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SoB vs. SoNY: Five Questions on Patriots-Giants Game

The Patriots will square off with the Giants on Sunday. (Associated Press)

With the Patriots-Giants game just a couple of days away, we at SoB have joined with the folks at Sports of New York for a Q&A about some key issues surrounding the game.

SoB and SoNY editor-in-chief, and co-founder, KC Downey came up with five questions. Abigail Miskowiec will represent SoNY, while I have the burden of SoB on my shoulders.

1. Since the 2008 Super Bowl, would you say the Giants/Patriots have been a franchise on the rise, maintaining the stats quo, or on the decline?

Matthew Marcantonio: I think the perfect word to describe the Patriots since 2008 is complacent. They haven’t won a playoff game since Jan. 20, 2008, and they have seen a one time strength deteriorate in a short amount of time.

During the Patriots height from 2001-2005, the defense was one of the best in the NFL. We remember Willie McGinest’s goal-line stand, Ty Law’s three interceptions against Peyton Manning, etc.

But, since that 2007 season, the defense has been horrible. There has been no active pass rush and a constant revolving door in the secondary.

Abigail Miskowiec: t’s hard to compare the 2008 squad with today. I think the past few years have been a time of tremendous change for the Giants. The iconic players of the early 2000s (Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber, Antonio Pierce) are all gone, but we’ve seen quite a few young guys step up.

The injuries this year have been kind of a blessing in disguise since they’ve given players like Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul playing time who may not have seen the field otherwise. With depth like that, this team could be on the rise.

2. The Patriots have had a few off-the-field issues lately (Julian Edelman’s arrest, Rob Gronkowski’s pic with a porn star). Do you think the distractions will affect the team’s performance on the field?

MM: I’m leaning to say no. These guys are professional athletes. Honestly, the only person who should be affected by Edelman’s arrest is Edelman himself. He’s been a non-factor on-the-field and without him this offense doesn’t miss a beat.

Aside from a couple of over-reaching questions to Gronkowski last week, he seemed to be fine. Last week against Pittsburgh, Gronkowski had seven catches for 94 yards.

A constant trend we have seen since Bill Belichick took over in 2000 is that this team is seldom distracted. Spy-gate loomed over New England in 2007. The Patriots went 18-1.

AM: The Patriots aren’t a young team. I have total respect for the veteran leadership of Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork. I mean, they’ve had some of the most troublesome players in history including the legendary Randy Moss, and they were consistently good. The Pats will be fine.

3. Eli Manning has been a man on a mission this season. What has improved about his performance? Who is the better quarterback going forward: Eli or Peyton Manning?

MM: This is the first year that Eli has really put together a strong, consistent season. Manning’s completion percentage is the highest it’s been since he’s entered the league.

I think that shows that he is making better decisions with the ball. Last season he had 25 interceptions. He hasn’t forced the ball much so far, and he’s also utilized guys like Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham more than in years past.

In terms of Eli or Peyton, I’ll go with Peyton for one simple reason: the Colts have been abysmal without him. With him their a contender. I’ve never seen a team that relies so much on one player. If Eli never played another down again for the Giants, they wouldn’t be have that much of a drop off — like the Colts.

AM: Eli doesn’t seem to be getting rattled as easily. His interception numbers are on track to be the lowest of his career as a full-time starter, and he’s on fire in the fourth quarter.Something seems to have clicked for him, and he’s really taken the team on his shoulders. Four of our wins have been of the come-from-behind variety led by Manning.

4. Antrel Rolle said he loves the “challenge” of covering Wes Welker (who has been banged up this week with a neck injury). Who do you think will win this matchup? Will it have a profound effect on the result?

MM: Antrel Rolle has experience both at corner and safety, but his coverage skills have never been top-notch. I believe the winner of this matchup will be in direct correlation with Wes Welker’s health. If he’s not 100 percent, which it looks like he won’t be, then Rolle should be able to contain Welker.

Either way, this will have a huge effect on the outcome. Welker is Brady’s safety blanket, and if you take him out of the equation it will be tough sledding for No. 12.

AM: Both Rolle and Welker are having career years so it’ll be an interesting matchup. Welker had an off game last week so I think he’ll be looking to make a few big plays, and he may win this matchup through sheer physical play. The Giants need a big game from the defense with Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks both injured.

5. The Patriots pass defense is one of the worst in the NFL. Will Eli and his receivers eat them alive? Or, will it be a showing of “Bad Eli”?

MM: Like we talked about earlier, Manning is playing out-of-his mind this season. There has been very little “bad Eli” moments. Honestly, I don’t see how Manning can have a bad performance against this secondary. Mario Manningham’s speed will prove to be too much for Devin McCourtey and Kyle Arrington.

The game will come down to the Patriots offense. Can they outscore the Giants? That’s what’s going to have to happen, if they’re going to come out on top.

AM: I think Eli should go for short high-percentage throws. Everyone knows he’s had interception problems his whole career, and the last thing the Giants need is to give free points to one of the most powerful offenses in the NFL.

Nicks is out so Manning will be working with a different receiving corps which may effect the timing in the early drives. I think they’ll settle in during the second quarter and start to pick apart the Pats.

About Matthew Marcantonio - @M_Marcantonio

Matthew Marcantonio is the Patriots and college football editor at Sports of Boston. Marcantonio has contributed for two newspapers; the Sentinel & Enterprise (Leominster, Mass) and The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La) and held internships with The Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated.

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