A Super rematch
INDIANAPOLIS -- Four years ago in Glendale, Ariz., the New York Giants shocked the New England Patriots, 17-14, in what many rank as the greatest Super Bowl of all time. Four years later, the Patriots and Giants are at it again. The venue has changed, as has the cast of characters, but much remains the same. The Patriots, led by Tom Brady, will enter with a double-digit win streak; Eli Manning, the MVP of Super Bowl XLII, brings the Giants into XLVI as the "hot" team again. It's hard to imagine this Super Bowl topping the last one between these two teams, but with Brady and Manning, nothing should be counted out.
Giants: Matters of fact
Throw out the records: Since 2007, there have been four teams to reach the Super Bowl with 10 or fewer wins in the regular season, including the Giants (9-7) this year. Two of those teams went on to win the Super Bowl -- New York in XLII and Green Bay in XLV. Furthermore, the team with the better regular-season record in the last six Super Bowls has won just once.
Positive thinking: Teams with a positive turnover differential in the Super Bowl are 33-3 all time. The Giants have a plus-5 turnover differential this postseason; the Patriots are minus-3. The last time these team met in the Super Bowl, each turned the ball over one time.
History-makers: The Giants are the first team in NFL history to make the Super Bowl after having a negative scoring differential in the regular season. Of the previous four teams with the lowest scoring differential, only the 2007 Giants -- with a plus-22 -- went on to win the Super Bowl.
Patriots: Matters of fact
Passing Peyton: The most passing yards in a regular season by a Super Bowl-winning quarterback is 4,397 by the Colts Peyton Manning in 2006. That mark will be shattered by more than 1,000 yards if the Patriots win (Tom Brady finished with 5,235). Of course, the mark will also fall if the Giants win, but by a much smaller margin (Eli Manning passed for 4,933 yards).
A lose-win situation: This is the 13th time teams that met in the regular season will face each other in the Super Bowl. In the previous 12, the teams that lost the first matchup went on to win seven times. The Patriots were beaten by the Giants, 24-20, in Week 9. New England hasn't lost since.
Defense rests: The Patriots surrendered 411.1 yards per game in the regular season; no other previous Super Bowl team had given up more than 358. Of the five previous worst defenses to reach the Super Bowl, only the 2009 Saints won the game. However they defeated another team on the list in the Colts.
Giants' leading men
QB Eli Manning
No one is more responsible for the Giants making their run to the Super Bowl than their quarterback. It's been quite a ride for Manning, who went from being left off the NFL Network's Top 100 Players list (that featured 11 quarterbacks) in the offseason to throwing for 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns, while putting in full motion his reputation as being one of the most clutch quarterbacks in NFL history. Now he has a shot to earn his second ring, passing his big brother in Peyton's backyard.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul
The Giants struggled on defense for most of the regular season, but the one constant was Pierre-Paul, who racked up 16.5 sacks, the fourth most in team history. His impact on an improved Giants defense has been profound. Besides the sack total, his 29 quarterback hits were 19 more than any other teammate and his 23 tackles for loss were 10 more than Mathias Kiwanuka. While he has just a half sack in the playoffs, Pierre-Paul has played a huge role in the Giants limiting their three postseason opponents to an average of 13 points and 200.7 passing yards per game.
Coach Tom Coughlin
With a steady, nurturing style, Coughlin has guided the Giants to his second Super Bowl in a season many outside the organization thought would be his last. Now he has a chance to become the ninth head coach with two or more Super Bowl victories. Coughlinï¿½s seven postseason wins with the Giants is one shy of Bill Parcells for most in franchise history. Overall, Coughlin is now 11-7 (.611) in his head coaching postseason career (Jaguars, Giants).
Patriots' leading men
QB Tom Brady
At 34 years old, Brady had one of the greatest season of his career. He threw for the second most yards in the league (5,235), had 39 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. Brady has won 16 postseason games as the starting quarterback in his career, tied for the most by a QB in NFL history. A victory on Sunday will see him pass his boyhood idol, Joe Montana. More imortantly, he will have won his fourth Super Bowl and would join Montana and Terry Bradshw as the only starting quarterbacks with that many rings.
NT Vince Wilfork
The Patriots' defense has been historically bad this season (see above), but it's no fault of Wilfork's. He played nearly 90 percent of his team's defensive snaps, an astounding number for a man his size. Incredibly, that number increased to 96 percent in the AFC Championship Game, when Wilfork turned in perhaps the best game of his career. He has been key in the Patriots' defensive resurgence in the playoffs and will have to play a big role again if New England has hopes of slowing down the Giants.
Coach Bill Belichick
On the cusp of winning his fourth Super Bowl title, Belichick is this close to joining an elite group of coaches. So elite, it currently only has one member -- Pittsburgh's Chuck Noll, who won four Super Bowls with the Steelers. Belichick is tied for third all time with 17 postseason victories, three behind Tom Landry and two behind Don Shula. His .739 postseason winning percentage is second only to Vince Lombardi (.900). Noll, Shula, Lombardi ... Belichick. Pretty special stuff. Pretty special coach.