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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 24, 2012
Posted on: January 24, 2012 2:01 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

question for all of us experts.  what is to stop the giants from playing all pass defense?  put in osi, jpp, kiwanuka, and justin tuck on the d-line.  only blackburn and boley in the middle and five nickel backs?  they can still get pressure and can still blitz if wanted from that package.  but there is 0 run threat to stop them from doing it.  pros/cons?  whatcha think?   i think the main con is it puts a lot of stress on your smaller db's to tackles larger gronk and hernandez, but i feel that the secondary tackles pretty well.



Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: January 24, 2012 1:45 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Ken good writeup, However couple things Giants played w/o Nicks and Osi last time both have been huge in postseason run obviously and make Giants even Better team than last time they met. Also, Gronk definately is great but no way he will have his normal speed or cutting ability come SB time. If this was regular season dude probably misses 2-3 weeks. Gronk at 60% still better thsan most TEs but that injury hurts limited Patriots outside weapons. All the hype over Pats offense needs to be taken with grain of salt this offense did alot of damage with 2 te and 1 good wr. Giants will bracket those TE's and make the wrs beat them. Also on the turf guys like Osi and JPP will be a terror for Patsand Brady will be throwing alot of quick passes. Alot of dinking and dunking. The Giant O on other hand will feel like things are a cakewalk compared to last week with 49ers..That 49 D is the best in the NFL.. Pata are average.



Since: Nov 17, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2012 1:26 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Anyone who says the Giants are crummy, or that the Patriots are crummy, is simply engaging in the juvenile smack-talk that unfortunately dominates too much sports talk nowadays.  Those two teams are in the Super Bowl because they were able to win their divisions in the regular season and then beat other teams that won their divisions or were wild card teams--the Falcons, 49ers, Broncos and Ravens.  They are very strong teams.  The Patriots are probably a little better than the Giants, but not enough for anyone to be certain of the outcome this year.  This isn't like four years ago, when the Patriots were a much better team on paper.  (What no one really caught onto at the time was the impact of the injury to RG Stephen Neal.  Until that injury, the Pats' pass blocking had been awesome; Tom Brady could drop back, listen to Beethoven's 9th, and then throw the pass.  Thereafter teams were getting more heat on him, and a really good pass-rushing team like the Giants could bring a LOT of heat on him.)

The reason the Giants are so tough on the Patriots is that defensive line.  The Pats' offensive line is a very good pass-blocking line, and most teams, in order to get a rush on Brady, have to send linebackers or safeties in on blitzes.  But when you do that, Brady will have you for lunch.  That's why he demolished the Jets twice this year--they depend on the blitz.  He spots the blitz and fires a pass right into the spot that has been vacated by the blitzer (or by the other defender who has moved over to cover where the blitzer was coming from).  But the Giants' defensive line gets pressure without needing help from the linebackers.  They get that pressure without creating openings into which Brady then pours passes.  When the ball gets to Gronkowski, Hernandez and Welker, there are linebackers or defensive backs there to try to break up the pass or make the hit, and one thing all the Giants do very well is hit.

One particularly impressive Giants player is Jason Pierre-Paul.  He is terrifically quick, and a big hitter.  He has come on amazingly this year.  The big difference-makers for the Patriots are those two tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.   Gronkowski is simply a freak; nobody that big is supposed to be able to move that fast or have hands like that.  Hernandez reflects the change in the game.  Forty years ago, someone who was 6'1, 245, and could move like that, would have been a fullback.  He is much shorter than a typical tight end, but has good hands and has amazing running moves.  If you were to try to compare him to any player a generation ago, you wouldn't look at any of the tight ends; you'd compare him to Franco Harris or Marv Hubbard.   His greatest strength is his ability to make the first tackler miss and to break anything less than a really good tackle.  The Patriots' offense puts the ball in his hands in ways designed to get him into the open field.

This should be a really tough game.  If I had to make a prediction, I'd say the Patriots should be favored, but not by much.  Even the 3.5 points is a lot; I think I'd peg them as about 2-point favorites. 




Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: January 24, 2012 1:25 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Derek Sutton, Open your eyes dude. 49 D id waaay better than the Pats both in pass rush and coverage.. They will not give Giants same problems as 49ers. The Giant pass rush however will beat beating up brady and making him uncomfortable all day. Can the Pats win sure I guess but the Giants have the formula to beat them and this time it would be no fluke..in fact I think Giants win by double digits.



Since: Dec 15, 2010
Posted on: January 24, 2012 1:23 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Hry INKMASTERS, you made a big boast, moreof an excsue as to why the patsies will lose this SB. Screw you., Prove your statement.
We gonna beat yall so boad youre gonna forget what a football is.



Since: Jun 24, 2008
Posted on: January 24, 2012 1:23 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

The notion that the 2008 SuperBowl was a wild upset is totally idiotic.  Just because the general public was fooled by the Pats' 16-0 record, forcing the oddsmakers to give a wide spread, had nothing to do with the reality of the situation.  Those two teams had met a few weeks earlier and had played a very close game, plus the Giants were on a roll and were playing the best football of ANY team, including the Patriots, during the postseason.  I, for one, knew that it would be a close struggle and that the Giants, being the big "underdog," had a great chance to win this one.  They had everything going for them...momentum, the moronic bleatings of the mediots, ending the Pats' perfect season.  This was made-to-order for them.  And I thought that the Pats did well to make this come down to the last play and a miraculous throw and catch.

That being said, THIS game, between two very different teams, should be very similar. It's a toss-up.  It should be a tight struggle that could well go down to the final play, as in 2008.  It'll come down to, as it always does in the NFL, to execution and to who makes the fewest mistakes.



Since: Oct 30, 2010
Posted on: January 24, 2012 1:21 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Yes. The Giants have made it to the Super Bowl because, hey, steroids. Eli has played out of his mind due to enormous amounts of HGH. Of course. Hey, I can do it too. Patriots win every year because SPYGATE!!1!!! AND STEROIDS TOO!!! No proof, but who needs that? Don't be an idiot.



Since: Jan 24, 2012
Posted on: January 24, 2012 1:20 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

Giants are due to lose here but how can you ignore 2 impressive road playoff victories and road victory against the Pats earlier this year? Add the vast improvements defensively and a porous Pats defense = Giants Win!



Since: Jan 18, 2008
Posted on: January 24, 2012 1:11 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

After watching the Ravens Texans game I felt the Patriots would not have too difficult a time with the Ravens, but boy was I wrong. It is a game to game situation when it gets to this level. The Giants look like the team to beat with their front 7, Eli and his receivers, Bradshaw, and Jacobs running the ball.

That said the Patriots NEVER lose to a team twice in the same year, and are a far better team defensively than in their week 9 game against the Giants. It will be a great match-up. 



Since: Mar 13, 2008
Posted on: January 24, 2012 1:06 pm
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

What is the same?  Giants downing PED's since early December.  Aren't any tests taken since then to prove otherwise, is there unless it is a travel squad player.  Late season surge... you bet.


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