The biggest headache for the New York Giants offense in facing the New England Patriots in the 2012 Super Bowl is knowing that Bill Belichick has two full weeks to cook up ways to try and confuse Eli Manning and derail the Giants' explosive passing attack.
The biggest problem physically, and I do mean biggest, is trying to deal with New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Handling Wilfork (who has to weigh at least 25 pounds more than his listed weight of 325 pounds) is, to me, the Giants' biggest obstacle in handling the New England defense on Super Bowl Sunday.
The Patriots' (generously listed) 325-pound defensive lineman took over the AFC Championship Game last week. The game was vindication for a 31st-ranked Patriots defense that had been doubted and criticized all season, deemed unfit to make the Super Bowl, even with Tom Brady on the other side of the ball.
And leading the charge was Wilfork, the "elder statesman" as coach Bill Belichick called him, with a sack, three tackles for a loss and two key plays that suffocated a critical fourth-quarter drive by the Ravens.
He lined up not just inside but also at end. He ate up double and triple teams. And he is now the problem of the Giants' offensive line.
On paper, Wilfork will generally be the responsibility of Giants' center David Baas. That's a matchup that has to scare Giants fans, considering that Baas has battled injuries and inconsistency in his first season since coming to the Giants as a free agent after beginning his career with the San Francisco 49ers. Baas has not exactly shown to be a physical mauler capable of handling a guy like Wilfork.
SI.com's Chris Burke recently broke down the upcoming matchup between Wilfork and the Giants offensive line. In that breakdown he called Wilfork "a man amongst boys" against the Ravens and said he was "impossible to handle."
The Giants will have to find a way to keep him from simply shoving Baas, Kevin Boothe or any other blockers into the backfield on Super Bowl Sunday. Burke used several illustrations from the Patriots-Ravens game to show what Wilfork was able to do during that game. He also used several other illustrations to show where the Giants -- and Bass in particular -- struggled against nose tackle Ray McDonald and the 49ers front line.
Burke looked at the game, looked at the six sacks and constant pressure Manning faced against the 49ers and said simply "The Giants have to figure out some way, between now and Super Bowl Sunday, to shore up their pass protection." He added "it's hard to envision anyone on the Giants' O-line stopping Wilfork one-on-one."
Burke's blueprint appears to be keeping an extra tight end, or as I think of the way the Giants have aligned quite often this season, an extra lineman in place of a tight end, in as an extra blocker. Thus, assigning two lineman to Wilfork, relying on the other linemen to win one-on-one and relying on the team's talented wide receivers to win down the field.
Burke concludes with this:
Keeping the Patriots' big DT from bull-rushing into the backfield will be a major point of emphasis for the Giants. It won't be easy to do, and New York will need to be a lot better up front than it was against San Francisco to have any hope.