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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Let's set the record straight right here and right now: Super Bowl XLVI is a battle of two National Football League teams that have been-there and won-that in terms of big games and so count us among the folks that don't believe there will be a whole lot of jitters here (yes, we know the Giants have back 15 players from their last Super Bowl win four years ago while there are only 7 members on the Patriots' roster that were there in February of 2008) and so don't expect what happened when these clubs collided back in Week 9 play this year when they went to halftime at 0-0 en route to the Giants' 24-20 upset win.

There should be some big plays on offense in the first half here after that wasn't the case back in Foxboro back on November 6th.

Still, there are some obvious - and not-so-obvious - key aspects to winning this Sunday's game from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and we'll spell them out in order of importance in just a moment but first this key reminder:


Okay, so now here's the Five Biggest Factors in Winning Super Bowl XLVI ...

#1 SURPRISE, SURPRISE IT'S THE GIANTS PASS RUSH... Hey, we'll told you there were obvious factors that would help determine the winner of this game and it all starts here. The 3-point favored NE Patriots want balance in their attack - trust us that 12th-year head coach Bill Belichick doesn't want mega-star QB Tom Brady chucking the ball more than 40 times here - but when he does set-and-throw Giants pass-rushers Jason Pierre-Paul (16.5 regular-season sacks), Osi Umenyiora (regular-season sacks despite missing lots of time) and Justin Tuck (among others) would like to be right there in Brady's grill just as the NYG pass rush guys were back in that 17-14 upset win in SB XLII.

It's safe to say that if the Giants - and especially that "NASCAR" named group of all defensive ends in there at the same time - does not have a major impact in this game in terms of sacks, hits, hurries, deflections, etc. than Tom Coughlin's club more than likely will be cooked.

P.S., count us among the folks that believe the Patriots will spend extra-special attention in chipping/blocking Pierre-Paul who has wrecked more than a few offensive game plans this season.

#2 CAN/WILL THE PATRIOTS' MUCH-MALIGNED DEFENSE PICK OFF MANNING?... The numbers don't lie and they say the Giants' mature slinger threw 16 INTs in the regular season but only one pick so far in three post-season games in wins against Atlanta, Green Bay and San Francisco. Folks, it's rather amazing that Manning has thrown 123 pass attempts this post-season with just one interception and no doubt the New England defense - one that has shown improvement despite the public howls to the contrary -- must rise up and get a pick or two against Manning here ... or else.

The interesting part of analyzing this factor is that Manning has "forced" some throws into coverage this post-season including some downfield flings to WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks that were caught - think "Hail Mary" at the end of the first half in Green Bay - and yet the Super Bowl 42 MVP seems immune to tossing an interception. If Manning steers cleaar of getting picked off here this Sunday, than that means New England's defense needs more conventional red-zone stops and maybe some offensive penalties to slow down "Big Blue" and that might be asking for too much good fortune.

#3 PLAIN AND SIMPLY, GET OFF THE FIELD ON THIRD DOWN...No doubt we point this mostly towards the Patriots defense that must not allow Manning and the Giants to succeed on third-down plays time-after-time here.

As we brought out in a Jim Sez column late last week, the Giants have converted a whopping 44.2 percent of third-down plays this post-season (that's 23-of-52) and they shown an uncanny knack for making things happen on third-down plays with the pass protection brilliant and Manning making the right moves - and a "hats off" to Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride who takes an awful lot of unjust criticism from the media and all he does is push the right buttons. One aspect that Gilbride might have to consider here is when to run the ball on third-and-three, third-and-four because if/when the Patriots' defensive line morphs into one of their three-man looks - even with All-Pro Vince Wilfork in there - it may be better to run it with RB Admad Bradshaw getting the calls.

No doubt the Patriots offense also must answer the bell on third down and it's somewhat amazing that New England's faced just 17 third-down plays in this post-season with Brady and Company converting 8 of those third-down plays for first downs in wins against Denver/Baltimore and something tells us TE Aaron Hernandez could get a few carries out of the backfield on third-down plays here - so stay tuned.

#4 THE "HIDDEN YARDAGE" FACTOR IS BIG HERE, REALLY BIG...One thing about both Belichick and Coughlin: They each coached under Bill Parcells "back in the day" and nobody stressed the "hidden yardage" factor more than Parcells and by this we mean all the special teams yardage that many folks barely pay attention to on a normal occasion. The Giants must have P Steve Weatherford deliver as he's done all year long and right throughout this post-season and his ability - or perhaps inability - to pin the Pats inside their 10-yard line here will be ultra-critical.

Conversely, the Pats need some energy plays by their return men and that's where Julian Edelman comes into play - while everyone discusses the merits of the multi-faceted Edelman in terms of how he will stack up wheile playing some pass defense here, the "real" Edelman in Supe 46 will be about what he can do with some returns because a flip-the-field play or two could mean the world to New England.

#5 WHAT COACH WILL "BLINK" FIRST?...Belichick and Coughlin have combined for a grand total of four Super Bowl titles and remember they've coached in a gazillion big days in their illustrious careers but even battle-tested coaches make mistakes or what we'd call errors in judgment in big games (didn't Belichick make a big one in this very building a couple of years back against the Indianapolis Colts as in fourth-and-short?) and how these gentlemen coach in gut-check situations here figure to tell a big tale here:

Will Belichick call on his guys to fake a punt as the aforementioned Parcells often did in big games?
Will Coughlin resort to trickery here if he thinks for a moment he had the Patriots defense "figured out"?
In short, you do you trust more in a big spot - the revenge-seeking Belichick or the new/improved Coughlin?


Don't be so quick to pencil in the names of all the elite squads into the top seed lines in next month's NCAA Tournament: We are - after all - entering the month of February and there's liable to be plenty of upsets brewing and just last night you got a taste of what may be straight ahead when the likes of Michigan Staate and Vanderbilt were upset by the respective likes of Illinois and Arkansas ... so you might be on "upset alert" here these first couple of days of February? Here's a couple of teams that better be careful:

#14 GEORGETOWN (16-4, 6-3 Big East) - The Hoyas may be playing at an .800 winning rate thus far this 2011-12 season but all's not exactly right in John Thompson III's kingdom and now Wednesday night here comes a UConn club (1406, 404 Big East) into town having lost three in a row and angry as a proverbial hornet's nest. If Georgetown C Henry Sims (averaging 5.5 rebounds-per-game to go along with 11.8 points a game) doesn't take over this game inside than G-town will have some major woes and especially if the likes of Jeremy Lamb (17.9 ppg) goes into some sort of scoring drought. Remember that Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun has shaken up the Huskies starting lineup here with PG Ryan Boatwright and PF Rosecoe Smith both getting inserted into the starting five here.

#12 FLORIDA (17-4, 5-1 SEC) - The Gators roll into Thuirsday's ESPN tilt (9 p.m. ET) riding a five-game winning streak and note that Billy Donovan's gang has won four of these five games by twin-figure margins but upset-minded South Carolina is bent on revenge following Florida's 79-65 win/cover as 7-point road favorites back on January 14th. You may recall in that clash that the Gators shot a sizzling 53.2 percent from the field (that's 25-of-47 made FGs) and the Gators really shined by hitting 12 trifectas. How can South Carolina produce a shocking win here? For starters, better perimeter "D" would help plus keep an eye on Gamecocks G Bruce Ellington who scored 17 points in 28 minutes in that last clash but never could get everyone else on his side involved to the fullest.

NOTE: More Super Bowl Notes in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez and remember that we'll have the Super Bowl XLVI Preview in Friday's edition of Jim Sez.

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