Blog Entry

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Posted on: January 24, 2012 9:00 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 11:51 am
 
The uniforms are the same but these two teams most definitely are not. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The more things change, the more things … change. The uniforms may be the same but four years later, the Giants and Patriots are different teams who, after 20 weeks, find themselves in a familiar position: about to face off in a Super Bowl. Four years ago, in the fortnight leading up to their first encounter in February 2008, the storylines were some variation of: "New England will absolutely obliterate New York."

Predictable, sure. But in much the same way gravity is predictable. Except that night the Giants had no use for immutable laws of nature. (Evidenced nicely by David Tyree's physics-defying grab that set up the winning touchdown.)


The Patriots' offensive firepower led by Brady and Randy Moss didn't matter. And neither did did the Spygate soap opera which served to galvanize the team earlier in the year and perpetuate the "us vs. them" mentality that gave guys like Rodney Harrison Tony Robbins-like purpose. (Harrison was known almost as much for his reliance on the "no respect for motivational purposes" shtick as he was for his tenacious, sometimes dirty style.)

This time will be different. Or least that's the thinking going in. The head coaches and quarterbacks are the same, but Eli Manning has matured and the Patriots' defense has regressed. The difference in talent between these two clubs that was once measured in miles is now better gauged in yards.

Put differently: it only seems like we've already seen this movie.

So before we take a look ahead, we thought it made sense to first take a look back.

The Rosters

The Giants head to Indianapolis with 16 players (nine starters) from the Super Bowl XLII-winning squad. The Patriots, meanwhile, have just seven players (five starters) remaining. You can view the 2007 rosters for both teams below; the players in red are still with their respective teams.



The takeaway from the list above: only one defensive player from Super Bowl XLII remains on the Patriots' roster. Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel -- all either retired or playing elsewhere -- and just Vince Wilfork, the team's 2004 first-round pick, is left. (Granted, Wilfork saved the best game of his career for last Sunday's AFC Championship matchup against the Ravens, which is timely.)

During the '07 regular season, the Patriots defense ranked 12th in league (fifth against the pass, 21st against the run), according to Football Outsiders. Four years later, and their travails have been well documented (30th overall, 28th pass, 28th run).

The one name that has remained constant: Tom Brady. He doesn't have Randy Moss but he doesn't need him. The offensive may not be as explosive without Moss but it's much more dynamic with Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

On the surface, the 2011 Giants don't seem much different from the 2007 version. They won nine games this season (with 30 percent of the personnel from the Super Bowl XL roster), nine in '07; ranked 12th in team efficiency this time around versus 16th four years ago. But the similarities end there because like Brady in New England, Eli Manning has everything to do with the Giants' recent success.

For almost the entire '07 season, Manning was one of the league's most inconsistent quarterbacks. He ranked 38th in total value among NFL QBs, sandwiched between the likes of Brian Griese and Chet Lemon. Now Manning's fifth behind Brees, Rodgers, Brady, Romo and Stafford. That, more than anything else New York has done this season, is the reason they're playing one more game.

In Super Bowl XLII, the Giants had no expectations. In Super Bowl XLVI there will be plenty. And the question goes from "Can this team avoid embarrassing itself in front of a worldwide audience?" to "Can they play up to their potential and win this thing?"

Pregame Hype: A Look Back

Given these two offenses -- one record-breaking, the other aimless for much of the season -- it wasn't surprising that the Giants were getting Washington Generals-type odds to win this game.

Then:
the Patriots opened as 13.5-point favorites, according to Las Vegas. Five weeks before, in Week 17, New England was favored by 13 to beat the Giants in New York. Instead, the Pats needed a fourth-quarter comeback to eke out the 38-35 victory. (Now: the line opened Sunday with New England favored by a more modest 3.5 points.)

Then: AccuScore ran 10,000 simulations of the Giants-Patriots matchup and gave New York a 25 percent chance of winning. Sounds high -- Manning could throw that middle-of-the-field-Hail Mary to Tyree 100 times and Tyree comes down with it once. Tyree, it turns out, has impeccable timing.

Then: Cold Hard Football Facts called it the "mismatch of the century," complete with subheadings breaking down each individual mismatch ("on offense," "at quarterback," etc…).

Football Outsiders was less definitive, writing that "Most likely, the Giants won't pull a shocking upset like the 2001 Patriots, and they won't get blown off the field like the 1985 Patriots. Instead, they'll end up like a third team from New England's Super Bowl past: the 1996 Patriots, a good team outclassed by a great team. … (The 2007) Patriots will probably dispatch the Giants in a similar fashion, completing their historic 19-0 season. Not definitely. Just probably."

