Tag:Tom Brady
Posted on: February 1, 2012 10:07 am
Edited on: February 1, 2012 5:54 pm

Gronkowski misses Patriots practice Wednesday

Follow all of CBSSports.com's Full Super Bowl Coverage (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Update (5:50 p.m. ET): On Wednesday morning Belichick talked about what Gronkowski might be able to do in practice later in the day. We now know that answer: nothing. The Patriots sent out a practice report around 5:45 on Wednesday afternoon and Gronkowski was listed as did not participate.

Gronkowski now has two more chances to get on the field and see how his ankle responds in practice. If he can't even do that, it's going to make for a tough decision as to whether or not he can even contribute on Sunday during the Super Bowl.

INDIANAPOLIS -- It's hump day at Super Bowl week and head coach Bill Belichick continues to be in a good mood. In fact, his demeanor has been a storyline since the Patriots arrived. During Tuesday's Media Day session, wide receiver Wes Welker attributed it to the "lady in [Belichick's] life."

Whatever the reason, New England's head coach seems at ease four days out from the final game of the 2011 season.

During his Wednesday morning press conference, Belichick spoke on tight Rob Gronkowski, who continues to recover from a high-ankle sprain he suffered during the AFC Championship game. ("Rob's getting better … we're taking it day to day. … We'll see what he can do today [at practice] and go from there.") 

Belichick was also asked about the Giants' front four, a group that terrorized Brady earlier this year and did the same when New York upset New England in Super Bowl XLII.

"Those inside guys can really knock the line of scrimmage back," he said. "Their ends are a good combo of size and speed (and) I don't know if anybody can play like the Giants play -- they're so good."

Brady knows this too. Some Giants players have said that Brady can be rattled, and he might be more cognizant of pressure -- and it could affect the way he plays -- after having reconstructive knee surgery early in the 2008 season.

"It wouldn't be the Super Bowl if they (the Giants defense) weren't trying to knock me down or knock me out … but our offensive line gets paid too," Brady said. "We're going to try to eliminate (bad throws) … we had too many of those last time (against the Ravens). We're not going to be able to win the game playing like that."


Other notes from Wednesday's press conference…

-- Brady was asked about Chad Ochocinco, who was acquired just before training camp to give the Patriots a deep threat. Instead, he had just 15 catches and one touchdown in the regular season. He played a single snap against the Broncos in the Divisional playoff game and was inactive a week later against the Ravens in the conference championship. (Ochocinco missed practice time leading up to that game to attend his father's funeral.)

"Chad has worked hard everyday … and I've really loved having Chad on this team," Brady said. "He still has that childlike quality in terms of his enthusiasm for the game." And while Ochocinco's season hasn't gone well, Brady said that the former Pro Bowl wideout is still "willing to do whatever it takes to win."

-- Belichick was also asked about Julian Edelman, the college quarterback and former seventh-round pick who now plays just about every position but quarterback in New England.

"We saw Edelman as a good athlete at Kent State," Belichick said … "We didn't really think he was a quarterback but tough, quick, good with the ball in his hands with a desire to improve. … It's been a big transition for him (as both a returner and a slot receiver) … and we got in some injury situations and his skills as a slot receiver transferred into what we ask of our slot corners."

Belichick called Edelman "a smart guy" who's taken "a lot of plays in practice on both sides of the ball."

-- Brady may have said he "sucked" following the Ravens game but Belichick sounded unconcerned Wednesday. "I think Tom does a good job in his preparation every week. … He's one of our hardest workers. I meet with Tom at the beginning of the week and he's always seen as much (game film) or more than i have."

-- Belichick saved his best for last. He was asked about comments by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who said he was embarrassed by the NFC's effort in last weekend's Pro Bowl (the AFC won, 59-41).

"What I'm going to say probably shouldn't be what I should say to that question so I'm going to let it go," Belichick said as he fought back a smile. "What it was and what it is now … it's a lot different," he added before leaving the podium.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed
Posted on: January 30, 2012 8:33 pm

Giants think Brady's parade 'story' is ridiculous

The Giants players are sick of the pep rally storyline too. (Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- At the Patriots pep rally in New England, Tom Brady said that "hopefully" the Pats will be able to have a bigger party in two weeks. Brady meant that he hopes the Pats win the Super Bowl. But the New York media, bless them all, took that line and absolutely ran with it, calling it "Tom's Taunt."

