1. Pressure Cooker - In Week 9, Tom Brady was pressured and struggled to string together a consistent performance. The Patriots offensive line has the most important job on the field: protecting quarterback Tom Brady. If Brady is given enough time and is able to stand up in the pocket and make positive decisions, then the Patriots offense should be able to flourish. If the offensive line cannot match up against the Giants formidable defensive line, then the Patriots will have no chance of winning the game.
Throughout the playoffs, the Patriots have been able to keep Tom Brady clean for the majority of the game. All they need is one more positive performance.
2. Cruz Control - We reviewed a way of how the Patriots defense can control Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz when he lines up in the slot. Cruz is Giants quarterback Eli Manning's safety net and he is willing and able to cut away from his route if Manning needs help. He is dangerous when he's in the open field and not engaged by a defender because he can always find the empty pocket in the secondary.
Look for Cruz to receive 10+ targets, especially if Julian Edelman is in coverage. If Cruz is limited in his production, the Patriots defense will have had a good game.
3. Run the Rock - Double edged point. Can the Patriots run the ball? With Kevin Faulk inactive, the Patriots believe that Stevan Ridley has worked enough on his ball protection over the past three weeks to earn another look- and he's the most dangerous running back on the Patriots roster. If the Patriots can control the line of scrimmage and push back the Patriots athletic defensive line, the score might not be impressive, but the clock control will trump the total points.
On the other hand, can the Patriots slow the Giants rushing attack? Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are both extremely dangerous and can break free for large gains. How will the Patriots play heavy enough to contain the run, while be agile enough to defend the pass? The answer to the question is the outcome of the game.
4. 4th Target - The Patriots have Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez as their big three receivers. However, Gronk is limited and Welker has been "contained" by elite defenses. Who will step up as a big time receiver on the Patriots roster? Will Chad Ochocinco have the best game of his Patriots career (wouldn't be too hard) a la J.D. Drew? Will Matthew Slater catch a deep pass? How will Julian Edelman factor into the offense? Will the running backs like Danny Woodhead, Ridley, and even BenJarvus Green-Ellis be available out of the backfield? Someone will have to step up.
5. 60 Minutes. - That's it. 60 minutes to glory.