The words "special teams" make Giants fans cringe. From the Trey Junkin debacle to last year's game against the Eagles, special teams have not been friendly to Big Blue. Thankfully, at least through 19 games (and especially in the NFC Championship game), the Giants' special teams have actually been pretty solid this season.
Steve Weatherford replaced the mistake-prone Matt Dodge and proved to be one of the best under-the-radar free agent signings of the season. Aside from his excellent punting, Weatherford has saved many a bad snap on field goal holds, including a low snap on the NFC Championship game winner.
Lawrence Tynes is still Lawrence Tynes. The Giants have historically not had great kickers, and Tynes is no exceptions. He's been pretty good in clutch situations, but has had a couple of kicks blocked, missed some easy ones and even booted a kickoff out of bounds against the Packers. He's been getting more touchbacks this season, but that's due to moving the kickoff up to the 35-yard line. He's not great, but the Giants could do worse. Also, he's missed six extra points in his career, which seems like way too many.
The coverage team has been worlds better this season, thanks to contributions from guys like Jacquian Williams, Devin Thomas, Greg Jones and Tyler Sash. There is no return game to speak of, on either punts or kickoffs, so I won't waste any time there.
Zoltan Mesko is in the running for the greatest names in all of sports. He's also a pretty good punter: his 41.5 yard net-average is third best in the league. He gets a slight nod over Weatherford, and that's even before I factor in extra points for his name.
Stephen Gostkowski had the tall order of replacing the legendary Adam Viniateri, and while he's no slouch, he clearly doesn't instill the same type of confidence in his coach or Patriots fans. Case in point was when Bill Belichick decided to go for it on fourth and long instead of attempt a long field goal against the Giants in Super Bowl 42. Gostkowski is consistent on short and mid-range field goals, but he is not trusted to kick 50+ yarders.
Like the Giants, there's not much doing in terms of kickoff returns, but Julian Edelman can do some damage as a punt returner. His 10.7 yard average is 11th best in the league, and he actually has a return touchdown, something the Giants have not even sniffed since losing Domenik Hixon.
Before the NFC Championship game, Giants fans would have had to think long and hard when asked about the last time special teams has won them a game. The strides they have made since last year are incredible, but they were so horrible last year, that they are only merely solid now.
Both teams have sound coverage units, and neither squad's kickoff return team has made even the slightest impact all season. New England get a slight edge in terms of punting, but it is negligible. Where the Patriots take this unit is on the relative strength of their kicker, as well as their punt return team. Edelman may not be a game-breaker, but when the Giants' punt returner goes back to field a punt, I hold my breath every time. Just call for a fair catch, please.