That phrase will especially apply on Sunday, when the New York Giants (12-7) and New England Patriots (15-3) reunite in their “Super Sequel,” a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, won by New York, in the final minute, four years ago.
What might happen this time around, in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, will be affected by so many varying factors, that particularly in a game in which the Patriots are only about a three-point favorite, it’s tough to predict the outcome.
The low point spread, especially for a pair of teams that were a significant three seeds and four wins apart during the regular season, is a reflection of how closely the Giants and Patriots seem to match up in several different areas.
However, if the game should come down to which team has been challenged more in recent weeks, New York will hold a clear advantage.
While the Giants played the league’s toughest second-half schedule, the Patriots faced the NFL’s softest slate over that time.
Ever since New York ended New England’s NFL-record 20-game regular season home winning streak with a 24-20 victory in Week 9, the Giants have faced either a tough game, a must game, or both on a weekly basis.
The beginning of that stretch was the low-light of New York’s year, a period that subsequently led right into the best part of the Giants’ season.
Four straight losses and five in six games during a brutal schedule followed the Giants’ win in New England, sending New York from a 6-2 first-half finish, into a sputtering tailspin that had them at 7-7 and just one more loss from missing the postseason.
At that point, the Giants were automatically forced into playoff mode for the remainder of the season. They had to win each game they played to continue their season, and they did.
Regular season wins over the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys gave New York a 9-7 record, good enough to secure an NFC East title and a home playoff game.
From there, the Giants had three straight playoff wins, with the last two coming on the road – the only road playoff victories in the NFL this year – over the NFC’s top two seeds, to reach the Super Bowl, which for New York, will feel like a sixth straight playoff game.
Conversely, for New England, Super Bowl XLVI might seem like only their second consecutive postseason game.
That’s because unlike the Giants, the Patriots have largely cruised through a cupcake schedule ever since the second half of the regular season began.
Finishing the first half at 5-3 with the loss to the Giants marking a second straight defeat, the Patriots haven’t lost since, as they enter Super Bowl XLVI riding a ten-game winning streak.
But, they mostly haven’t played anyone of note over that time either.
New England’s second half began with a three-touchdown road win over the underachieving Jets in what was supposed to have been a much tougher showdown for AFC East supremacy.
After that, the Patriots didn’t face a single winning team to conclude the regular season.
Of all of the teams New England played during the second half, only the Denver Broncos – who backed into the playoffs with a mediocre 8-8 record, despite dropping their final three regular season games – didn’t have a losing record.
The Patriots won that game in Denver by 18 points, and a playoff rematch with the Broncos in New England was even more of a mismatch in a dominating 45-10 New England victory.
While New York has been fighting for its playoff lives ever since Christmas Eve, second-seeded Baltimore, in last week’s AFC title game, is the only good team New England has played since long before Thanksgiving.
A lot can be said for repeatedly confronting and overcoming character-building adversity, especially this time of year, as opposed to cakewalking to football’s biggest game.
It helped the Giants go from 10-6 and a five seed to a Super Bowl win over the undefeated Patriots four years ago, and it aided the sixth-seeded Green Bay Packers’ run from likewise, a 10-6 record, to a Super Bowl title last year.
Perhaps being battle-tested won’t mean much on Sunday.
If it does though, expect the Giants to have a major edge.