Super Bowl Handicapping: Under-the-Radar Players
by Robert Ferringo - 2/1/2012
Manning against Brady. Rob Gronkowski and his undisclosed ankle. The Nicks-Cruz-Manningham triumvirate. Belichick. Coughlin.
Super Bowl 46 will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday in Indianapolis and New York and New England are poised to renew their ongoing regional rivalry. The Super Bowl is the grandest stage in American sports and is the time for football’s greatest players to earn their status and carve out their names in history.
History is written by the victors. And both rosters are littered with well-decorated beasts whose names you should already be familiar with. But Super Bowls are not solely a vehicle for the Brady’s and Manning’s to flex their star power and earn themselves a few new sponsorship deals. Instead, the crucial, game-changing plays can come from unlikely sources and relatively unknown or unaccounted for players.
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Tracy Porter was just some guy before he returned a Peyton Manning interception to seal Super Bowl 44. Deion Branch was essentially a No. 3 receiver before he caught 11 passes and earned the Super Bowl MVP award in Super Bowl 39. And if you look back through the recent history of The Big Game you find that role players like David Tyree, Antwan Randle El, and Dexter Jackson stepped forward to have a mammoth impact on who won the Lombardi Trophy.
Below is a list of under-the-radar players that I think could have a huge impact on the Super Bowl. The odds are that none of them will walk away with the Super Bowl MVP. But I expect at least one of them to be involved in the key play or plays that decide the game:
Kyle Arrington, CB, New England – For as bad as the Patriots defense has been, Arrington has been one of the pseudo-bright spots. He led the league with seven interceptions and can be pesky in the secondary. He picked off Manning in the first meeting and in a game that could be swung by one turnover Arrington could play a huge role. He hasn’t had a pick yet in the postseason and he could be due.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, New England –To say that the Patriots are a pass-first team is obviously a bit of an understatement. But New England is going to have to have some success on the ground in this contest if it hopes to outslug the Giants. Green-Ellis is part of a timeshare at running back, but he is also the most physically gifted of the Pats backs. He had 11 touchdowns this season and knocked one home against Baltimore. I wouldn’t put it past Bill Belichick to feature BJ-GE in this one and for him to come through.
Brian Waters, Guard, New England – People might not recognize the name, but Waters has been one of the best offensive linemen in football for over a decade. He was a six-time Pro Bowl player in Kansas City, and although he is past his prime he is still an anchor on this Patriots offense. Waters played the second-most snaps on the team this year (1,275) behind Tom Brady and he has to be somewhat responsible for the emergence of rookie tackle Nate Solder, who has played next to Waters in all but one game this season. Slowing New York’s pass rush critical and Waters will hopefully have one of the best games of his illustrious career.
Mark Anderson, DE, New England – All of the talk this week has been about New York’s relentless pass rush. But Anderson is as gifted of a rusher as anyone that Giants have to offer and he has performed on this stage before. Anderson registered 12 sacks on the 2006 Chicago Bears team that played in Super Bowl 41. He washed out there and bounced to Houston before ending up with the Patriots, where he has recorded 11 sacks this season. He has high-end athleticism and I can definitely see him making an impact play on Sunday.
Deon Grant, Safety, New York – Just as stopping the Giants pass rush will be crucial for the Pats, controlling the New England tight ends will be key for the G-Men. And that means that the New York safeties will be actively involved in man-to-man coverage. Grant was excellent against the Pats TEs in the first meeting. He didn’t allow a catch and actually intercepted a pass intended for Gronkowski. Grant and Kenny Phillips will need to have big games for New York to slow down Brady and Co.
Giants Kick Returners, New York – Anyone that has followed the Giants this year knows that they have a very shaky kick return game. And it is simple: if they fumble a kickoff or a punt they will probably lose this game. Rookie Jerrel Jernigan returns kickoffs and Will Blackmon has taken over the punt return duties. Devin Thomas, Aaron Ross and Victor Cruz may get some love as well and it is always an adventure. Most non-Giants fans can’t name their kick returners. If that is the same after the game this group will have done its job.
Chase Blackburn, Linebacker, New York – Blackburn injured his shoulder in the San Francisco game but I have no doubts that he will suit up. He is one of the great stories in the NFL this year and was literally pulled off his couch just days before the Giants faced Green Bay during the regular season. I’m certain New York’s defensive renaissance isn’t because of Blackburn’s presence. But there is no denying that his toughness, smarts and experience have helped shore up this linebacking corps.
Kevin Boothe, Guard, New York – Boothe was completely overmatched at center in the first meeting. Since David Baas’ return he has shifted over to guard and will again be charged with slowing down a bulky Patriots interior line. Boothe’s performance has been directly related to the improvement in the Giants running game. And two things they will have to do if they want to win another championship are move the ball on the ground and protect the quarterback better than they did against San Francisco.
Zoltan Mesko, P, New England and Steve Weatherford, P, New York – Yeah, there is nothing sexy about the punters. And there may not even be more than four or five punts in this game. But at some point one of these guys is going to have to make a big kick. And whether they can pin someone inside the five-yard-line or whether they simply flop a touchback could have an impact on scoring. Mesko is only an average kicker. But he is a lefty and he could throw the shaky Giants kick returners off. Weatherford has been exceptional in the second half of the season and was legitimately brilliant in the NFC Title Game.
Robert Ferringo has produced $4,000 in football picks profit for his clients since the end of November and has earned his backers over $16,000 in profit in all sports this fall and winter. He has posted a profit in four straight Super Bowls and six of seven and he will have a full compliment of selections available on Feb. 2. You can CLICK HERE for more info.
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