

1. The most lethal force in football history — Tom Brady, Randy Moss and the passing game — have made a mockery of the record books. No NFL team, and that includes the Giants, has been able to stop the New England passing attack. To throw 50 TD passes in a season, with the weather this team fought through in December, borders on the miraculous.

2. Playmakers where they count — Quarterback with Brady, game-breaking receiver with Moss, pass rusher with Mike Vrabel, left tackle with Matt Light, shut-down corner with Asante Samuel, and run-stuffer with nose tackle Vince Wilfork. New England has all the high-impact positions covered with these six Pro Bowl starters.

3. Bill Belichick — This champion thing is a learned science, and nobody has picked it up more completely than Belichick, who as Rodney Harrison said this week, "never overlooks any detail."

4. Super savvy — If any collection of athletes knows what it takes to win a Super Bowl in this era, it is the New England Patriots. This team has battled game-day attrition, forcing the likes of Antwan Harris, Je'rod Cherry, Hank Poteat and converted linebacker Don Davis into the secondary during the past three Super Bowl wins. People like to point to the fact that the Super Bowl wins were by 3 points, but remember, they are all wins.

5. Destiny — You just don't go 18-0 and lose in the greatest game of them all. This team has done everything the right way. Why stop now?



Patriots Weaknesses

1. Aging talent — The starting linebackers are 30, 32, 34 and 39 years old, dinosaurs among NFL ranks. At some point, the legs have to go.

2. Standing on the corner — As good as Asante Samuel is on one side the field, Ellis Hobbs is clearly a deficiency on the other. At times, Hobbs has been replaced by Randall Gay, who lacks consistency.

3. Tom Brady's tender ankle — Brady being banged up will not only hurt the offense, but will instill confidence in the Giants.

4. Newcomer Stephen Gostkowski — The second-year place-kicker hasn't made a real pressure kick yet in his two-year pro career. What happens Sunday if the game is on the line and he is called on to win the game with a long field goal?

5. The Arizona heat — Only one team is trying to complete an undefeated season. Only one team is bidding to go down as the greatest team in history. The Pats can deny it all they want, but there will be some serious pressure come Sunday.



Giants Strengths

1. Playmaking receivers — Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and Steve Smith might not be a Patriots-caliber receiving corps, but their play down the stretch has been close. Burress was unstoppable in the NFC title tilt with Green Bay. All Toomer does is move the chains.

2. Manning means business — For the first extended stretch in his career, Eli Manning is playing the game like he means it. A driven Eli Manning is a dangerous Eli Manning.

3. Michael Strahan — His persistent motor on the defensive line energizes the Giants. Strahan draws company consistently in the trenches. He's quick and athletic, the type of menacing rusher that in the past has caused the Patriots problems.

4. Athletic linebackers — Antonio Pierce, Kawika Mitchell and Reggie Torbor cover sideline to sideline. Pierce is a budding superstar, while the other two are playmakers.

5. An underrated boss — Tom Coughlin was on the deck, waiting to be counted out, but the veteran coach never stopped trusting in his system. Finally, the players started listening.



Giants Weaknesses

1. Two weeks to think about it — The delay between games has allowed Eli Manning and Co. plenty of time to ponder the gargantuan chore ahead. If any team ever needed a one-week gap between conference title game and Super Bowl, it is these Giants. At some point, the Rocky Balboa, night-before-the-fight scene, where the Giants realize they can't win, has to kick in. The one-week turnaround was a huge factor in the 2001 Cinderella Pats' upset of St. Louis.

2. Too many mistakes — A quality team would have put the Giants away in the NFC title game when they had the chance. New York is here not only on its own merit but also because of the Packers' ineptitude.

3. Past their peak — You can make a case that New York hit its peak in the NFC Divisional playoff win at Dallas. This team was at its apex on that day.

4. Pressure to be perfect — No, the Giants aren't going for the perfect season. It's just that to beat the Patriots, they must play a flawless game. One or two mistakes and they can forget about pulling off the shocker.

5. Exploitable defensive backs — As much as Sam Madison still competes, he and his secondary mates are just not ready to tackle Tom Brady and the Pats. Randy Moss can run free at any time, as he did in the regular-season finale.



Five Matchups to Watch

1. Matt Light vs. Osi Umenyiora — Is Light as dirty a player as the New York defensive lineman says he is?

2. Randy Moss vs. Sam Madison — At some point, Moss will draw single coverage. Can the veteran Madison handle it?

3. Vince Wilfork vs. Shaun O'Hara — When the Giants center went down in the last meeting, the Pats' interior defense took over.

4. Ben Watson vs. Reggie Torbor — Win here, both in the middle of the field in the passing game and off-tackle in the running game, and that could be the difference between winning and losing.

5. Rodney Harrison vs. Eli Manning — Can Eli, in the spotlight for the first time, handle the mind games?

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