Perfection for the Patriots or one Giant upset: a Super showdown is set.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will try to complete an unbeaten season Feb. 3 against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl at Glendale, Ariz.
``We'll try to elevate our game for one last performance,'' said Brady, the dimple-chinned, record-setting quarterback with the model girlfriend.
New England (18-0) will attempt to match the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only teams to complete an undefeated season. Standing in the Patriots' way are the road-warrior Giants (13-6) and Eli Manning - Peyton's little brother, whose moxie and leadership abilities no longer can be questioned.
``We haven't been given a shot,'' Manning said of his Giants, who have won 10 straight on the road. ``But we're here, and I think we're deserving of it.''
Las Vegas oddsmakers might think differently. They installed New England as a 13 1/2-point favorite in the big game, in which New York will get another shot at destroying the Patriots' path to perfection.
New England won 38-35 in its final game of the regular season, rallying from a 12-point second-half deficit.
``That got us going, momentum,'' Manning said.
At least neither team will have to worry about a frigid forecast in Arizona. On Sunday, New England beat San Diego 21-12 in 23-degree temperatures in the AFC championship at Foxborough, Mass., while New York edged Green Bay 23-20 in overtime in subzero conditions in the NFC title game at Lambeau Field.
``Now we're going to someplace warm because I'm freezing my you-know-what off,'' Brady said, flashing that familiar grin.
Brady and the Patriots will be well-thawed by the time they play in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in seven years. A win in this one would rank the Patriots as perhaps the greatest champion in NFL history - Spygate a long-forgotten speedbump.
In that scandal, the Patriots were fined $250,000 and coach Bill Belichick $500,000 for violating league rules by training a sideline camera on Jets coaches in their season-opening win. New England was stripped of its first-round draft pick next year, but the team stood by its coach.
And the Patriots never wavered.
``I think there's special guys on this team that have stepped all year when they needed to,'' Brady said.
Maybe none more than New England's record-breaking - and heartbreaking - quarterback.
Brady started this special season by becoming a father for the first time as his ex-girlfriend, actress Bridget Moynahan, gave birth to their son. Brady's now dating former Victoria's Secret model Gisele Bundchen, making them gossip fodder around the world.
When the football-hurling heartthrob got back to business, he became a cover story for other reasons.
Brady threw an NFL-record 50 touchdown passes in the regular season, with 23 of those to Randy Moss, who topped Jerry Rice's record. Brady was also the league's Most Valuable Player in helping New England score an NFL-record 589 points.
``They played great all year,'' Belichick said. ``I'm very lucky to coach this team.''
Linebacker Junior Seau quickly returned the compliment: ``Bill is definitely the best coach ever.''
Now, 17 straight wins later, the Patriots are on the verge of making NFL history.
``Now we can look ahead,'' Belichick said.
They sure can. And they'll see a familiar foe in the Giants, whose run through the playoffs into their first Super Bowl since 2001 was jump-started by their valiant effort against the Patriots in the last week of the regular season.
This is the same New York team that gave up 80 points in its first two games and had fans calling for coach Tom Coughlin to be fired. Those same fans also wondered whether Manning, acquired in a draft-day deal in 2004, would ever become a franchise-type quarterback like his brother.
Little brother is now in the Super Bowl with a chance to bring home a title of his own.
``It's exciting, but it's not about me,'' Manning said in his typical aw-shucks way. ``It's about this whole team.''
Sure, Manning had a big hand in the Giants' success, especially when the games took on greater meaning. He has been flawless in the postseason, completing a number of clutch throws without a turnover.
That helped New York become the first NFC wild-card team to reach the Super Bowl since Dallas in 1975. And the Giants did it the hard way, winning all their road games after dropping their season opener at Dallas.
``We're going on the road again,'' Coughlin said. ``That's good.''
They visited Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay in the playoffs and went home winners. Next up is the biggest game of them all and a chance to make history by ending New England's attempt at football immortality.
``We have a lot of faith and trust in ourselves,'' Manning said.

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