X-Factors  

 

Manningham, Ochocinco among X-factors for Super Bowl XLVI

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Five years ago, Super Bowl XLII turned on the unexpected performance of David Tyree. The Giants' unheralded pass catcher tallied three receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown, but it was his improbable 32-yard catch over Rodney Harrison that tipped the game in New York's favor.

With Super Bowl XLVI featuring a rematch between these hallowed franchises, it will be interesting to see which players emerge as the deciding factors in this contest. Here are six guys who could become difference makers on Sunday:

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants

The Giants must establish the run to control the tempo of the game, and keep Tom Brady and the Patriots' explosive offense on the sidelines. Jacobs, the Giants' second-leading rusher, plays a pivotal role in the game plan with his hard-charging running style. He excels at pummeling defenders in the hole, and his ability to soften up the defense leads to big plays for the Giants' runners in the game's late stages.

Mario Manningham, WR, Giants

The Giants' dynamic passing game revolves around the remarkable talents of their receiving corps, and Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks typically are the driving force of the unit. Each surpassed the 1,000-yard mark and provided the G-Men with a host of big plays downfield. Given their explosiveness, the Patriots likely will plan to neutralize their effectiveness, which could create plenty of isolated matchups for Manningham to make plays. How he fares in those battles could be the deciding factor in Super Bowl XLVI.

Chris Canty, DT, Giants

The Patriots offense poses a tremendous challenge with its diverse formations, personnel and tactics. New England's underrated running game led by BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead has taken some opponents by surprise, but the Giants can squash their effectiveness by controlling the middle with their powerful defensive tackles. Canty, in particular, could play a big role by dominating his matchup against the Patriots' interior trio and shutting down the middle running lanes. Limiting the Patriots' success on the ground is critical to putting the game on Brady's shoulders, freeing up the Giants' pass rush to pursue him aggressively in the pocket.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, Patriots

The receiver was expected to deliver big results upon his arrival in New England, but he hasn't produced at a high level in his first season as a Patriot. The Super Bowl, however, could provide him with plenty of opportunities to make plays with the Giants likely to focus on shutting down Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. With Ochocinco still possessing the speed and quickness necessary to get behind the defense, the former Pro Bowl receiver could provide a boost to the Patriots' chances for victory.

Nate Solder, OT, Patriots

The rookie has been sensational playing on the right side, but he is presented with the challenge of facing the Giants' talented defensive ends. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul possess the speed and athleticism to create havoc on passing downs. Solder has held up well against other speed rushers, but the combined talent of the Giants' rushers threatens to be overwhelming, which could lead to a long day for Brady in the pocket. If Solder holds his own, however, Brady could have a field day picking on the Giants' secondary.

Devin McCourty, DB, Patriots

Bill Belichick has moved McCourty to free safety on occasion to get a better athlete in the deep middle to discourage opponents from taking shots downfield. Since making the move, the Patriots' pass defense has improved dramatically and its ability to prevent deep pass plays has kept opponents' scores down. Against the Giants, however, McCourty's range will be tested by Eli Manning's vertical throws and he must find a way to protect the Patriots' inexperienced corners. If he can break up a few passes and force Manning to settle for short throws, the Patriots could be able keep the Giants from getting the game into a shootout.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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