— Tom Coughlin has gone from the hot seat to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have a chance to make history.
This all seems familiar, doesn’t it?
Heading into Conference Championship Sunday, Patriots-Giants was the matchup left on the board with the potential for the most hype. Now it’s here: Eli vs. Brady in Peyton’s place.
This isn’t Super Bowl XLII all over again, though. Here are a few reasons why XLVI is different.
1. The Boston TE party
The Patriots' offense goes through Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. They fuel this team and create all sorts of matchup problems.
2. Patriots try to complete revenge tour
Brady and Belichick have lost five playoff games together. The opponents in those games: Broncos, Colts, Giants, Ravens, and Jets.
New England vanquished the Jets twice in the regular season. They’ve defeated Denver and Baltimore on their way to Indianapolis, where they face the Giants again.
Going up against the Giants sets up either the sweetest win possible for Belichick/Brady or the most bitter defeat. They would love holding the Lombardi trophy in the house of their biggest rival.
3. Eli Manning is at another level
In this Rodgers-Brees-Brady year of the quarterback, Manning’s superlative play has been somewhat overlooked. Eli was the league's fourth best quarterback this season. No quarterback is better with pressure on him, literally and figuratively.
This was the worst matchup possible for the Patriots. They didn’t want to face a good pass rush paired with an explosive passing game.
4. Jason Pierre-Paul
OK, the fearsome Giants' pass rush is pretty familiar. But JPP wasn’t around back in 2007 and he is a massive game-changing player.
5. New weaknesses
The Patriots' defense is playing its best late in the season, but it’s remarkable that a team playing a host of rejects and offensive players is in the Super Bowl. Sterling Moore, Antuwan Molden, and Julian Edelman were all at cornerback on the field late in the game against the Ravens on Sunday. These guys wouldn’t make most rosters.
In 2007, the Giants' offensive line was the team's cornerstone. It’s now the team’s biggest weakness.
6. Historical implications
Getting this rematch is like doubling down on legacies. Is Eli Manning on his way to the Hall of Fame if he wins another Super Bowl? Would Tom Coughlin consider retiring?
For the Patriots, a fourth Super Bowl title puts Brady at Joe Montana’s level. Belichick builds an argument as the greatest coach of all time.
Everything has set up perfectly for the Patriots this year, right down to Billy Cundiff’s missed kick in the AFC title game.
Brady and Belichick know these opportunities don’t come around every year. Not anymore. Brady turns 35 next season. Belichick turns 60. Both men are aware of their football mortality and know they may never get another opportunity like this again.
It’s incredible that the opportunity will come against the Giants, the team that served up the most painful defeat of their career.
Based on the first Giants-Patriots game this year and the conference title games, this is a rematch should be worth its considerable hype.