Prediction No. 1: Rob Gronkowski’s ankle won’t matter
Gronk’s playing status has been an issue throughout Super Bowl week, so let’s get it out the way immediately. The All-Pro tight end has a high left ankle sprain, the severity of which is not clear. It is not a bold prediction to say he’ll play. He practiced yesterday. The best-case scenario for that offense would be for Tom Brady to find Gronkowski early for a big gain, firing up the sideline, and then connecting with his healthier receivers thereafter. I see it happening in their first series.
Prediction No. 2: The Giants running backs will play with fire
Bulldozer Brandon Jacobs is one of those rare football players who actually looks bigger in person than his listed height and weight in a game program (in Jacob’s case, 6-foot-4, 264 pounds). Ahmad Bradshaw is no waterbug, either. It was Bradshaw who helped power their win over the New York Jets with a 14-yard touchdown run, bowling over a defender while doing so. The run offense ranked last in the NFL during the regular season, and both proud backs will make amends now.
Prediction No. 3: No Helmet Catch this time, but a spectacular one
In Super Bowl XLII, each of the Giants brand-name receivers made a play against the Patriots: veteran Amani Toomer secured a nice sideline grab, and Plaxico Burress hauled in the game-winner — yet it was little-used David Tyree who made what many consider the greatest catch ever. Will a Giants reserve repeat history in Super Bowl XLVI? Not a chance. One of their big three — Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz — is going to make the water-cooler catch of the game.
Prediction No. 4: Up and down Sterling
Patriots corner Sterling Moore absolutely glowed during Super Bowl week, especially on Media Day. For good reason: He made the play of the AFC Championship Game by batting away a sure TD grab from Lee Evans that would have won it. Still, Moore was beaten for an earlier score in that one, and Evans torched Moore with a stutter move on that pivotal play. Giants quarterback Eli Manning will note that in film study. Expect the rookie to give up a score again.
Prediction No. 5: BenJarvus Green-Ellis will gain 100 yards, barely
When Patriots coach Bill Belichick was defensive coordinator of Bill Parcells’ New York Giants in 1990, the team plotted an ingenious way to negate Buffalo’s K-Gun attack in Super Bowl XXV: keeping that offense off the field. Playing clock-ball with veteran runner Ottis Anderson, who rushed for 102 yards and a TD, the Giants kept quarterback Jim Kelly on the sidelines. Belichick has another churner in Green-Ellis, who will post time-crunching numbers of his own Sunday.
Prediction No. 6: The Patriots will prevail
The Patriots do not have the momentum of the Giants entering Super Bowl XLVI, but this tight-knight club rolls with any setback, and under Belichick, they will be meticulously prepared. All else being equal, their quarterback, Tom Brady, will win it by a slight margin, avenging that earlier Super Bowl loss. He’ll join Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only QBs with four Super Bowl victories.