Heart and mind stand in conflict as Super Bowl XLVI approaches.
Heart says Rob Gronkowski won’t let a little high ankle sprain prevent him from a big game against a porous New York Giants secondary.
Mind hears former New England Patriots Super Bowl champions Troy Brown and Ty Law saying the recovery time for a high ankle sprain is much longer than the two weeks it has been since the AFC championship game. They also talk about how the painkilling shot Gronk might need before the game will wear off by the time Madonna finishes her halftime gig.
Heart says the Patriots’ offensive line will be able to keep the Giants’ defensive line away from Tom Brady long enough for Brady to pick apart the rest of that defense with the short passing game to Wes Welker and Gronkowski and deeper routes to Aaron Hernandez and Deion Branch.
Mind says the last two times these teams met, in Super Bowl XLII and earlier this season, the Giants won those battles of the trenches and the games.
Heart says that while Eli Manning has backed up his preseason suggestion that he is among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, Brady wins the checkmark at that position.
Mind says Manning has been the better quarterback during his last two postseason opportunities, with seven consecutive victories dating back to the 2007-2008 playoffs he capped off by upending the 18-0 Patriots. Brady’s six-touchdown performance against Denver in this year’s divisional playoffs was his first postseason win since that Super Bowl loss, followed by a mediocre effort in the AFC title-game survival of the Baltimore Ravens.
Heart says the Patriots’ bend-but-not-break-too-much defense will be just good enough one last time, that the defensive line and linebackers will put enough pressure on Manning to enable a secondary that must rely on the likes of wide receiver Julian Edelman and special-teams ace Matthew Slater to hold up.
Mind says the Giants’ receiving corps of Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and former Bridgton Academy wideout Victor Cruz is too talented and that the Patriots secondary will not be able to cover all three for 60 minutes without getting burned.
Heart says neither team has much of a running game, an advantage for the Patriots given that the Giants seemingly have more potential in its combination of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw — even with Bradshaw playing with a broken bone in his right foot.
Mind says the Giants do have more potential to run the football, and armed with a pass-generated lead, will use the run game to work on the clock and wear down the Patriots’ defense.
Heart says the Patriots have the genius, Bill Belichick, to make a move that will make a difference and the spirit of the late Myra Kraft to lift them through the rough spots.
Mind says even though the Patriots are riding the longer winning streak — 10 games — the Giants — winners of five straight — are the hotter and more-tested team because they had to win their last two regular-season games just to make the playoffs and then proceeded to knock off 15-1 Green Bay and 13-3 San Francisco on the road to earn their trip to Indy. New England’s win over Baltimore in the AFC title game, meanwhile, stunningly stands as its only victory over a team with a winning regular-season record.
But as much as mind says otherwise, heart recalls that the Patriots’ dynastic run all began with a fortuitous “tuck rule” call against more than a decade ago.
Patriots 27, Giants 24.