Arguably the best unit on either team, the defensive line is this franchise's defensive identity. Big Blue has thrived due to it's strong pass rush over the years, and this current unit may be the most talented group they've had in...well...ever?
Justin Tuck has been banged up all year, and Osi Umenyiora missed roughly half the season due to injury. But the two veteran defensive ends appear to have gotten healthy at the right time; they have combined for five sacks in three playoff games, and the extra week off should allow them to be as healthy as they've been all year.
Jason Pierre-Paul has thrown his name into the debate for the league's most dominant defensive players in just his second season. He has been the most consistent performer on the defensive side of the ball for the Giants, and has been almost as impressive against the run as he has been rushing the passer (16.5 sacks).
Great depth along the defensive line allows Perry Fewell to keep his weapons fresh while rotating to different looks, including rushing the three afformentioned defensive ends along with Mathias Kiwanuka (or Dave Tollefson) in passing situations, an alignment that just isn't fair to opposing offensive lineman. Defensive tackles Chris Canty, Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard do a solid enough job against the run, but the pass rush is what makes this arguably the league's best defensive line.
It all starts with Vince Wilfork. The enormous defensive tackle is the heart of the Patriots' defense, and is paramount in stopping the run and disrupting the passing game. He's listed at6-2, 325 pounds, but I wouldn't be surprised if he were even bigger than that. Although New England's defense has been disappointing for much of the season, Wilfork deserves none of the blame. The four time pro-bowler is a dominant run-stuffer and a pretty good pass-rusher for a nose tackle, and he even recorded his first two career interceptions this season.
Aside from Wilfork, the Patriots' defensive line isn't special. Andre Carter was selected to the pro bowl in his first season with the Patriots, but he is on the IR with a torn left quadriceps tendon. Without Carter, the defensive line's pass rushing's burden falls on the shoulders of Mark Anderson (the Patriots run a base 3-4 defense, so much of their pass rush comes from the linebackers). Anderson recorded 10.0 sacks and had his best season since he was a rookie six years ago. Young defensive tackle Kyle Love added three sacks, and Sam Ellis provides a veteran presence (which is a nice way of saying he's not as good as he used to be).
This one is pretty easy.
The Giants' pass rush is their single greatest defensive strength, disrupting the opposing offense's game-plan while masking deficiencies in the linebackers and secondary. There is just so much talent between the trio of Tuck, Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul, not to mention strong depth along the line. How well the Patriots' offensive line handles this group could decide the outcome.
Vince Wilfork is the single best run-stopper on either team, but neither unit is all that great against the run. The Patriots have eight sacks in two playoff games, and 40 in the regular season, so their pass rush is actually playing well right now, and they are a solid group, but this is a definite win for the Giants' unit.
Giants 9.4, Patriots 8.0