Point Spread: Patriots -3
The Giants offense has been really clicking in the last month as they are averaging 28 points-per-game over their last five games, all victories. Manning is playing the QB position better than any other player right now and we expect him to have a good game against the league’s 31st-ranked defense. The Patriots have been able to pare 100 yards-per-game off their passing defense during the playoffs but they have faced two running teams so far. Manning is making plays downfield and isn’t averse to throwing short when needed (8-1 TD-INT ratio in playoffs). All three of New York’s top WRs are healthy and all three can make plays. The Pats have been using WR-PR Julian Edelman in coverage and while the Ravens didn’t attempt to exploit that mismatch look for Manning to take advantage. The return to health of RB Ahmad Bradshaw has also sparked the 32nd-ranked run game of the Giants. He and fellow RB Brandon Jacobs are both averaging better than 4.0 yards-per-carry and look for New York to try and be balanced on offense. New England’s run defense has been up and down but they will have to be focused against this running game as the Giants will continue to run the ball if they have success early. Manning was sacked six times last week but that was against the ferocious pass rush of the 49ers. DE Mark Anderson led New England with 10 sacks this year and they miss the contributions of DE Andre Carter (IR).
New England had scored 27+ points in their past nine games (all wins) before struggling last week. Brady threw two interceptions and no TDs last week as he was stymied by the Ravens defense. He was also subpar vs. the Steelers and the Giants earlier this season. Brady has posted huge numbers this season (including 6 TD passes vs. Denver in the divisional round) but has had trouble with very good defenses. New York didn’t have a great year defensively in 2011 but have allowed only 67 points over their past five games as they have really rounded into form. Like their running game, the Giants improved play on defense is health related. Look for New York to get good pressure on Brady by rushing only four players. Brady has always struggled with an intense pass rush and is especially uncomfortable when he gets pressure inside. To counter this, look for New England to run some draws, screens and for Brady to throw quick outs and slants. The Patriots have two great TEs in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski but Gronkowski is battling an ankle injury. These two players usually have a big advantage against opposing defenses but they were kept in check last week. WR Wes Welker usually plays in the slot and led the NFL with 122 catches this season. The Patriots generally have an aversion to running the ball even when they are successful at it. We expect the Giants to control the running game and force Brady to throw the ball for most of the game.
The Giants are currently on a 5-0 SU/ATS run and needed to win their last two regular-season games just to qualify for the playoffs. Their defense has neutralized some very good offenses (Cowboys, Falcons, and Packers) during the streak and we expect them to get after Brady. Offensively, the Giants are peaking as well. Manning has elevated his play and has joined the ranks of the elite QBs in the NFL. He is also playing better than Brady right now and we expect him to help lead the Giants to a SU victory. New England is 1-5 ATS in their last six matchups with New York and 1-7 ATS in their last eight playoff games.
Take the Giants +3 at Bodog.