By Joe Platania
What: NFL World Championship Game
When: Sunday, Feb. 3, 6:17 p.m.
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
TV: FOX (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman)
Radio: WBAL 1090 (Marv Albert, Boomer Esiason)
This Super Bowl will mark the 12th time the participating teams also met during the regular season. The team that won the regular-season meeting is 5-6 in the Super Bowl.
However, this is only the second time the Super Bowl participants will have met in the regular season's final week. The Giants and Patriots wrapped up the preseason against each other as well; New England won that one too, 27-20.
New England, with three Super Bowl victories in the past six years, has 20 players with Super Bowl experience. New York has three players, defensive end Michael Strahan, wide reciever Amani Toomer and guard Grey Ruegamer, who was a Patriots rookie in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Opposing coaches Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin were part of the Giants' Super Bowl XXV staff under head coach Bill Parcells.
New York led the league with 53 sacks, but the Patriots had 47. Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora led his team with 13, including six in one game, and recently re-signed Justin Tuck had 10. Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel had 12 sacks.
NEW YORK GIANTS
13-6, NFC fifth seed, wild card
The Giants, taking part in their fourth Super Bowl and their 18th NFL championship-deciding game, are the first fifth seed to make the Super Bowl and the third team to win three road games to get there.
The Giants are the fourth team to reach the Super Bowl after an 0-2 start.
New York is the first team to reach the Super Bowl after posting a losing home record (3-5) during the regular season. However, the Giants are on a league-record 10-game road winning streak.
The Giants have posted a plus-5 turnover ratio this postseason, helped by quarterback Eli Manning's four touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Coughlin is in his first Super Bowl in this role; he fell one game short twice with Jacksonville. First-time head coaches are 20-22 in Super Bowls. Coughlin has set a league record with 205 career games coached before appearing in a Super Bowl.
Running back Brandon Jacobs led the team with 1,009 yards rushing but rookie Ahmad Bradshaw, who didn't play in the previous game against New England, averaged more than 8 yards per carry in the regular season.
Former Pittsburgh wideout Plaxico Burress had a team-high 70 catches and 12 touchdowns. Toomer had three touchdowns, and rookie tight end Kevin Boss, filling in for the injured Jeremy Shockey, had two scores.
Defensive backs Sam Madison and Gibril Wilson had four interceptions each, but three other Giants, Aaron Ross, Corey Webster and Kawika Mitchell, each ran back a pick for a touchdown.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
18-0, AFC first seed, AFC East champions
New England is attempting to complete the first perfect season in the 16-game schedule era and the first spotless campaign since the Miami Dolphins won 14 regular season games and three playoff contests in 1972 for a 17-0 mark. If they win, it will mark the Patriots' fourth title in seven years.
This is New England's sixth trip to the Super Bowl, tying it with Pittsburgh and Denver for second most behind Dallas. After losing in their first two Super Bowl appearances, the Patriots have won three, all by three-point margins.
Belichick is the eighth head coach to appear in four Super Bowls. He has a career postseason record of 15-3 (14-2 with New England).
Quarterback Tom Brady, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, is the 23rd league MVP to appear in the Super Bowl in the same season. His .782 career win percentage is the league's best in the Super Bowl era among quarterbacks with 75 or more career starts. He ended the regular season with an NFL single-season record 50 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. He was sacked 21 times and performed to a passer rating of 117.2.
Brady's main target, wide receiver Randy Moss, set a league record with 23 scoring catches. Ex-Miami receiver Wes Welker led the team with 112 receptions and eight scores.
Linebacker Tedy Bruschi, the 15th player in league history to play in five Super Bowls, led the team with 92 tackles. Veteran linebacker Junior Seau had 74 tackles and three interceptions, including two in one game. Cornerback Asante Samuel, the NFL's interception leader in 2006, led the team with six picks in '07. Ex-Raven Adalius Thomas had 78 tackles, six sacks and a 65-yard interception return for a score.
The resilient Giants have won a lot of fans in the past month, and they will play hard. But in the end, they're playing against a history-making team, one of the best the NFL has ever seen. Look for the Patriots to pull away in the second half.
New England 38, New York 23
Issue 3.5: January 31, 2008