QBs Manning, Brady Prepped For Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl XLVI is this Sunday in Indianapolis. The New York Giants face the New England Patriots in a game that features two top quarterbacks — Eli Manning and Tom Brady. Madonna will perform at halftime.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Super Bowl XLVI is this Sunday in Indianapolis. While there's a lot of chatter in that city about Peyton Manning and the Colts and Madonna and her half time show, we're going to talk mostly about the game itself. NPR's Mike Pesca is in Indianapolis. Hello, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hi.

MONTAGNE: Let's just get one thing out of the way, though: The Colts are not in the Super Bowl, but Indianapolis is buzzing about them. Tell us why.

PESCA: Well, Peyton Manning looms over this whole affair. He is - OK, maybe we're all a bunch of football people, but he does seem like the most important person in the state, and he has a health issue. He had spinal surgery, and the Colts owner has to decide whether they resign this fantastic football player.

If they do, they owe him $28 million. And if they make a mistake on that, it will really hurt the franchise, not just the owner's pockets, because there's a salary cap in the NFL. He has been cleared for football activity, but that doesn't mean he's going to be A-OK tomorrow. He still has to work his way back into health, and Jim Irsay, the owner of the Colts, has a really tough decision.

And I would say before that news that he was able to - Manning was cleared to resume, signs were very much pointing to that he would not be resigned.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's get down to another medical issue, this involving a player who is in the Super Bowl this Sunday, the health of Patriots tight-end Rob Gronkowski. What do we know about his sprained ankle?

PESCA: Yeah, he has a high-ankle sprain, and he hurt it really badly in the Ravens game. That was almost two weeks ago now. He's been limping. He wore a boot, but then we saw him jogging a little, and it's really the only news-news out of the Super Bowl. So people are absolutely going crazy about what Rob Gronkowski's ankle's going to be able to do in the game, because Rob Gronkowski is a dynamic player who averaged over a touchdown a game.

I would say at this point, it looks likely that he'll play. We're not sure if he's going to be effective throughout the game. He might play, and it might seize up. We saw this with Dwight Freeney, a Colts defensive player who played in the Super Bowl a couple years ago. He got a sack in the first half, but was pretty ineffective in the second half.

So that's the likely scenario. He'll play, but he'll get worse. Then again, I was watching ESPN, and one of the commentators said I had this injury. I played, and it got better. So there's the news. He either will play or won't, and it will either get better or worse.

MONTAGNE: OK, but the list - is his health a factor in why the Patriots are only a slight favorite over the Giants?

PESCA: It is. You look at the records, you'd think the Patriots - who were 13 and three, versus the Giants nine and seven - would be a big favorite. But people say, well, without Gronkowski, we don't know. And people also say that the Giants - and this is true - the Giants have a good front four. They could sack Brady. That would affect things.

People look at the Patriots secondary, a very bad unit, so they imagine that the Giants will be able to score a lot of points. But I think there are other things going on. I think that when we imagine what will happen, it's very hard for the human mind not to, you know, seek out precedents. And it is true that the Giants beat the Patriots this year.

But, of course, we all cast our minds back to the Super Bowl of 2008 and say, wait a minute. If the Giants did it then, why can't they do it now? I don't know if that's the soundest logic to pick this game.

MONTAGNE: Well, all that said, you've got about 15 seconds to tell us who you like.

PESCA: Yeah, I think that - if people are saying it's a close game, I would agree with that. The mass - the majority of people are saying, oh, it's very much trending towards the Giants. I would say that the Patriots still have this excellent offense, and I think that - I don't know if they deserve to be a big favorite, but a little bit.

MONTAGNE: And that's NPR's Mike Pesca, speaking to us from Indianapolis.

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