Patriots-Giants matchup of the day: Tuesday

Posted Jan. 31, 2012 @ 9:26 a.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Second in a series

Here's a key matchup to watch in Super Bowl XLVI:

Patriots DT Vince Wilfork vs. Giants' O-line

The immovable object up front for the Patriots is a big key to their defense's success and could be a thorn in the side of the Giants' offensive line.

Vince Wilfork is such an asset to New England's front seven. He is versatile — you will see him lined up over different offensive linemen on Sunday. He rarely leaves the field and often attracts two blockers, helping create holes for his linebacker teammates.

As maligned as the Patriots' defense was all season long, you didn't hear many complaints about the run defense. Wilfork, who had 52 tackles, 3½ sacks, nine QB hits and two interceptions during the regular season, was a big reason for that.

What should concern the G-Men is plays in which Wilfork lines up over C David Baas, as that represents a big mismatch in favor of New England. Just as the Giants' D-line will be focused on pressuring Tom Brady, the Patriots will want to get after Eli Manning and put him under pressure. As good of a season as Eli has had, he is still prone to the interception, and turnovers in the Super Bowl would be costly. Wilfork's ability to penetrate and get his hands up in the passing lane will be key.

An entertaining matchup would be the times that Wilfork lines up opposite ORG Chris Snee, one of the league's better interior O-linemen. But Bill Belichick attacks an opponent's weaknesses and may want Wilfork focused on rushing against Baas and OLG Kevin Boothe.

In the meeting in Week Nine, Wilfork was productive, with four tackles, one tackle for loss, and two QB hits. He was all over the field in the Patriots' AFC championship win, recording six tackles, three for loss, and one sack. Wilfork often pushed C Matt Birk back and got into the Ravens' backfield, flushing Joe Flacco out of the pocket or stopping Ray Rice in his tracks.

The Giants weren't very successful this season in running the football, but that doesn't mean it is not a weapon for them with RBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Wilfork's ability to clog the middle will force the backs to the outside and should help them slow Jacobs.

Wilfork's partner in the trenches, DT Kyle Love, is big and hard to move, as well. Doubling Wilfork could open things up for Love to get penetration up the middle. The lanes that the pair open will enable LBs Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes to make plays.

Controlling Wilfork will be key for the Giants, as he is a big reason for the Patriots' playoff success in the front seven and getting into the opponent's backfield.