"It was a pep rally," Brady deadpanned Sunday night when asked about the comment.

But that didn't stop a swarm of media members from spending a good deal of time asking Giants players if Brady's comments made them angry. As it turns out, the Giants are more annoyed by people making a story out of Brady's comments than they are by Brady's actual comments.

"Man, it was a pep rally," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said Tuesday. "What was he supposed to say? I don’t think it’s Tom doing anything but getting fans riled up."

Tuck was also asked several times about the pep rally and clearly didn't want to discuss it. Linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka literally laughed at the idea of Brady trying to run his mouth.

[CBSSports.com's Full Super Bowl Coverage]

"I read his exact words and the way he phrased it" Kiwanuka said. "You get to this level, you get to this game because you're confident in yourself and I wouldn't expect anything else. Now if someone wants to come out and throw some legitimate trash talk we can talk about that. But you guys just need something to do for the week I guess."

Even Antrel Rolle, who loudly proclaimed just how loudly he likes to proclaim things, wouldn't take the bait and felt like Brady's comments were being blown out of proportion.

"It doesn’t matter at all," Rolle said of Brady's comments. "The game [still] has to be played on Sunday. And the only thing that is going to determine the outcome of the game are the players in the game, who’s going to take the field and who’s going to be on either side. No talk, no media, no speculation, no parties, none of that stuff is really relevant at this point."

The only thing -- at this point -- that makes Brady's comments fascinating is the New York media's refusal to let them go. But having been on the ground in Indy for just over 24 hours, it's highly likely that'll stop being amusing pretty quickly.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 29, 2012 6:58 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 3:16 pm

Belichick jokes about 4th and 2, Indy hospitality

By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bill Belichick, by virtue of the rivalry between the Colts and Patriots, isn't a really popular guy here in Indy. But he said at his introductory press conference on Sunday night that he's gotten much more "Hoosier hospitality" ever since his decision to go for a now-infamous 4th and two call against the Colts in 2009.

"I've never had much hospitality here until I went for it on fourth and two," Belichick joked on Sunday.

The play he's referring to has been dubbed "The Call" -- on fourth and two from his own 28 against the Colts with just over two minutes remaining, Belichick went for the first down, but Melvin Bullitt stuffed Kevin Faulk after the running back caught a short pass from Tom Brady.

That gamble was analyzed a million times and it's absolutely considered one of the worst moments of Belichick's distinguished coaching career.

His joke on Sunday was indicative of the mood of Belichick's presser, as well as the rest of the Patriots. They seemed light-hearted and energetic.

[CBSSports.com's Full Super Bowl Coverage] 

Tom Brady was asked if his telling Pats fans he hoped next week brought a bigger party than the one they saw in New England prior to departing for Indianapolis was indicative of his confidence for this game, and the quarterback was just as glib as his coach.

"It was a pep rally," Brady deadpanned.

Expect the Pats demeanor to frost up a bit as the week goes on. It's been clear throughout the postseason just how much bringing home the Lombardi Trophy means to them.

For now, though, they're clearly quite happy to be in Indianapolis with a shot at redemption for 2007. And maybe 2009 as well.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 29, 2012 12:54 am

Super Bowl XLVI Preview: Patriots O vs. Giants D

Breaking news: Brady is key to the Pats winning. (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

It’s this side of the matchup that makes Super Bowl XLVI so compelling. New England’s juggernaut offense against the league’s best four-man pass-rush. Here’s the breakdown.

1. Relevance of rematch factor
What happened in Super Bowl XLII has virtually no bearing on this game. Yes, that game was decided by New York’s front four getting pressure on Tom Brady. And yes, front-four pressure will play a huge role in this Sunday’s game. But the pressure in Super Bowl XLII was schematically generated by the Giants’ inside blitzes (both feigned and real).

