Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks, Feb. 2, 2014

One Last Time, It's Not a Rematch

Super Bowl XLVI is only a rematch for fans

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014  |  Updated 2:24 PM PDT
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Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

The two buzzwords for Super Bowl XLVI are Rematch and Revenge.

Because the Patriots and Giants locked horns in a memorable Super Bowl just four years ago, people are going for the easiest possible way to frame this year's matchup between the two teams.

The Patriots are looking to avenge the thwarting of their perfect season in Glendale at the hands of a Giants team that few people gave a chance of winning the game. It was a great game, the upset went down and now everyone is looking at that game as a precursor to this game. 

It's a tasty storyline because people really love  Revenge, be it in the form of over-the-top soap opera or a battle for the Lombardi Trophy, but it isn't a particularly accurate one.

The NFL changes so quickly that two teams could play in two straight Super Bowls and wind up looking completely different -- unless they are the Bills and Cowboys, obviously -- and four years is an eternity.

While the buildup to the game will tell you otherwise, we've put together a few of the reasons why this game stands on its own, even if the uniforms are going to be the same.

1. Of the 106 players on the rosters for Super Bowl XLII, 23 remain on the Giants and Patriots right now. Some of those players were important players back then and remain important players now, but the roster turnover means that there aren't all that many players who have any connection to the game that's driving the narrative. Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork is the only Patriots defensive starter still on the team. Among the players who weren't there last time are Jason Pierre-Paul, Rob Gronkowski, Hakeem Nicks and Aaron Hernandez, four who will have an impact on these proceedings.

2. The Patriots came into Super Bowl XLII with a defense that ranked fourth in the league in points allowed. They come into this game with a team that ranked 15th and that seems fairly generous given the fact that they are down to playing wide receiver Julian Edelman as a nickelback because they are already down to also-ran defensive backs like Sterling Moore and Antuwan Molden.

3. The Giants have their own shell of a former strength to deal with. The offensive line the last time around was the team's biggest offensive strength, but it has turned into a serious liability. The lack of any meaningful rushing attack is the clearest sign of this, but they are just as vulnerable when it comes to pass blocking.

4. That leads us to our next difference. Eli Manning was a good quarterback in 2008, but he's a great quarterback in 2012, which is the only reason why the Giants survived in San Francisco last weekend. The Giants offense grinded things out back then, but they have just as much potency as the Patriots now and Manning's ascent is the biggest reason for that change.

5. Expectations are very different this time around. Part of the rematch angle is that the Patriots are pitted against a scrappy Giants team that is defying the masses with every breath. That's simply not the case. The Giants are at least the equal of the Patriots this time and it's easy to make the argument that they should be favored. The Patriots, on the other hand, aren't playing with the backdrop of the first 19-0 season looming over their shoulder.

Does that matter? Probably not, but it isn't any more specious than suggesting that this year's Super Bowl has anything to do with the one that went down four years ago.

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