NFL Week 9: Giants Pass Rush, Patriots Passing Game Should Highlight Super Bowl XLII Rematch

Memories of Super Bowl XLII will resurface when the New York Giants–17-14 winners of football’s premier showcase on Feb. 3, 2008–visit Gillette Stadium to play the New England Patriots this Sunday at 4:15 p.m. ET.

Much less is at stake this time around, but since this Super Bowl rematch is part of the greater New York-Boston sports rivalry–to which intrigue is added by the New York Jets looking to tie the Buffalo Bills (their opponents in Week 9) and New England atop the AFC East–the subplots are endless.

But the key game-within-the-game will, in essence, take place between the Giants’ defensive line and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (2,361 yards, 18 TD, 8 INT) and his slew of targets. New York has a league-leading 26 sacks and New England ranks third in passing yards (2,273). (The Patriots have lost 88 yards on the 14 sacks they’ve allowed this season.)

Receivers Wes Welker (57 receptions, 824 yards, 6 TD), Deion Branch (30 receptions, 405 yards, 3 TD) and tight ends Aaron Hernandez (29 receptions, 298 yards, 4 TD) and Rob Gronkowski (36 receptions, 495 yards, 5 TD) have a combined 2,022 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.

It will be up to Giants defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul (8.5 sacks), Osi Umenyiora (6 sacks), Justin Tuck (2 sacks) and Dave Tollefson (3 sacks) and linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka (3.5 sacks) to disrupt Brady’s rhythm.

The Giants recorded five sacks in their 20-17 win over the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, and nothing short of duplicating that performance will be necessary to beat the Patriots. But that is easier said than done, as New England, along with the Indianapolis Colts, has allowed the sixth lowest amount of sacks (14) in the NFL.

New York’s secondary will have a tough time trying to stop the Patriots’ passing attack, but this game will be won or lost by its defensive line.

For Umenyiora and his teammates on the front line, the game plan is simple: get to Brady and you win. The alternative to that, of course, is giving the 34-year-old QB too much time to carve up the defense and eventually losing by a wide margin.

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