This approach compelled the Patriots’ help-blockers to work inside, leaving one-on-one matchups for defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora outside. This was a brilliant strategy by Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo because it punished Brady for taking seven-step drops. Those seven-step drops were obligatory in an ’07 Patriots offense that was built around the vertical prowess of Randy Moss.

But as mentioned, that gameplan is now irrelevant, as the ’11 Patriots are built around the horizontal prowess of Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker. What IS relevant is the gameplan the Giants had in Week 9 when they went into Foxboro and forced four turnovers en route to a rare Patriots home loss.

New York’s Week 9 gameplan centered around physical coverage behind a four-man pass-rush. No surprise – that’s how the Giants are built to play. What’s important is to understand HOW the Giants executed this gameplan.

Considering New York’s personnel is basically the same now as it was in Week 9 (only better), there’s no reason to think they won’t go with the same approach again. Let’s dissect that approach.

2. The four-man rush
One thing that sets the Giant’s four-man rush apart – besides an insane collection of talent – is its mismatch-creating versatility. The Giants have used 27 different front four alignments this postseason.

Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul can both slide inside and work against overmatched guards (and every NFL guard, even Pro Bowlers like Logan Mankins and Brian Waters, is overmatched against athletes like JPP and Tuck). They can align linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka anywhere up front. They have a beastly all-around force in Chris Canty (and for what it’s worth, a solid duo of rotating run-stoppers next to him in Rocky Bernard and the underrated Linval Joseph).

Most quality four-man pass-rushes have guys who are either speedy or powerful; Pierre-Paul, Tuck, Kiwanuka and, by defensive tackle standards, Canty, are all speedy AND powerful. This is what creates their versatility, and it’s also what allows the Giants front four to tee-off rushing the passer without becoming vulnerable to the run.

Expect the Giants to jumble their front four looks as much as possible. They also might walk linebackers up to the line of scrimmage just to give Brady and his linemen something to think about. As we talked about last week, the key to beating Brady is to not just get pressure on him, but to make him consciously worry about his protection.

3. New England’s response to New York’s D-line
The Patriots, like 30 other NFL teams, will have their hands full with many of the individual front line matchups against New York. For an elite left guard, Logan Mankins can be surprisingly iffy in protection sometimes. Left tackle Matt Light often rises to the occasion against top-shelf speed-rushers, but it’s a lot to ask of the 33-year-old to block Osi Umenyiora on an island. On the right side, tackle Nate Solder struggled in pass protection last week against Baltimore.

In Week 9, the Patriots were obviously concerned about one-on-one situations in the trenches. They used six or seven offensive linemen on 20 snaps. In the first half, they often kept Gronkowski and, at times even de facto wide receiver Hernandez, in to pass-block. Don’t expect them to do that as much this time around.

New England’s offense has become even more spread-oriented, which means more pass-rush nullifying three-and five-step drop passes. Because of the skill players’ versatility, the hurry-up has become the Patriots’ main offensive attack. Expect them to use frequent hurry up in order to prevent the Giants from rotating defensive linemen.

The Patriots will likely go with their two-receivers, two-tight ends, one-back personnel, and they’ll have different groups of plays already packaged for whatever personnel the Giants defense responds with. A hurry-up will keep the same defensive personnel on the field for an entire series, forcing the 270-plus-pound D-linemen to play snap after snap after snap without rest. The hope is this wears the defense down late in the series and late in the game.

It’s vital that the Patriots win the battle on first and second down. Doing so makes the hurry-up offense more vibrant and, obviously, mitigates the substantial pass-rushing advantage that New York has on third-and-long. Winning on first and second down is hard to do consistently without running the ball at least a little. This is why New England will likely go with the 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) as opposed to their new 02 personnel package (zero backs, two tight ends, three wide receivers).

Then again, Hernandez has been a surprisingly adroit ballcarrier ... perhaps a no-running back grouping is indeed viable. Or given that they’ve had an extra week to prepare, perhaps the Patriots will debut an all new offensive wrinkle (like they did after their last bye, with the Hernandez backfield packages in the divisional round against Denver).

