Thursday, January 26, 2012

Twenty Best Players in the Super Bowl

With the big game just a week away, I thought I'd count down my list of the top twenty players who will be battling for it all next sunday.

20. Mario Manningham, WR, Giants
- Manningham hasn't made too much noise this year because of a lingering knee injury, but he's just getting back to 100% and is poised for a huge game in the Super Bowl. Since Cruz and Nicks are so good, he'll most likely see a good amount of Julian Edelman, which can't be good for the Patriots. Though I do love how Belichick does that though. I think when you get converted wide receivers and no names of the street playing together, it really builds an us against the world team chemistry. Or it just lets Eli Manning through all over you. We'll see.

19. Devin McCourtey, CB, Patriots
- The Pats wouldn't be here if it weren't for Sterling Moore, but Devin McCourtey is still the best player in their secondary. He's had a bit of a down year, but it's more because of injuries to the secondary than McCourtey's abilities. He's been shuffled around at different spots and asked to do a lot more things, whereas last year he just played man coverage all the way to the Pro Bowl. He played half of his snaps against the Ravens at safety, and against the Giants he's really going to have to control the middle of the field if the Patriots are going to win.

18. Brian Waters, G, Patriots
- Of course Brian Waters had a great year. Typical Belichick washed-up veteran who turns pro bowler signing (he did whiff on Haynesworth though). Waters has been dominant in the Patriots sneaky good running game which could give the Giants problems.

17. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots
- Green-Ellis just seems to get better every time I watch him. He won't wow you with any moves or speed, but he'll also never lose yards. I think it'll be key for the Pats to establish the run in the Super Bowl, and I'd even expect some draw plays to Green-Ellis on third and short or medium when the Giants have their four DE set in.

16. Matt Light, T, Patriots - The veteran left tackle might be getting older (33), and he might not be the dominant player he was in his prime, but he's had a great year in response to the Nate Solder pick, and held Terrell Suggs in check for most of the AFC Championship. He'll be one on one with Osi Umenyiora in arguably the most important matchup of the game between the Giants pass rush and the Patriots protection unit.

15. Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots -With the Gronk a little hobbled, Hernandez could be poised for a huge game in Super Bowl XLVI. The huge year by his fellow tight end has really hidden how good Hernandez actually is, and the Pats might need him to make a couple big plays to keep up with the Giants.

14. Antrel Rolle, S, Giants - The Giants safeties versus the Patriots between the
numbers passing game is another huge matchup in the Super Bowl. I think the Giants actually have a chance in this matchup, and Antrel Rolle will obviously play a key part in that. Remember that Rolle was the best press coverage corner in the nation at Miami, and in week nine the Giants felt comfortable with Rolle singled up on both Gronkowski and Hernandez. If the Giants win, Rolle will most likely have a big game.

13. Jerod Mayo, LB, Patriots- I thought in the preseason that Jerod Mayo had a chance to break out as a possible defensive player of the year candidate this season, but injuries have led to a pretty mediocre year for the young inside linebacker. He's healthy now, and he's still the same talented player who made the pro bowl last season.

12. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants- If the Giants can run the ball effectively with Bradshaw out of their three wide, one tight end set, the Patriots could be in for a long day. Bradshaw is emerging into a top ten NFL running back, and he just seems to have great chemistry with Eli in the passing game.

11. Osi Umenyiora, DE, Giants - He won't give you much in the run game, but Osi is just a ridiculously talented pass rusher. He played in just nine games this year, and had 9 sacks. He has a storied past with Matt Light, and like I said that matchup will play a key role in the game.

10. Justin Tuck, DE, Giants - Tuck is one of the most complete defensive ends in the game because he's just as good in the run game as he is as a pass rusher. He had a monster game the last time these two teams met in the Super Bowl, recording two sacks, a forced fumbled, repeated pressures on Brady, and in this game he'll be going against rookie tackle Nate Solder. Solder will be a great player one day, but Tuck could expose him in this game.

9. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants - I thought Nicks had a chance to emerge as a top five NFL wideout this year, because he has the skills to do so, but he was injured too much to put up top tier stats. He's also been overshadowed a bit by Victor Cruz, but he had an enormous game against the Packers and will present serious problems to the Patriots porous secondary.

8. Wes Welker, WR, Patriots - Welker "quietly" caught 122 passes this season, as most of the media attention went to Gronk. Welker's still what makes this offense go, though. He'll see a variety of coverages from the Giants, but he'll still get his catches because there just aren't many people who can match up with him in the slot.

7. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants - I'm not sure if there's an NFL receiver playing better than Victor Cruz right now. He's just a big play machine, and apparently the chemistry is so strong between him and Eli that he's allowed to break out of his route if he sees an opening in the coverage. He's also got the best touchdown celebration in the NFL.

6. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants - JPP has emerged into a truly elite player this year. He's the most athletic person I've ever seen at his height and weight, and he's dominant in both the run game and as a pass rusher. The more and more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the Patriots will have a much tougher time scoring points than the Giants should.

5. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots - The Gronk is just unbelievable. He's an unbelievable pass catcher, perhaps the best blocking tight end in the league, and just a savage off the field. I know it's really early in his career, but I think Gronkowski will go down as one of the best tight ends to ever play. The element of his game that truly separates him from the pack is his blocking ability, and if he's at all hobbled in the Super Bowl it will not only take away one of Brady's targets but will really hurt in pass protection. Gronkowski is incredible at chipping and then releasing into his route, and the Patriots will need him to help with Osi, JPP, Tuck and company if they want to keep Brady upright.

4. Logan Mankins, G, Patriots - Mankins is considered by many to be the best guard in the game, and he's really earned his big contract the past two seasons, as he's just been dominant in both the run game and the pass game. He'll have his hands full in the Super Bowl, and I can't emphasize enough how important that o-line d-line battle matchup will be for the Pats.

3. Vince Wilfork, DT, Patriots - I got really into the NFL draft two years ago, and I decided to start watching the elite prospects in their college games in September of that year. I saw that one of the top prospects was a defensive tackle from Nebraska named Ndamukong Suh, and I watched him in a Thursday night game against Blaine Gabbert and Missouri. I had never seen a player as dominant as Suh in my life. Casual or even pretty serious fans generally don't know too much about offensive or defensive lineman aside from what Chris Collinsworth or Jon Gruden say about them in the primetime games, but when you watched Suh at Nebraska it was impossible not to notice him despite his defensive tackle position. It's the same thing with Vince Wilfork. You're watching the quarterback like you do on every snap, but then you notice that there is a refrigerator-sized man plowing his way into the backfield. He had one of the best games of his career against the Ravens, and he'll play a huge role in the Super Bowl.

2. Eli Manning, QB, Giants - The scary thing for the Patriots is that Manning played much better this year than he did in his Super Bowl year. He may have had some lucky breaks in that 07 game but I think he has a great chance to beat Brady straight up this time. The most impressive thing about his play to me has been his ability to take hits and not get phased by them, which has been key because his offensive line is aging. The Patriots have a pretty weak pass rush and a porous secondary so there's really no reason Manning shouldn't have a huge game.

1. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots - I was tempted to put both Wilfork and Manning in this spot, but I just had to give it to Brady. Everyone's a little down on him right now after his performance against the Ravens, which was the worst playoff performance of his career, but he's still a three time champion, a two time MVP, and the best playoff quarterback of all time. You could even make the case that this has been his best season considering how bad his defense has been and how he's really been beating teams with his mind as well as his arm. He's mastered this two tight end system and seems to make the right read every time. As I think more and more about the match ups in this game, I think the Giants have to have the advantage. I don't see any way the Patriots can slow down their three wide set, while I think the Giants could slow down the Patriots with their incredible pass rush and capable safeties. So if Brady can win this one, I think he has to go down as the best ever. That'll be four titles, two MVPs, the best postseason record ever, the single season touchdown record, and Gisele Bundchen waiting for him at home. If he loses, he'll still be top five all time, and he'll still have Gisele, but people might be more inclined to point out that he had the luxury of the greatest coach of all time on the sidelines for him. Either way, we've got one hell of a game to look forward to next Sunday.


  1. agreed if brady wins this one, he goes down as the best ever. even is he loses, he still might be the best ever. and there's no doubt in my mind that he will go to another super bowl or two or three before his career is over. if he wins this one, he will regain his postseason confidence, and we could see the pats in the super bowl the next 3 years. you never know.

  2. Grant said...
    You missed Mike Boley. Giants D sucked until he came back from his injury. He is the Giants 3rd or 4th most important player on D and has played at a Pro Bowl level this year. He calls the shots, has been lights out against the run since his return, his blitz almost always hits the QB, and as the Giants fastest LB he will be a key matched up against Gronkandez.

    1. I would agree with this. Boley made a huge difference late in the year in their defensive production and he should be on the list. I would drop BenJarvus Green-Ellis of the list because RB's are massively overrated in general in the NFL. I know Chris is currently working on a piece examining this concept.

    2. I'll buy that...I might have been overreacting to Green-Ellis' performance against the Ravens, where he really impressed me with his hard running...his nickname is The Law Firm, too, so I guess you could say I've been rooting for him from the start

  3. And Huff, I think Brady will go down as the G.O.A.T as long as he isn't unseated by Andrew Luck...i'll save that ridiculous opinion of mine for a different article, though