NFL: Past meets present in Super Bowl rematch

 

It’s déjà vu. Four years ago, the New England Patriots faced the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

Four years ago, we saw Giants quarterback Eli Manning duel with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. We watched veterans Michael Strahan and Randy Moss vie for their first championship ring, and witnessed the greatest catch in Super Bowl history when Giants wide receiver David Tyree secured a 32-yard pass with the support of his helmet.

Four years ago we saw New York do what no other team was able to accomplish in the 2007 NFL season, defeat the previously undefeated Patriots 17-14 to win Super Bowl XLII in epic fashion.

Four years later, it’s a same team, different story rematch.

This Sunday the Patriots and Giants will once again compete in America’s most high profile sporting event, each hoping to be crowned champion of Super Bowl XLVI.

“It feels great because it was a tough game (four years ago). We had to fight for every yard that we got,” Eli Manning told All Media NY this week. “I’m just excited about having another chance to go to the Super Bowl and play New England.”

Despite the rematch, these two teams are vastly changed from four years ago. They each comprise of different key players, and carry with them particular strengths and weaknesses that will surely be seen in Sunday’s game.

The last time they met in the NFL’s showpiece, the New England Patriots were one of the most dominant NFL teams in the history of the league, finishing the season a perfect 16-0. Their No. 1-ranked offense was anchored by star quarterback Tom Brady, who led the league with 50 touchdowns and 4,806 passing yards, and wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Their defence consisted of star veterans Mike Vrabel and Teddy Bruschi, who propelled New England to the fourth best defence in the league.

Four years ago, the New York Giants had a respectable record of 10-6 during the regular season. Their offense was ranked 14th (out of 32 teams), and were primarily led by quarterback Eli Manning, who finished the season with 23 touchdowns and 3,336 passing yards. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress led the team with 12 touchdowns, and defensive stars Justin Tuck, Michael Strahan, and Osi Umenyiora led a New York defence that ranked 17th.

Fast-forward four years, and what has changed?

The New England Patriots are still one of the most dominant teams in the league. They finished the season 13-3, with an offense that ranked third in the NFL, and are once again being led by star quarterback Tom Brady, who had 39 touchdowns and passed for an astonishing 5,235 yards this season.

The New England defence is certainly not as good as it was four years ago, but the Patriots still boast a very strong core. Linebacker Jerod Mayo, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, and defensive ends Mark Anderson and Andre Carter led a defence that ranked 15th in the NFL this season.

The Patriots now feature new offensive weapons like tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who finished the season with a combined 24 touchdowns, and still retain star receiver Wes Welker, who finished the season with nine touchdowns.

"We're very fortunate to be here," Brady said to the Detroit Free Press this week. “I think we've certainly earned it and the Giants have earned it. It makes for a great game."
The New York Giants on the other hand have vastly improved since their Super Bowl victory. They finished the season 9-7, featuring an offense that ranked 9th in the NFL, and are once again led by quarterback Eli Manning who had 29 touchdowns and 4,933 yards this season.

The Giants possess many offensive threats, highlighted by wide receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks (who combined for 16 touchdowns), and running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Their 25th ranked defence, which struggled at times throughout the season, is led by safety Antrel Rolle and defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora.

“This is a big game for the Giants organisation. This is a big game for every single player who’s going to be playing in this game,” Manning told All Media NY this week. “You hope that you can go out there and play the best football that you’ve ever played. That’s always the goal.”

Over the past four years, these two teams have certainly changed, each comprising of different players, strengths and weaknesses. The key to Sunday’s game will be which defence is able to stop the other team’s prolific offense. Many experts have chosen the Patriots as a favoured champion of this year’s Super Bowl. As for who I think will win, my prediction is simple.

Four years ago the Giants defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, and four years later, it will be the same story.

It’s déjà vu.

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