Monday: Defensive Line/Linebackers
Today: Special Teams
Today: Defensive Backs
Thursday: Running Backs/ Offensive Line
Friday: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Sunday: Game Predictions
Looking at the Patriots special teams, they are pretty solid. Starting with their punter, Zoltan Mesko, the Patriots help themselves out in the field position battle. Mesko had 24 of his 57 punts (42.1%) this year end up inside the 20 yard line. Only 5% of his punts ended up as touchbacks and his average punt distance was 46.5 yards. In the playoffs, 2 of his 4 punts ended up inside the 20 and he is averaging 43.8 yards per punt with a net of 37.8 yards. Not too bad. When the Patriots and Giants met earlier this year, Mesko had no touchbacks on 5 punts. He averaged 45 yards per punt and only one of the five was returned, which ended up in no gain. As for place kicking, the Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was 28-for-33 (84.8%) in the regular season and 4-for-4 in the postseason field goal attempts. His longest kick this season was 50 yards and his career long is 53 yards.
The Giants punter, Steve Weatherford, punted 82 times in the regular season. Only 25 of his 82 punts (30.5%) this year ended up inside the 20 yard line. 7.3% of Weatherford’s punts ended up as touchbacks and the average distance was 45.7 yards per punt. In the playoffs, 3 of his 18 punts ended up inside the 20 and he is averaging 46.4 yards per punt with a net of 40.6 yards. In the Giants win over New England in November, Weatherford punted the ball 8 times, five of which ended up inside the 20 yard line. He didn’t have any touchbacks and five of his 8 punts were returned for a total of 17 yards. He averaged 43.1 yards per punt in the November victory. Gaints place kicker Lawrence Tynes had the weight of the world on his shoulders when he sent the 49ers home for the season. Tynes went 19-for-24 (79.2%) in the regular season field goal attempts and 6-for-8 (75%) in the postseason. His longest kick this season was 50 yards and his career long is 53 yards.
For the Giants, cornerback Will Blackmon handles both kick and punt returning duties. Blackmon returned 2 kickoffs for 43 yards (21.5 yards per kickoff return) with his longest return being a 32 yarder. He also returned 6 punts for 25 yards (4.17 yards per attempt). His longest punt return was for 16 yards.
This one is not as close as the defensive line/linebacker battle was. Although Weatherford and Mesko are both good, Mesko appears have had the upper hand all year and their playoff numbers are really close as well so the nod goes to Mesko. As for Gostkowski and Tynes, Gostkowski has been perfect in the playoffs and also had better regular season numbers than Tynes. Both can kick in the clutch and come through when you need them. Due to Gostkowski’s better numbers in the regular season and postseason, he gets the nod. As for the returners, it isn’t even close Woodhead and Edelman have the advantage over Will Blackmon. Look at their numbers and it becomes abundantly clear. Due to the fact that the Patriots have shown that they are better in all four categories (punter, place kicker, kick return, and punt return) they have the special teams advantage.
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