There's little in sports that inspire excitement like the prospect of a rematch.
A sequel was summoned after the epic fall clash between LSU and Alabama. The Boston Red Sox conquered their Ruthian demons in 2004 thanks to the platform of a follow-up from their 2003 ALCS disaster. The Lakers-Celtics rivalry has rendered its share of repeats, most recently in 2010.
And we'd be remiss in forgetting to note the legendary battle between Balboa and Creed in Rocky II.
Just like 2007, the G-Men's arrival into the Big One was far from expected. Even the prospect of surviving the NFC East seemed far-fetched, as a "dream team" was assembled in Philadelphia and Dallas finished the 2010 season on a roll with new coach Jason Garrett at the helm.
Meanwhile, the only noteworthy offseason transactions in the Big Apple saw primary targets Kevin Boss and Steve Smith take their talents elsewhere. Worse, New York was inundated with an injury epidemic on defense during the preseason. Before the onset of September, the season already appeared doomed.
A 6-2 start appeared to alleviate these concerns for Tom Coughlin's squad, as the offense under Eli Manning flourished despite the losses of Boss and Smith or contributions from a bruised and battered backfield.
Alas, four straight losses quickly quelled this enthusiasm. The Giants sneaked into the playoffs thanks to a 3-1 record down the stretch (including two wins over the rival Cowboys to clinch the division crown), and their recuperation from their rash of health issues made New York a formidable foe in the postseason.
Yet there's a fine line between "daunting" and "dominant," and the G-Men certainly swayed toward the former, making the endeavor of reaching Indianapolis seemingly unattainable.
Fitting, then, that the Giants took care of business against the Falcons at home in the Wild Card Round before knocking off the defending-champion Packers in Lambeau and the Niners in hostile Candlestick Park.
Manning and the offense lived up to their end of the bargain, but New York's catalyst for their conquest was an authoritarian defensive front. Headlined by Jason Pierre-Paul and Jason Tuck, the Giants harassed opposing signal-callers throughout the month of January, accounting for nine sacks during the postseason.
If New York intends to leave the Hoosier State with the Lombardi Trophy, the defensive dexterity will need to continue in order to keep Tom Brady and the Patriots' passing attack at bay.
So far in the 2011 campaign, it's an exertion that's easier said than done. Last season's MVP submitted another stellar performance this year, tossing for more than 5,200 yards with 42 scores (39 passing, three rushing).
Peyton Manning's command of the offense has led pigskin pundits to signify the Colts field general as a master of his craft. With his surgeon-like execution and precision, it's a safe proclamation to put Brady in this echelon as well.
Not to say the perennial Pro Bowler didn't receive some assistance this season. Rob Gronkowski turned in a record-setting performance at his position, hauling in 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and 17 excursions to the end zone.
Fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez was no slouch himself, accumulating 79 receptions for 910 yards and seven scores despite missing two games in the first quarter of the season.
Wes Welker slightly cooled off in the second half of the season (well, at least from his ridiculous commencement to the year), but he still managed to lead all receivers with 122 receptions, and his 1,569 yards were good enough for second-best behind Calvin Johnson.
The aerial assault of New England receives most of the credit for the team's success, and with due reason. However, the Patriots defense can hold its own, regardless of the unit's reputation.
Granted, the Pats did surrender a conference-high 293.9 yards per contest, but the team also posted 23 picks on the year, best in the AFC. New England added 40 sacks as well, one of just six squads in the conference to post 40 or more quarterback drops.
So which team comes out on top in this rematch of Super Bowl XLII? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, the New England Patriots win 55 percent of the time by an average score of 27-25. Check the box score below to see how the game unfolded:
|Super Bowl XLVI|
|New York Giants||45.0||25||Boxscore|
|@ New England Patriots||55.0||27||Simulate Game|