4. New York’s coverage
The advantage of getting pressure with four is having seven guys to crowd the field in coverage. Few back sevens are as well-equipped to defend the Patriots’ pass game as the Giants’. They have athletic pass-defending linebackers (Michael Boley and Jacquian Williams) who can play laterally. More importantly, those linebackers can exert brutish force against any receivers running shallow inside routes. Those shallow inside routes are the backbone of New England’s passing attack.

The Giants also have versatile safeties who can (maybe) hang with Gronkowski and Hernandez. Deon Grant did a fabulous job on Gronk in Week 9 (he had a great pick in underneath coverage, and overall, Gronkowski’s impact was not as pronounced as his 101 yards suggested).

Antrel Rolle doesn’t run extremely well, but he’s agile enough to compete with Hernandez. In Week 9 Hernandez had not yet blossomed into the über-versatile weapon that he is today. So, Rolle actually spent most of that contest defending Wes Welker in the slot. Rolle got beat late a few times but also made some physical plays in the first half.

Physicality is a key concept. The Giants have capable press corners in Corey Webster and Aaron Ross. Webster is an outside defender who normally shadows the opposing team’s top receiver. Because Welker so often aligns in the slot, and because Deion Branch is not worth putting your best cover guy on, expect Webster to draw a litany of different matchups out wide. Same goes for Ross, who is actually more likely than Webster to cover Welker in the slot.

The Giants played more press-man than usual against the Patriots, and with good success. In the four games in which New England’s offense struggled the most this season, Brady’s completion percentage barely topped 50 when facing safety-help man coverage.

5. New England’s response
The Patriots know that aggressive press coverage can really disrupt the timing of their routes – an especially dubious scenario given that many of their routes are synched with other routes. Expect the go-to receiver to line up off the line of scrimmage as a means of creating more initial spacing (which makes it hard for a defender to deliver a jam). This could mean Welker in the slot, Hernandez in the slot or backfield, Branch in motion, etc. Play action could also take away inside help early in the routes, which bodes well for Welker:

This is an illustration of great route combinations. “Route combinations” refers to how one receiver’s route works hand-in-hand with another receiver’s route to exploit a specific coverage. This play shows a somewhat unusual case of an offense creating throwing lanes against man coverage with space-oriented route combinations (as opposed to regular man-beaters like pick plays, bunches or double crossing patterns).

It’s second-and-five. The Patriots are in a 1 x 2 set out of 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends). Judging by the cornerbacks, the Giants are in man coverage. This is confirmed when Rob Gronkowski goes in motion and Deon Grant follows him.

The matchup Tom Brady likes is Wes Welker against safety Antrel Rolle in the slot. Welker is going to run a deep cross. This is somewhat of a tendency-breaker, as most would expect Welker to run a shallow cross on second-and-five.

The primary intent of Gronkowski’s motion is NOT to verify the coverage, it’s to balance the formation and ensure that Grant will play close to the line of scrimmage. If he’s near the line, he’ll be unable to drop off Gronkowski and jump Welker’s route over the middle.

Don’t be surprised if the Patriots have their tight ends or running backs run patterns outside the numbers while the receivers run patterns inside. This would put pressure on the linebackers and safeties to play with more speed than power and make it more difficult for corners to count on a little help over the shallow middle (which most corners need). These inside-outside crossing elements are also natural man coverage beaters, which the Patriots must rely on.

Because Brady runs like he’s wearing ski boots, defenses facing New England don’t have to commit a linebacker to shadowing the quarterback. Thus, they essentially have one extra player at their disposal. The Patriots mitigate this defensive advantage by crafting creative route design concepts:

Upon the snap, there are two key elements:

1. Welker is coming out of the slot, not off the line of scrimmage. Thus, he has about two yards between him and Rolle, which is enough to prevent Rolle from exerting a physical jam.

