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.

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:'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'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.

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, 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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Since: Dec 2, 2008
Posted on: January 24, 2012 7:02 pm

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

The 2008 Patriots team was simply the best the league has ever seen despite anything Mercury Morris might crawl out of his champagne filled hole to say.  The Patriots were within minutes of successfully completing a perfect season and removing any doubt of their historical status.  The Giants deserve all the credit in the world for the job they did in taking the game away from New England.  As great a job as the Giants front four did at frustrating and pressuring Tom Brady, the Patriots still took the lead late in the fourth quarter and nothing short of the most miraculous play in Super Bowl history on the pass from Eli Manning to David Tyree.  Eli was running for his life the whole play and the coverage on Tyree was excellent as he was mugged while trying to get a grasp on the ball.  If Eli gets sacked, it's 4th and long.  Tyree's unheralded career gave no indication he had this type of play in him and if he was thrown a thousand balls in coverage like that again I would venture to say not one of them would stay pinned to his helmet for a catch as he went to the ground.  The point being, it took a Super Bowl miracle to beat a Patriots team that was 18-0.  Every year we see how tough it is to deal with the pressures of an undefeated season bid.  The 2008 Patriots were simply amazing!

Since: Aug 27, 2008
Posted on: January 24, 2012 6:52 pm

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Sure bro, those numbers rock.  Who were the Patriots last 5 games against?  Other than Broncos twice?  Giants got 15-1 Packers, 13-3 49ers, 11-5 Falcons and the 8-8 Cowboys and Jets.  In those 5 games you have played garbage besides the Ravens.  Oh and if you like the Patriots history in their last 5 so do I, I'd give my left nut for you to spot us a 21-0 lead.

Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2012 6:43 pm

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Seriously? Can't comment on his interceptions?  You could probably say that about every QB.  Look, Eli and the Giants are playing well. But to sit here and say "Giants are the hottest team in the league" (Pats have actually won more consequtive games) and "Giants are gonna roll on the Pats" without acknowledging any flaws in your team, or the strengths of the other team is absurd (not directed at you FirstOrLast, more the thread in general). 

Since: Jan 3, 2007
Posted on: January 24, 2012 6:40 pm

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Eli is way overrated in this article.  He went 9-7 in a division with 1 horrible team and 2 huge underachievers and threw way too many picks to be considered a top 5 guy - and he's got one of the best trios of WRs in the league in Manningham, Nicks, and Cruz.
Just maybe the reason that Manningham, Nicks, and Cruz are considered the best trio of receivers is because of the guy throwing them the ball?  Manningham was the 14th WR chosen in the 2008 draft.  4 receivers were taken ahead of Nicks and Cruz was an undrafted free-agent. Somehow players that plenty of GMs passed on become the best trio of receivers.   They are all talented receivers, but don't discount the impact of Eli on their production.  Throughout his career Eli has taken talented receivers and brought their games to a higher level (Amani Toomer, Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith, Kevin Boss).  This year, he took an undersized offensive tackle with zero speed and turned him into a productive tight end.  Jake Ballard has the highest YPC of any TE in the league with more than 30 catches.  Don't tell me it's not because of the guy chucking the rock to him. 

Since: Mar 2, 2010
Posted on: January 24, 2012 6:22 pm

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

You probably shouldn't comment on Eli's interceptions this year if you haven't seen all of them because if you had you'll know that probably 80% if not more were not his fault and was due to receivers stopping their routes or running the wrong routes............. and most people are right, this isn't at all like 07' its gonna be way better!!

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2012 6:19 pm

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Eli is way overrated in this article.  He went 9-7 in a division with 1 horrible team and 2 huge underachievers and threw way too many picks to be considered a top 5 guy - and he's got one of the best trios of WRs in the league in Manningham, Nicks, and Cruz.

Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2012 6:07 pm

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Navy, you also averaged 27.2 PPG in those five games giving a positive scoring spread of 14.2 PPG.  Meanwhile, the Pats have averaged 37 PPG over their last five and have been giving up 19.6 for a positive scoring spread of 17.4.   Hmmm. 17.4 vs. 14.2.  Pretty close to the 3.5pt spread no?

Since: Aug 27, 2008
Posted on: January 24, 2012 5:50 pm

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Giants defense in their last 5 games, the ones that have shown that they are the hottest team in the league:  13 ppg allowed.  You want to focus on this teams performance as a whole go ahead, but you'd be wise to realize that's not the team your facing in 2 Sundays.  2011's all-world QB Aaron Rodgers averaged a paultry 5.5 ypa against us and turned the ball over twice.  We're not scared of the Patriots.  So to answer that name you called us, hell yeah we're cocky.  As to why, in case you haven't been watching us lately, I guess you will find out the hard way 2 Sundays from now.

Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2012 5:15 pm

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

DS, I agree.  I always thought Jets fans were the biggest mouths in NY, but clearly I am mistaken.  The Pats were able to neutralize Suggs fairly effectively, and absent a couple of poor tosses (Gronk wide open in the 1st, and long bomb for int late in the game), would have shown a solid offensive outing. So not sure why the Giants fan's are so sure that the pass rush will destroy the Pats.  The Raven's may have blown their opportunities, but it was mistakes by the Pats that even allowed the Ravens to hang around that long.  Given that, if the Pats offense shows up, and Brady plays well, the team could easily deconstruct the Giants with no-huddle and tremendous mathups against G-Men LB's and DBs with little effort at all.  Plus, Giants are terrible against TE's.  Look what Finley, Graham and Davis did against them. Sure, they stuffed Finley in playoffs, but they couldn;t contain Davis.  And those are teams with only ONE TE.  Pats O can dominate the middle of the field and control time of possesion.  Will they?  I don't know but I hope so.

Since: Jan 18, 2008
Posted on: January 24, 2012 5:14 pm

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

DS1271 is correct. This game is a mirror image of 2007 with the teams reversed. Too much confidance on the side of the Giants as the Patriots know they need to play their best game of the year to win this Super Bowl. The Giants will have 2 weeks off and that means they will be in hiatus with their hot streak. It had an impact on the Packers as we saw a week ago.

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