When the New York Giants take the field against the New England Patriots on Feb. 5th, NFL fans will have an eerie sense of deja vu.
Just four years ago, in Super Bowl XLII the New York Giants halted the New England Patriots run for perfection — inflicting the sole loss on the Patriots otherwise perfect season. A Patriots team that came into the Super Bowl as the number one seed, boasting an 18-0 record, was denied sports immortality by a 10-6 New York Giants team that sneaked into the playoffs in a wild card spot.
The comparison going into Super Bowl XLVI is uncanny but, while several of the same players and coaches are still on each teams’ respective sideline, these are by no means the same rosters that met in the historic 2008 game.
The Patriots enter the Super Bowl the AFC’s number one seed. Head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady lead the team. The venerable QB-coach duo could cement themselves as the greatest of all time in their respective crafts by winning their fourth championship together.
New England’s offence now revolves around the dynamic play of a pair of young tight ends — Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez — who combined for a record setting effort for a tight end tandem in the regular season. Belichick has been able to use a spread offence based primarily on short passes, while utilizing positioning and mismatches to abuse opposing defenses with his tight ends’ play.
The personnel New England’s front office has compiled on offence have made the team look unstoppable at times. With Brady under centre, the offence may be slowed down, but much like the 2008 Patriots you will not keep New England out of the end zone.
Coach Tom Coughlin has taken the Giants down the same path to the Super Bowl they carved out in the 2008 season. Amassing a lowly 9-7 record in the regular season, the Giants won their division but have had to win as underdogs in every game they have played.
The 2011-12 Giants are built differently than the team that won it all four years ago. The 2007-08 Giants were prided on their ability to run the ball at opposing teams. Despite a brief re-emergence in the playoffs, the run game is simply not what it was.
The 2011-12 Giants got to the Super Bowl riding the shoulders of Eli Manning. Eli has played at the elite level we are used to seeing from his brother Peyton. Elevating the play of Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and the breakout star Victor Cruz, Manning has led an explosive offence — something that hasn’t been seen in New York since the early 90’s.
The New York Giants pass rush was the difference four years ago, and very well may be the case going into this Sunday. The Giants will have to pressure Brady to be successful. Both offensive units are capable of scoring with each other. It will come down to whoever takes better care of the football in a close game.
New England by six.