CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Grading the Super Bowl units: If you like passing, buckle up, people

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How do we top Championship Game Sunday in the NFL?

Was that great theater or what?

I can hardly wait for the Super Bowl. We had two dramatic title games come down to the final seconds, one in overtime.

In the end, the New York Giants beat the 49ers 20-17 in overtime to advance to Super Bowl XLVI, while the New England Patriots beat the Ravens 23-20 to get there.

This will be a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, which the Giants won in dramatic fashion. That day, the Giants were big underdogs against the undefeated Patriots. This time, they're four-point dogs, even though they already beat the Patriots this season.

It will be tough to top what we had Sunday, but I bet it comes close.

Here's a look at the two teams from a grading standpoint to get ready for the two-week buildup.

New England Patriots
Passing game: Tom Brady. Tom Brady. Tom Brady. The man is a machine. Even when he doesn't have speed at outside receiver, he gets it done. In tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, he has the best combo in the league. That offsets the lack of a big-play receiver. Grade: A+

Running game: The Patriots finished ranked 20th in rushing yards. But that's not what they do so, the numbers aren't good. But they have the ability to run it when they do get a lead. Grade: C-

Special teams: They have a top kicker in Stephen Gostkowski and a top punter in Zoltan Mesko. The coverage teams are good, too. Grade: A

Run defense: They had trouble stopping the run all season, ranking 17th in the league in rushing yards and 24th in yards-per-rush. This is a big concern. Grade: D

Pass defense: The Patriots couldn't stop anybody against the pass all season, ranking 31st. The lack of a pass rush outside hurt and so did poor secondary play. They all had the lead a lot, which skews the numbers. Grade: F

Coaching: It's hard to argue with the success of Bill Belichick, but the lack of a good defense has to fall on his head. Even so, is there anybody better? Didn't think so. Grade: A

New York Giants
Passing game: Eli Manning has played at a high level all season. And he's been even better in the playoffs. He is much more confident now. In Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, he has a great pair of receivers. Grade: A

Running game: The Giants were 31st in rushing this season. For a team that is supposed to be so physical, they haven't run it that well. Grade: F

Special teams: In punter Steve Weatherford and kicker Lawrence Tynes, they have two good veterans. The coverage units are solid. Grade: B

Run defense: The Giants were 23rd in yards-per-attempt on the ground. That was a problem area, though injuries at linebacker contributed to that. They've been better in the playoffs. Grade: C-

Pass defense: It all starts with the pass rush for the Giants. Their defense is keyed by the front four. They get after it. That helps compensate for other deficiencies, but for much of the season even that wasn't good enough. Teams threw on the Giants. They haven't done so in the playoffs. When you can knock down the other quarterback, it really gives the defense an edge. Grade:: C

Coaching: It's tough to knock Tom Coughlin now. He is proving to be one of the league's best coaches. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is underrated and Perry Fewell has turned the defense into a fierce unit again. Grade: A


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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