It hurt back in November, but now that the teams are meeting again, maybe the Giants' 24-20 victory over New England was a blessing in disguise.
Each of the Patriots' last three playoff losses, which includes the Super Bowl loss to New York, had something in common. In each, New England wasn't prepared for its opponent. It didn't answer the Giants' pass rush in 2007. It wasn't ready for Baltimore's physicality in '09, and it didn't expect the Jets' zone defense last year.
There's another similarity. All three times, the Patriots were playing a team they had beaten in their previous encounter that season. Meanwhile, when facing an opponent for the first time since losing to that team during the season, since 2001, Belichick's Patriots are 11-2.
The reasoning is simple. When teams are close in skill level, the losing team has an advantage in a rematch. The winner just tries to stick with what worked the first time, while the loser knows what didn't work and re-creates its strategy. So the winning team has to essentially prepare for two schemes, while the loser gets a second crack at a similar one.
The series with the Jets in 2010 was a prime example. In the first game, Rex Ryan's team came out in a primarily man scheme, putting Darrelle Revis and, later, Antonio Cromartie on Randy Moss to erase him. The Jets won.
By the second game, Moss was gone, and the Patriots were utilizing a wider cast of options. The Jets stayed in man, but as a result, there were mismatches everywhere. The Patriots won big.
By the playoff game, the Jets had chucked their man and pressure scheme in favor of a zone-coverage defense. Those reads from the previous game weren't there for Tom Brady, he was confused, and he was sacked often as he tried to figure it out. The Jets won.
Belichick's two losses when trying to avenge a loss came in the 2005 playoffs to Denver and 2006 AFC championship game to Indianapolis. But the theory held true in both cases. New England outplayed Denver all game, but made five turnovers, one being an end-zone interception that was returned 100 yards by Champ Bailey.
In 2006, New England came out flying against Indianapolis, but simply ran out of gas late in the fourth against Peyton Manning's relentless fast-track offense.
This doesn't mean New England will beat the Giants on Super Sunday. But if the past is any indication, Belichick will force Tom Coughlin to try different things if the Giants want to earn a fourth Lombardi Trophy.