The New York Giants stand in the way of the New England Patriots recording the first 19-0 season in NFL history. And make no mistake, the Giants aren't showing up to Super Bowl XLII to be fodder for NFL history.
They believe they can win.
In fact, they expect to win.
As he dropped off his belongings for Super Bowl week at Giants Stadium on Monday before his team left for Glendale, Ariz., receiver Plaxico Burress told the New York Post he was ready to make history. He even had a final score in mind 23-17.
He didn't back away from the prediction at Media Day on Tuesday.
"You've got to think you can win the game," he said.
And why not? History is there for the taking.
Despite playing a team that hasn't lost for more than a year, New York looks to have a realistic shot of upsetting the Patriots. The Giants, winners of an NFL-record 10 straight road games, will be right at home in someone else's stadium (the Cardinals') in Super Bowl XLII.
New York played New England tough in the regular season finale, and led by as many as 12 points in the third quarter. The Giants were one of the few teams this season to lead the Patriots going into the fourth quarter before eventually losing, 38-35.
That game seemed to give the Giants the momentum they needed to get through the NFC playoffs. New York became just the third team in NFL history and the first NFC team to win three consecutive road games to reach the Super Bowl. The '85 Patriots and the '05 Steelers are the other two teams that pulled off the feat.
"We knew that in the back of our minds that if we just go out and play the way we are capable of doing just go out and play hard, give ourselves a chance to win, not beat ourselves that we have a good chance of beating anybody," Burress told reporters on Monday. "I think we noticed that after that game."
The Giants clearly are not the same team that went 4-4 in the second half of the regular season. One of the main reasons for New York's transformation is the play of quarterback Eli Manning. He entered the postseason as a giant question mark for the Giants, but has come of age with three solid performances, against Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay.
Manning's playoff numbers aren't spectacular 53-for-85 passing for 599 yards and four touchdowns. His most important stat is zero as in zero interceptions.
"I just haven't made many mistakes," Manning told reporters at his first press conference in Arizona on Monday. "With the way our defense is playing, with the way we are running the ball and doing some good things, that is just what it is going to take."
New York's defense has played a huge role in getting the team to the Super Bowl. The Giants completely shut down Tampa Bay in the wild-card round. More impressively, New York kept high-powered offenses in Dallas and Green Bay in check, especially in the second half of those contests.
"Watching film prior to our first game then and now watching film prior to the Super Bowl, I really recognize an incredible mental toughness that they have," said Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "They really do respond to adversity well no matter what the score is or situation is, or how much time is on the clock."The Giants were underdogs in their first three playoff games. They're in that same role against New England. This time, if they win, they'll be known as history makers, instead of the Patriots.
Super Bowl XLII
New England Patriots (18-0) vs. New York Giants (13-6)
Sunday, Glendale, Ariz.