So, what will I be watching for after kickoff, which is scheduled for 6:30 ET on NBC?
Here are 3 key factors that I will have a close eye on.
How seriously injured is Patriots tight end Gronkowski’s? The offensive monster suffered, what was later diagnosed as a high ankle sprain, during the AFC Championship Game two weeks ago. Gronkowski got off the plane in Indianapolis last Sunday in a walking boot, but has not been seen in it since. There is no doubt that the 6’7, 265 lbs. Gronkowski is limping a little, but how able he is to take part on Sunday will be a HUGE factor. Gronkowski broke NFL tight end records in 2011 with his 1327 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns; he is a nightmare for any defense to deal with.
2) The Quarterbacks
Eli Manning threw for 4933 yards, which resulted in 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 2011. While Manning’s numbers don’t quite match Tom Brady’s 5235 yards, 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, they both ranked in the top 5 NFL quarterbacks on the season. These two are not new to the big stage, and know their performances will dictate the flow of the game. This is an offensive clash you won’t want to miss.
3) The Fans
If you took a poll asking Indianapolis residents what sports team they hate the most, my guess is the Patriots would win by a landslide. So, it will be interesting to see how pro-Giants the crowd will be in Lucas Stadium. Also, factor in that Manning’s big brother Peyton is considered local royalty, and expect him to be in attendance to cheer on little Eli on Sunday. There will be plenty of Pats jersey too, but just how many is the question. No matter what anyone says, when the fans are behind you it certainly doesn’t hurt.
- Gronkowski’s ‘day by day’ injury status puts Patriots in game-plan fix (nypost.com)
- Patriots eyeing special shoe for TE Gronkowski (espn.go.com)
- Gronkowski’s Big Hands Are a Key to His Success (nytimes.com)
- Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski no longer wearing walking boot (aol.sportingnews.com)
- Gronkowski misses fourth straight practice with ankle sprain (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
- Like Broncos, Giants challenged by Rob Gronkowski, Patriots (denverpost.com)
- Rob Gronkowski’s Spiking Resurrects an N.F.L. Art (nytimes.com)