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Final Scouting Report on the Giants and Patriots

A preview of the important things to watch on Super Bowl Sunday

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014  |  Updated 2:24 PM PDT
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Final Scouting Report for Super Sunday

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We know all the names, all the history and just about everything else about the Patriots and Giants at this point in time.

Telling you that Jason Pierre-Paul can make life a living hell for Tom Brady is something you know as well as the birthdays of your children. Listening to someone drone on about the fact that the Patriots defense is a shell of the ones that brought Bill Belichick three Super Bowl rings has probably lost all meaning.

So, to kill the last hours before they actually shut up and play, we're bringing you some of the micro issues that will determine who wins and loses in Indianapolis. The way these matchups and situations unfold are going to be as crucial to the game as everything you've already heard this week.

Patriots in a Hurry - The Patriots didn't use much hurry-up offense in their first meeting with the Giants this season, something that will likely change on Sunday. Going without a huddle will keep the Giants from substituting on defense and allow Brady to make changes at the line to exploit weaknesses in the Giants defense. BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be a big part of their ability to do that as an effective running game will force the Giants to go away from pinning their ears back to get after Brady.

Playing Every Minute of the First Half - The Giants have been very successful this season at getting points on the board just before halftime. In eight regular season games and all three playoff contests the Giants have scored after the two-minute warning and many of those points have been momentum shifters that carried over into the second half. Eli Manning is very good in the two-minute drill so the Patriots need to be on guard for a late score that shuffles the deck before an extra-long halftime.

Julian Edelman, Defensive Back - Belichick has had to constantly move pieces around defensively to compete this season and there's no clearer illustration of this than the fact that slot receiver Edelman is now the team's slot corner. He has not looked good in the role and, given the way Victor Cruz has dominated actual defensive backs this season, that doesn't bode well for the Pats. Will Belichick go full-time with a nickel package and force the Giants to run the ball well enough to make him switch?

Answer With Ahmad Bradshaw - If the Patriots do leave the Giants room to run, Ahmad Bradshaw is New York's best chance to answer. He can run out of a conventional set, out of the shotgun and catch flares or screens with blockers set up in front of him. The Patriots aren't very fast at linebacker so Bradshaw, who has battled foot injuries much of the season, can do serious damage if he gets past the line of scrimmage with a head of steam.

Formation, Formation, Formation - Watch to see how the Patriots line up Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, we're assuming he plays despite an ankle injury, on Sunday. Putting them off the line or in the backfield will help them get free releases down the field, something that's crucial for their quick striking offense to make plays. The Patriots live over the middle in the passing game, so spacing and alignment is key to opening things up in that area.

Vince Wilfork - Volumes have been written in the last two weeks about the need for the Patriots offensive line to contain the Giants pass rush. Less noticed is how significant it will be for the Giants to control Wilfork, who was a monster in the AFC title game. If he can consistently penetrate the line and get into Manning's face, the Giants offensive timing will be thrown off. He'll need to beat double-teams, but the Giants line got run over in San Francisco so there's definitely a chance he can do it.

Long Drives vs. Big Plays - When these teams last played in the Super Bowl, the Patriots were the explosive offense and the Giants were the grinders. Things will be different this time around as the Giants feast on big plays and struggle when they get close to the end zone. The Pats aren't three yards and a cloud of dust, but they do a much better job of moving the ball down the field and punching it in from the red zone. If either team isn't doing what makes them comfortable offensively, the game will likely get away from them.

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