2. Brady fakes a handoff to Danny Woodhead. This slows the pass-rush just enough to give Welker the time needed to execute his deep cross. More importantly, it distracts linebackers Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley. They might be in a man-read assignment, meaning if Woodhead goes right, the linebacker to that side (Boley) picks him up. If he goes left, then Kiwanuka picks him up. In that case, the design of the run action was outstanding because, by starting Woodhead on the left side and running him off the fake to the right flat, the attention of both linebackers is drawn. That’s what happened here, as Boley and Kiwanuka both responded to the fake by stepping forward and becoming non-factors in this play.

(Note: It’s also possible that Boley had Woodhead straight-up, with Kiwanuka serving as a free-roaming lurk defender. If that’s the case, then Kiwanuka played this exceptionally poorly.)

Being drawn forward, the linebackers are unable to sense Welker’s crossing route and unable to give Rolle any sort of help inside. Thus, Rolle is caught playing too far outside.

On the left side, Gronkowski ran a very shallow out-route while Chad Ochocinco ran his out towards the sideline. Both of these routes were designed to widen the defense and create a big open gap for Welker.

Overall, this play had a combination of four routes working together: Woodhead’s flat on the right, Gronkowski’s out and Ochocinco’s fly on the left and Welker’s deep cross down the middle. The result: an easy 25-yard completion to arguably the league’s best slot receiver.

Again, the crossing patterns are natural man-beaters. So are bunch and stack alignments, which are great for pushing a defense into off-coverage and creating space for quick-striking throws. These tactics will replace a lot of would-be run plays in New England’s up-tempo offense.

Check our NFL expert picks for all the Super Bowl

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 28, 2012 10:54 am

Ochocinco leans on T.O., Moss for support

Ochocinco on the 2011 season: 'I bought into the Patriot Way, and it paid off.' (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

Chad Ochocinco is the forgotten man in New England's offense. Acquired just before training camp, the former Bengals Pro Bowler was supposed to provide Tom Brady something he lacked since Randy Moss was shipped out of town a month into the 2010 season: a deep threat.

Ochocinco, in theory, would've been the final piece to a multi-dimensional passing offense that included two of the league's best tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and the precision route-running of Wes Welker. Instead, Ochocinco, who finished the regular season with 15 receptions and one touchdown, played just one snap in the Patriots' Divisional playoff win over the Broncos and was inactive last week against the Ravens.

On Friday, Ochocinco spoke with the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian. Despite the lack of production this season, he said that he'd love to return to New England in 2012. But first things first: how has he coped with one of the toughest years of his NFL life? Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.

“For me, those guys were my outlets. Not Twitter,” he said. “To have those two guys in my corner, I talk to them all the time. (Moss) keeps me sane for 16 weeks, every week. Every week we talked. T.O., too. We’re close-knit, us so-called diva receivers. Who is going to understand what I’m talking about, or going through, from my standpoint? Not Bill (Belichick), not Tom (Brady). It’s like having my own personal support group. I love those two, man. I didn’t want to burden anyone else in here with that bull. They don’t want to hear that.”

There are countless theories for why Ochocinco's productivity tok a nosedive this season. One is that he's struggled to learn the Patriots' offense after spending 10 years in Cincinnati.

“Anything is different, when you’ve come from something you’re used to for so long. It’s like being married,” he said. “If I’m married to Halle Berry for 10 years, and her and I break up, and I marry Scarlett Johansson, there are going to be some things I have to adjust to based off what I’m used to. That’s just the way life is in general. What I was able to do was come in here and keep on working.”

So is Carson Palmer Halle Berry in this analogy? (Personally, we had him pegged for someone like Jennifer Garner: relevant seven or eight years ago before disappearing to have kids only to resurface in a promising situation. And, yes, the movie title is intentional.) And while Johannson's no slouch, Ochocinco has to go with Gisele Bündchen as his new wife, as a metaphor for his relationship with Tom Brady, right?

Either way, he says there's nothing bittersweet about finally making it to the Super Bowl despite having little to do with helping the Patriots get there.

“There’s a competitive side to me that is angry, the competitive nature in me that it didn’t go the way it normally has," Ochocinco said. "I routinely produce a certain way every year. So when that routine goes astray like it did this year, it feels funny. It’s something I had to get used to. But I took it in stride. I did everything I was asked on and off the field. I didn’t become disgruntled, as I’ve done in the past. When I want the ball, I’ve let it be known I want the ball. I didn’t do any of those things (this season). I bought into the Patriot Way, and it paid off. Maybe not the way everybody thought it would. I don’t know.

