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Four years later, they meet again. The last time these teams did this it resulted in one of the best Super Bowls of all time, and quite possibly the best game of the entire last decade. Can the rematch live up to the original?
Probably not. Last time, the Patriots were trying to become the second team in NFL history to go completely undefeated in the regular season and postseason, while the Giants were the scrappy underdogs that just barely squeaked into the playoffs and shocked the world in the Super Bowl. This year, the Giants made another Cinderella run, but they aren’t quite shocking the world the way they did four years ago; they actually won their division, more than a few people noted how hot they were playing down the stretch, and they’ve already beaten the team that tried to go unbeaten this year. Meanwhile, the Patriots were the class of a rather inferior AFC, hardly showing the dominance of four years ago and showing a decided weakness on defense, admittedly like most of the league’s best teams. Both teams needed miscues from their championship game opponents to get here, and we already saw this year’s sports movie. None of the context that went into the game four years ago is there, and that alone will probably keep it from living up to that level.
That the Giants are playing as well as they are does throw in a few storylines of its own, however. Probably one of the bigger ones involves Eli Manning. Four years ago, no one thought he would ever be anywhere near as good as his brother. He’s since become one of the league’s better quarterbacks, but still raised eyebrows in the preseason when he claimed that he should be considered an elite quarterback on par with Tom Brady. While he didn’t put up the gaudy numbers Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, or Brady put up this year, he still managed to silence the critics and prove that he really is that good a quarterback, being named the NFC’s #3 quarterback in the Pro Bowl behind Rodgers and Brees. Now he has a chance to actually double his brother’s Super Bowl count, possibly for all time. And who does he have a chance to beat to do it? Why, Tom Brady, of course.
Brady has already cemented a Hall of Fame resume, but it’s still interesting how another Super Bowl would impact his legacy. For the past few years, we thought that night in Glendale was the last night of the Patriots dynasty, as, while the Patriots remained one of the league’s elite teams, injuries and underperforming teams kept them out of even the conference championship game. It’s been something like seven years since Brady’s last Super Bowl, and at his age it’s fair to wonder how many more seasons he has left in him. Seeing Drew Bledsoe, the man whose injury set the stage for his entire career, handing out the Lamar Hunt Trophy, you had to wonder if it was a fitting bookend to his career. How would one last postscript Super Bowl to tie Joe Montana be seen when we look back on Brady’s storied career?
Throw in the game being played in Indianapolis, home of Eli’s brother and the Patriots’ main rival over the past decade, and it’s easy to see why Peyton Manning’s shadow hangs over the game, and why there are still plenty of storylines for Giants-Patriots II.