Now that the dust has settled from Sunday's pair of contentious conference championship games, sports writers are looking ahead to the Feb. 5 Super Bowl showdown between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants — a rematch of 2008's Super Bowl XLII, which boasted one of the most dramatic upsets in NFL history. Indeed, many writers are calling this the "perfect" Super Bowl matchup. Here, four reasons why:
1. The Patriots are seeking revenge
When the Patriots narrowly eked out a 23-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday's AFC Championship — thanks to a botched Ravens field goal attempt in the final seconds that would have tied the game — it became clear that New England may be "destined to avenge" its 2008 defeat to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, says Matt Pepin at The Boston Globe. That season, the Pats had gone an unprecedented 18-0, but their undefeated season was brought to "a devastating end" when Giants quarterback Eli Manning led a phenomenal 12-play, 83-yard drive (which included a spectacular one-handed catch by David Tyree) to give his team a 17-14 lead with just 35 seconds left in the game. "The Patriots now have a chance for redemption," says Joe Saraceno at USA Today. "And revenge."
2. Two of the league's best quarterbacks will face off
At 34 years old, says Chuck Schilken at the Los Angeles Times, Brady is making his fifth Super Bowl appearance and going for his fourth championship, which would tie an NFL record. And his stellar stats this season — 5,235 passing yards, the second most in history, and 39 touchdown passes — indicate he "shows no signs of slowing down." While Manning's stats "may not be as impressive as Brady's," the 31-year-old just posted the best numbers of his eight-year career. Manning unintentionally stoked a rivalry with Brady over the summer when he suggested that, like Brady, he was among the game's elite QBs, says Scott Garbarini at The Sports Network. As Manning goes for his second Super Bowl victory over Brady, that's never been more true.
3. The teams really are evenly matched
While the comparisons to Super Bowl XLII are eerie and "the backstory is compelling," says Jason Gay at The Wall Street Journal, "what elevates this Super Bowl is how unpredictable it appears." Both teams have had uneven seasons. The Giants finished the regular season with a decidedly mediocre 9-7 record, but, anchored by Manning and a fearsome defense, have enjoyed a stronger playoff run than any other NFL team. "At their best, the Giants have all the elements to beat any team in football." The Patriots, with their red-hot offense and porous defense, have played a messy season, failing to beat a single team that finished the year with a winning record — yet they've managed to persevere all the way to the Super Bowl. Vegas bettors may have New England as three-point favorite, but it's anyone's game.
4. As are the coaches
If nothing else, expect this to be a well-coached game, says Simon Evans at Reuters. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and the Giants' Tom Coughlin "are two of the most experienced in the game, and will relish the chance to pit their wits against each other once again." Adding intrigue: Both are former members of the Giants' coaching staff under the legendary Bill Parcells, says Garbarini, infusing the matchup with a personal connection.