Then: CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco was one of the few national voices to pick the Giants. You don't even have to look it up because we've done it for you:


"I like the +11.5," Prisco said. "I think the Giants -- not only will they cover the number, they may win the game. … I think the Giants could definitely win the football game."

Then: Princess the camel (yep, you read that right -- the terrestrial counterpart to Paul the Octopus) also picked the Giants to win.

"I can't explain it, but her predictions, more often than not, are right on the money," said John Bergmann, general manager of Popcorn Park Zoo where Princess has lived since 2004. "I'm hoping she's right this time because I'm a Giants fan."

Turned out, Princess had a thing for the Mannings more so than the Giants; she picked Peyton and the Colts to win the year before. (Then again, maybe she'd seen then-Bears quarterback Rex Grossman play.)

From the ridiculous to the sublime…

Then: Another national columnist driving the Giants' bandwagon: Dr. Z. He admitted that picking New York was an opportunity to right a past wrong, when he picked the Colts to beat the Jets in Super Bowl III even though he had a feeling New York, 19-point underdogs by kickoff, had a chance to pull the upset. Forty years later, Dr. Z wasn't going to make the same mistake. Here's what he wrote on January 22, 2008:

"And gradually it dawned on me, as I toured the (Giants) locker room (after their NFC Championship game win over the Packers), picking up a quote here and there -- there isn't a way to stop Brady and Welker and Moss and Faulk and Maroney ... the whole riotous bunch. A team just has to be tougher, more resilient, more able to sustain high-level pressure on both sides of the ball for a longer period. And I honestly feel that the Giants can do it. Just look at what this improbable team has done so far."

And that's exactly how it played out.

Now: We mentioned above that the Patriots' defense has just one player from the last Super Bowl team. But much like the Giants' offense during the 2007 season, New England's D has come on of late. But will it be enough?

From CBSSports.com's Clark Judge: No team went to a Super Bowl with a defense ranked lower than 25th. Now you have the league's 27th-ranked unit (the Giants) and its 31st-ranked defense (New England), but, just a hunch, defense makes the difference in Indianapolis. It did when these two met in Super Bowl XLII, with the Giants sacking Tom Brady five times and holding the league's highest-scoring offense to 14 points.


The NY Giants and Patriots will face off in the Super Bowl once again. NFL on CBS analyst Solomon Wilcots joins the Tim Brando Show to discuss how the rematch will play out.

Now:
There used to be a time when you were never certain if Good Eli or Bad Eli would show up from one week to the next, one quarter to the next, and sometimes, one play to the next. Manning has transformed into one of the league's most consistent quarterbacks and now he has a chance to double up his older brother on total Super Bowl rings.

From Prisco's most recent column on Eli's evolution: "it all starts with Manning. He's no longer another star's little brother hoping to become special. He's arrived, which is what's so different from 2007. 'You're right there,' head coach Tom Coughlin said in the locker room late Sunday night (after the win over the 49ers). 'It is Eli. He is special now. He's the biggest difference between the two teams.'

Now: And that leads us to this, from colleague Will Brinson who wrote Sunday about two ancillary storylines could morph into something much larger should the Giants win: Is Eli 1) better than his brother and 2) now in the same class as Brady? 

The Game: What Happened

Obviously, you know exactly what happened. And depending on your perspective, you'll either take great joy in reliving the Super Bowl XLII memories or, as Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Monday, choosing instead to forget it ever happened.

"I’ve never been able to watch it," he said (via ESPN.com), echoing remarks made by quarterback Tom Brady earlier in the day. "I do remember the end of the game, a ball going through our cornerback’s hands [Asante Samuel] that if he had caught that ball and it hadn’t gone through his hands, we would have been able to take a knee and we would have won the game.

"And, you know, that Eli [Manning] doing a great job escaping from that pile of guys that we had on him, and whether the whistle blows and the great catch and all these things. In the end, there are a lot of little things. That was a great game, that was a great team, and we’re looking forward to having the privilege of going to Indianapolis."


Michael Strahan: excited about Super Bowl XLII's outcome.

As for what will happen … well, we'll find out shortly. And if you can't wait, we know a camel...

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Comments

Since: Jan 18, 2007
Posted on: January 24, 2012 11:42 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

The Giants D line looks to be the difference in the game.  If Wilfork steps up again and Brady gets hot, the Pats will win.  I honestly think the Giants are the more balanced team though.  And they have the ONE thing a defense needs to stop the New England offense:  a 3-headed monster of a pass rush.  I think Osi, Pierre-Paul, and Tuck get it done in the fourth.



