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Super Bowl 2012: 10 Players To Watch On Sunday

February 5, 2012 by staff 

Super Bowl 2012: 10 Players To Watch On Sunday, Think about it for a moment: Are the 7-7 Giants in the Super Bowl if Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie limits Victor Cruz to a first down, rather than letting him run for a 99-yard touchdown on Christmas Eve?

1. Tom Brady, quarterback, Patriots Brady looked shaky in the AFC Championship, but his poise bubbled in the fourth quarter, like it always does, and he dove over the Ravens’ goal line for the winning score. No other quarterback is loved and hated for the same reason: When it counts, Brady is damn good.

2. Dan Connolly, centre, Patriots The reason Brady can be Brady is because his offensive line, anchored by Connolly, stretches time for him. While the Patriots allowed 32 sacks in the regular season, 15th in the league, Brady was yanked down just once in January.

3. Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end, Giants Pierre-Paul is a 6-foot-5, 278-pound grenade with biceps. He is strong enough to fold and nimble enough to squeeze through the thickest line. And with New England eyes and hands anxiously following 23-year-old Jason Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka could each get a shot on Brady.

4. Antrel Rolle, free safety, Giants Brady will complete passes, the key is limiting yards after the catch, and that job belongs to Antrel Rolle. The playoff leader in tackles (18), he will need to constantly communicate with his secondary and his linebackers to make sure New England’s offence only goes so far.

5. Eli Manning, quarterback, Giants Eli’s body of work will never match Peyton, but no one doubts the younger Manning’s big-game stature anymore. With the pocket collapsing and all his receivers covered, Eli can wiggle away and zip the ball where it needs to be, all the while looking like a spooked teenager.

6. Victor Cruz, wide receiver, Giants Think about it for a moment: Are the 7-7 Giants in the Super Bowl if Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie limits Cruz to a first down, rather than letting him run for a 99-yard touchdown on Christmas Eve? Maybe. Probably. Cruz’s speed turns quick receptions into amazing gains.

7. Aaron Hernandez, tight end, Patriots If Rob Gronkowski’s hurt left ankle makes him a spectator, New England offensive co-ordinator Bill O’Brien will trust Hernandez. The 22-year-old, like Gronkowksi, is strong and fast. But this post-season, Hernandez has proven himself to be a devastating rusher too, with five carries for 61 yards in the wild-card round.

8. Julian Edelman, receiver/safety, Patriots How Bill Belichick will use Edelman? The 25-year-old could be anywhere: lining up out wide as a receiver or in the secondary as a safety or defensive back. His numbers are not spectacular (four catches for 34 yards, and 13 tackles on defence), but the coach trusts him to make a big play.

9. Ahmad Bradshaw, running back, Giants Against linebackers Rob Ninkovich and Brandon Spikes and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork’s belly, Bradshaw will probably not rush for 100 yards. But his angry strength will be vital in short-yardage situations, and each time Manning needs to dump the ball short for quick gains.

10. Jerod Mayo, linebacker, New England Patriots Like Rolle, Jerod Mayo will need to be the defensive example. The linebacker leads New England with 17 combined tackles in the playoffs and will be important to keeping yards by Bradshaw, Cruz and Hakeem Nicks short.

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