“Sometimes you work at something, and you don’t always get the results," he added. "Some people quit, some people keep grinding. I’m one of those who keeps grinding. And that’s it.”

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 24, 2012 10:25 pm

Pollard hopes NYG 'put thrashing on Patriots'

B. Pollard tackles R. Gronkowski (US Presswire).By Josh Katzowitz

If Bernard Pollard wanted to ingratiate himself to the Patriots fanbase -- and really, why on earth would he want to do that? -- he’s going about it the wrong way.

While he was interviewed by KILT radio in Houston (via sportsradiointerviews.com), Pollard was asked his opinion about the Super Bowl XLVI matchup between the Patriots and the Giants.

“I really hope the Giants -- I just hope they just put a thrashing on the Patriots,” Pollard said. “I really do. To lose to a team like that the way we played. We played a good game.”

While it’s true that the Ravens played better than expected -- especially quarterback Joe Flacco -- and the Patriots (especially quarterback Tom Brady) didn’t play quite as well as we would have thought, the simple fact of the matter is … well, Pollard will be watching the game on TV. Because sometimes the team that plays better loses the game anyway.

But he makes a good point about the Super Bowl when he said this, “You gotta look at the experience of the team. What do the Giants have? They got a front four that is relentless. They got a secondary that is really, really good. They got a linebacking core that has been with them. The (Patriots) dinking and the dunking, man? It’s just not going to happen. They are going to have to take shots down the field. I think the Giants watch our film and watch the film of the season. They gotta take away their big time players. [Rob] Gronkowski I think he is coming off that ankle, so I don’t know if he will be 100 percent.”

Chances are, Gronkowski won’t be 100 percent. Even though he’s set to play in Indianapolis, the Boston Herald reported today that Gronkowski sustained ligament damage when Pollard tackled him in the third quarter of the AFC title game.

Speaking of Gronkowski and Pollard, what does Pollard think about adding to his reputation as a Patriots killer (first Brady, then Wes Welker and now, Gronkowski)?

“Oh man, that is fine and dandy,” Pollard said. “It is part of the game and this is what happens. If you don’t like it? So what. I am going to go out there and I am going to play me.”

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 24, 2012 9:00 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 11:51 am

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

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: 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.

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...

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:04 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 3:38 pm

Cam Newton and other Pro Bowl roster additions

NewtonBy Josh Katzowitz

Now that the Patriots and Giants officially are heading to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI, that means nobody from New England and New York will be flying to Honolulu this week for the Pro Bowl.

Which means we get tons of additions and deletions to the roster!

Here’s the list so far.

-Panthers standout rookie quarterback Cam Newton will replace Eli Manning on the NFC roster. As you well know, Newton threw for 4,051 yards passing, the most ever by a rookie quarterback in NFL history while recording 21 touchdowns and posting an 84.5 quarterback rating. Newton also rushed for 14 scores, the most ever by an NFL quarterback.

-Bears defensive end Julius Peppers will take over for New York’s Jason Pierre-Paul. This is Peppers’ seventh Pro Bowl appearance, and it’s the first time since Richard Dent in the mid-1980s that a Chicago defensive end has made the roster in back-to-back seasons.

-Jets guard Brandon Moore will replace New England’s Brian Waters on the AFC roster. This is Moore’s first Pro Bowl selection. Ravens guard Ben Grubbs will take over for Logan Mankins.

-Bad news for Tim Tebow. According to Pro Football Talk, Ben Roethlisberger “definitely” is attending the Pro Bowl festivities, meaning Tebow, the second alternate, will be staying home this week (and maybe going on tour with Brad Paisley instead).

-As the Cincinnati Enquirer reports, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton replaces Tom Brady, tight end Jermaine Gresham replaces Rob Gronkowski and defensive tackle Geno Atkins replaces Vince Wilfork.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com