By: Bob George/
January 29, 2012

No Brady or Gronk, but plenty of storylines at Patriots OTAs
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates

INDIANAPOLIS -- As Richard Seymour once yelled out in City Hall Plaza, "The champs are here!"

As of right now, they are AFC Champs. A week from tonight, the hope around here is that you can change "AFC" to "Super Bowl". But there's no harm in trying to be a little prophetic, and that you can be allowed to dream a little bit.

The Patriots are at the Super Bowl. Just that mere thought is exciting, and in some cases, historic. The remarkable Golden Era of Patriot Football once again involves the NFL's biggest stage, as the entire Patriot entourage touched down at Indianapolis International Airport around 5:00 PM EST on Sunday. The Patriots arrived a day early, as the New York Giants will get here on Monday. But the Patriots are here. It does feel a lot like "Here we go again", the rematch with the team that ruined their perfect season four years ago being part of the fabric of the week, but they are here. Win or lose, that aspect never gets old.

Bill Belichick made a cute remark about the venue they arrived at on Sunday. Belichick remarked that he never really got much hospitality in Indianapolis "until I went for it on fourth and two!" The Patriots will try and win the fourth Vince in team history in the city and stadium where Peyton Manning calls home. The matchup with the Giants makes next weekend rather adverse for Peyton, as either his little brother Eli or his fiercest rival will win the Super Bowl in his own backyard. It makes for some nice sidebars as Indianapolis hosts the Super Bowl for the first time ever.

Another question Belichick was asked was if revenge played a factor in this game. The writer who posed the question referenced Super Bowl XLII, which unfortunately will come up a lot this week for Patriot Nation. Belichick dismissed the notion, saying that this is a different year with different players. For the Patriots, he is right, as only seven players on the Patriots remain from that ill-fated Super Bowl. About twice as many Giants remain.

If anything, the Patriots have the loss in November of this season to try and exact revenge from. History puts this in the favor of the Patriots, if you recall 2001. The last loss of the 2001 season was a home loss to the Rams. This year the Patriots get to face the team that dealt them their last loss, which also was in Foxborough. The Patriots definitely have familiarity with the Giants, thanks to their frequent preseason meetings, and the earlier meeting this year.

This is the sixth Super Bowl rematch in history. Miami beat Washington in Super Bowl VII, then lost to the Redskins in Super Bowl XVII. Pittsburgh beat Dallas in Super Bowl X, beat them again in Super Bowl XIII, but Dallas prevailed in Super Bowl XXX. San Francisco defeated Cincinnati in both Super Bowl XVI and in Super Bowl XXIII, and Dallas beat Buffalo in both Super Bowl XXVII and XXVIII. This makes the team that lost the initial matchup 2-3 in rematches, including Dallas in what was a second rematch against Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XXX. This perhaps lends greater credence to Belichick's dismissal of any effect Super Bowl XLII has on this game.

If nothing else, this Super Bowl will be a much more relaxed week for the Patriots as opposed to when they travelled to greater Phoenix in 2008. By just their being here, Belichick and Tom Brady venture into some special company in NFL history. The seven Super Bowls for the Patriots are second only to both Pittsburgh and Dallas. Brady ties John Elway for most Super Bowls by a starting quarterback with five. Best of all, the Patriots don't have the 18-0 baggage they had four years ago, and can concentrate on just beating the New York Giants, not trying to shut up the 1972 Miami Dolphins and try and secure some special place in NFL history.

Well, that last part isn't totally true. If the Patriots win, history will rear its regal head, just not in terms of a perfect season.

Brady could equal Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana with four Super Bowl wins. Belichick could equal Chuck Noll with four Super Bowl wins. The Patriots would equal Green Bay with four wins, and would trail only Dallas and San Francisco (five) and Pittsburgh (six) in terms of total Super Bowl wins by a franchise. If Brady wins Super Bowl MVP, he would equal Montana with three.

But all that is contingent upon beating a team that has had their number in recent years. Much will be made about Super Bowl XLII, the November game, and a confidence emanating from a team which went only 9-7 in the regular season yet knocked off the top two NFC playoff seeds on their way to Indianapolis. The Giants barely won the division on the final weekend of the season, but since have turned into this monster of a team which could very well knock off the Patriots next Sunday once again.

Over the course of the week, "Boy, is it great to see the Patriots at still another Super Bowl!" will morph into "The Patriots need to win on Sunday!" The Patriots came to Indianapolis a day early to try and get the team into a normal routine. They have Monday practice, Media Day on Tuesday, and normalcy will return to the team on Wednesday. From that moment on, things will get more about the game next Sunday and beating the Giants, something they have not done so in a game that counts since the 2007 regular season finale, when the Patriots achieved a 16-0 regular season and Brady and Randy Moss set single-season records for most touchdowns at their respective positions.

Maybe the best element which favours the Patriots this year is that the Patriots will be ready for anything the Giants throw at them. There won't be any expectation of victory like there was in 2008, finishing off a 19-0 season over a team they beat on the road a few weeks prior. This time, the Patriots will be more focused on beating the New York Giants, not an undefeated season or any other external factors.

So, Super Bowl week is officially under way. The Patriots are in town, relaxed and ready to do business. This is a team with leadership that knows how to get the job done. Between Belichick and Brady alone, the Patriots won't be short-changed in preparation and knowledge of what is in front of them. The Giants will be in much the same situation. It will come down to whoever does what they do better than the other, in the abstract.

That's a nice place to start. Who do you want more on your side, Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning or Bill Belichick and Tom Brady?