Patriots Quarterback: Brady (5235 passing yards, 39 TD, 12 INT) had already entered this postseason with a laundry list of achievements, and the two-time league MVP further enhanced his legacy by tying an NFL playoff record with six touchdown passes in the Denver game. He then matched boyhood idol Montana for the most postseason wins (16) by a signal-caller in the AFC Championship ousting of Baltimore, despite tossing two interceptions and playing poorly in his own analysis. The 34-year-old has still generated an excellent 25-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio during the 10-game win streak the Patriots bring into Indianapolis, and the 39 scoring strikes he accounted for in the regular season were the second-most of his glorious career.
Patriots Running Backs: Though it lacks a true standout, New England's backfield-by-committee approach has provided a useful complement to the team's passing proficiency. Leading rusher BenJarvus Green-Ellis (667 rushing yards, 11 TD) is a strong between-the-tackles performer who's scored 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons, though the undrafted free-agent's most impressive stat is the zero fumbles over 562 career touches he's had over his four-year tenure. That impeccable track record is the main reason why he's ahead of more- talented rookie Stevan Ridley (441 rushing yards, 1 TD), benched for the AFC Championship after losing a fumble against Denver the week prior, on the depth chart. Former Jets castoff Danny Woodhead (351 rushing yards, 1 TD, 18 receptions) now holds down the third-down role held for years by 13-year vet Kevin Faulk, who's been used sparingly since returning from an ACL tear in midseason.
Patriots Wide Receivers: No New England player benefited more by the emergence of Gronkowski and sidekick Aaron Hernandez than Wes Welker (122 receptions, 1569 yards, 9 TD), whose 1,569 receiving yards eclipsed Moss' club season mark set in 2007 and ranked second in the NFL this year, and the prolific slot specialist was a real handful for the Giants in both Super Bowl XLII (11 catches, 103 yards) as well as the Patriots' loss to New York back in November (9 catches, 136 yards). Fellow veteran Deion Branch (51 receptions, 5 TD), the MVP of the Patriots' win over Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX seven years ago, also owns a wealth of big-game experience, having been an integral part of two previous championship teams during his first tour of duty with the organization from 2002-06. Six-time Pro Bowler Chad Ochocinco (15 receptions, 1 TD), however, has been essentially an afterthought following a slow adjustment to a new scheme after coming over in an offseason trade with Cincinnati. The colorful 34-year-old has fallen behind both Welker clone Julian Edelman and ex- Jaguars washout Tiquan Underwood in the pecking order late in the season.
Patriots Tight Ends: The health status of Gronkowski (90 receptions, 1327 yards, 17 TD) has been one of the most followed topics of this year's Big Game, and for good reason. He was a big factor in New England's Week 9 meeting with the Giants, netting 101 yards and a touchdown on eight catches, and eight of Brady's 12 interceptions during the regular season came on plays in which Gronkowski and counterpart Hernandez (79 receptions, 7 TD) weren't on the field together. Hernandez has been more of a focal point as of late, however, having averaged six catches and 85 yards over the Patriots' six most recent wins.
Patriots Offensive Line: Usually an unsung part of New England's sustained success, this five-man group has held up pretty well in 2011 despite two key regulars, center Dan Koppen and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, having missed the majority of the season due to injuries. The Patriots have started three players since longtime pivot man Koppen fractured his ankle in the Week 1 opener, with capable substitute Dan Connolly manning the position for most of the way and filling in adequately, and promising rookie Nate Solder has earned his stripes by starting 13 times in place of Vollmer, who hasn't played since November because of an ankle problem but will be ready if needed for the Super Bowl. The remainder of the line is loaded with experience and prestige, as guards Logan Mankins and Brian Waters have been named to 10 Pro Bowls between them and left tackle Matt Light has served as Brady's trusted blind-side protector since breaking into the league in 2001.
Giants Defensive Ends: Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is blessed with an embarrassment of riches at this position, with Justin Tuck (37 tackles, 5 sacks) and Osi Umenyiora (25 tackles, 9 sacks) each having posted three double- digit sack seasons in their careers and rising star Jason Pierre Paul (86 tackles, 16.5 sacks) actually outplaying both veterans in a banner sophomore campaign that earned the 2010 first-round pick first team All-Pro honors. The 23-year-old's 16 1/2 sacks were the most by a Giant since Michael Strahan produced 18 1/2 in 2003, and he also had a safety and blocked a field goal in addition to being one of the team's best run defenders.
Giants Defensive Tackles: The headliner of New York's interior players is seventh-year vet Chris Canty (47 tackles, 4 sacks), a high-priced free-agent addition from the rival Cowboys in 2009 who helped justify his lofty salary by setting career bests for both tackles and sacks. Youngster Linval Joseph (34 tackles, 2 sacks), a second-round choice in the 2010 draft, started 15 games at the other tackle spot and was predictably inconsistent, though the 323-pound space-eater did display flashes in his first extended action as a pro. With the Patriots certainly to air it out often on Super Bowl Sunday, look for Tuck and energetic reserve Dave Tollefson (21 tackles, 5 sacks) to kick inside on passing downs in order to get the Giants' best rushers on the field together.
Giants Linebackers: The Giants received solid years from the outside tandem of Michael Boley (93 tackles, 1 sack) and converted end Mathias Kiwanuka (84 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT), an Indianapolis native who can also pressure the passer as well as provide sound run support, but lacked a reliable starter in the middle for much of the season. That spot has since been bolstered by the re-signing of Chase Blackburn (26 tackles, 1 INT), a member of New York's Super Bowl XLII outfit who was out of football prior to being brought back in late November. Boley and rookie Jacquian Williams (78 tackles, 1 sack), a seventh- round find in this past draft, are the club's fastest linebackers who both play vital roles in coverage, meaning each may draw the important assignments of shadowing New England's terrific tight end duo of Gronkowski and Hernandez.
Giants Cornerbacks: The experience of regulars Corey Webster (51 tackles, 6 INT, 16 PD) and Aaron Ross (60 tackles, 4 INT, 12 PD) should come in handy for this game, as both were starters on the 2007 defense that successfully slowed down Brady and his arsenal of weapons in Super Bowl XLII. The combo also accounted for half of the Giants' 20 interceptions in 2011, with Webster -- New York's top cover man who held big-play receiver Randy Moss mostly in check in the last championship showdown against New England -- establishing a new career high in that category.
Giants Safeties: New York is quite battle-tested on the back end as well. Nickel defender Deon Grant (64 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) is in his 12th NFL season and faced the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII while with Carolina in 2003, while free safety Antrel Rolle (96 tackles, 2 INT) competed on Arizona's Super Bowl XLIII team in 2008. Fourth-year pro Kenny Phillips (82 tackles, 4 INT, 11 PD) is the youngest member of the group but also the steadiest, and the hard-hitting former first-round pick has developed a reputation as an enforcer with good ball skills to boot. Fewell will often deploy all three together in passing situations, and Grant had an interception and two passes defensed in November's win over New England.