Since: Apr 23, 2010
Posted on: January 24, 2012 11:35 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Good article. I immediately dreaded the media hype when the matchup was set. The caption line says it all, it's a "rematch in name only".

I enjoyed reading this, thank you for the sensible and humorous approach. Cheers! 



Since: Dec 17, 2011
Posted on: January 24, 2012 9:04 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Giants break Pats 18 and 0 streak, check, Giants break Pats 18 and 0 win streak in regular season home games, check, Pats are coming in with a 10 game win streak, does anyone even wonder what will happen? Gronk has torn ligaments in his ankle and Giants have Nicks and Bradshaw back after a game where they beat NE in NE. Give me a break, Giants find a way to get it done. Eli likely sticks it into the endzone to end it just like last time.



Since: Jul 11, 2010
Posted on: January 24, 2012 8:55 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

That Giants OL is better than the Ravens OL...and Pats defense couldn't get to Flacco. He played a great game for the Ravens and almost won. The Giants have Jacobs/Bradshaw and a better QB in Eli....Giants win this game SU in a shootout imo.



Since: Jan 9, 2008
Posted on: January 24, 2012 8:20 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Its gonna be a great game.   Pats O-Line is Damn Good as is the Giants D-Line.  I think the Pats can pressure Eli into making some mistakes and rushed throws.  If he has the horseshoe up his arse again then its going to be a long day.  If not Pats win a close one 33-28. 




Since: Oct 25, 2007
Posted on: January 24, 2012 8:06 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

I'm a fan of neither team, but if you put a gun to my head, and told me to predict the winner or else BOOM ... I would pick the Patriots.



Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2012 8:05 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Navy, gotcha.  I agree, you guys ahve beat some very good teams.  I was simply responding to your post about past 5 and comparing statistics.  Our secondary is awful, but so is yours.  Think you guys ahve some very solid points to argue for, but so do we.  That's all I'm saying.  And that it is too tough with this matchup to gtee one team over the other.  This is truly a case of any given Sunday.  If one team doesn't bring their A-game on 3/4 elements of play (play-calling, Off, Def and Spec teams) and the other one does, that team will lose.  They are just so closely matched.  You guys took the regular season matchup, but damn that came down to the wire and a last second TD by Ballard.  Great game.  Would expect something similar. 



Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2012 8:00 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Kingwill, agree with you on the favorite.  I don't think the Pats should be favored.  Think this should be a push spread, or slightly in favor of the Giants.  That said, when the Pats show up, I think the only team that had a chance of beating them was GB.  Giants match up very well with the Pats (I was rooting for an SF win as we would have probably rolled on them, but who knows) and can certainly win.  If both teams are at their best, then man we are in for a tremendous game.  But as I've said in previous posts, we were not lucky to beat the Ravens. The Ravens were lucky to be in a position to tie the game.  Pats gave the Ravens every opportunity to win with some sloppy play and they couldn;t come up in the clutch.  The fact that the Pats played poorly and came away with a win should scare you guys.  Just like your recent play scares me.  Overall, both teams D sucks though have been playing well as of late.  Giants pass rush is very good and Pats need to figure out how to stop it. However, the Giants can't matchup against our TEs which can allow Pats to control middle of the field and game clock.  On the flip side, our secondary is full of wholes and the way Eli is playing means plenty of NYG TDs.  That said, Arrington is a ball-hawk (led NFL in INTs) and if Eli doesn't hit his receivers on back shoulder in-stride (which isn't especially good at. mostly athletic plays by WRs get the yds) he could get picked.  This all assumes that each team plays their game however which probably won't happen



Since: Aug 27, 2008
Posted on: January 24, 2012 7:57 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

I'm trying to understand how that is a dumb point.  You brought up last 5 games as a positive and I simply pointed out that the Giants played far superior competition during that span.  And the lead spotting is fine against the 6-10 Bills or Dolphins, you pull that against us and you will be buried.  Of course anything can happen, but the Giants are a more complete football team right now and I don't believe it's particularly close.  IN that 07' meeting you had a far superior offense and we had a superior defense.  Were the Giants the better team that year?  No.  Were they the better team that Sunday?  Yes.  However, the Giants offense is just as explosive as the Patriots and led the NFL in plays over 40 yards.  Defensively, your secondary is a horror and our defense has held that superior competition to 13 ppg once again.  If you defeat us it will be the same any given Sunday defeat that occured when we were victorious in 07'.  That's how well this team is playing right now.  If you don't think being the hottest team at this point is improtant you apparently failed to watch the Green Bay Packers last year.



Since: Feb 15, 2011
Posted on: January 24, 2012 7:49 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Prisco picked agaisnt the Patriots so often in the playoffs, he had to get one right. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. 


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com