Full disclosure - I grew up 20 minutes outside of Foxborough, Massachusetts.
So yes, while I am always an unbiased, objective reporter of sports when you see me on NBC12, deep inside I love the New England Patriots.
This has been a really interesting season to be a Pats fan - in 2008 and before, there was always a strong faith that Bill Belichick would put together the best team in the league. There were few questions: Would a team get lucky in the playoffs against them? Would injuries derail the year? But for the most part, being a Pats fan was like being a fan of the perennial favorite.
Super Bowl XLII actually did little to change that. The loss in the Super Bowl was devastating, one of the most painful in my life as a fan, but still, the thought always was the Patriots just got unlucky that day because they ran into a team that was on fire, and could not have been beaten. All the credit in the world to that Giants team, they certainly deserved that win.
But in the ensuing years, one-and-done performances in the playoffs have chipped away at the arrogance that Patriots fans had that "Bill would always find a way".
This season the Pats have found away to sneak into the Super Bowl - not beating a team with a winning record until the AFC Championship, and then only winning that game because the team they were playing did more things wrong than the Patriots did right.
So here they are - a rematch of Super Bowl XVII, and somehow, incredibly, the Patriots are the favorites in the game (by three points at the time of this posting).
The Giants are the last team to beat the Patriots - downing New England in Foxborough thanks to a late touchdown pass from Eli Manning.
The Patriots have won 10 straight - but only one of those wins came against a team with a quarterback that has made a Pro Bowl. And that was Mike Vick.
Like last year with Aaron Rodgers, the hot quarterback is the guy to be really afraid of in the playoffs - and Eli has been the best QB with the best receiving corps, the last month.
The Giants may have been 7-7 at one time, but they lost four straight games against a ridiculously tough schedule - at the 49ers (a game they were lucky to win in the playoffs), vs. the Eagles (a bitter rivalry game), at the Saints (fast track, incredibly tough to beat Brees), and vs. the Packers (playing at that point better than anyone has all season). The Patriots played nothing like that stretch all season.
The Patriots defense has been historically porous - yes keeping teams out of the end zone, but being second-to-worst in the league in getting teams off the field.
So, I ask once again, Why are the Patriots the favored team in this game?
The answer is Belichick. People still believe he's the preeminent coach of his generation, and that he'll come back so angry from the 2008 loss that there's no way they'll lose again.
But Patriot fans who have watched this team play all season long, and have seen the team lose games that they shouldn't have in the last two postseasons, and watched as they should have lost in the AFC Championship game, know better.
Just having Belichick is not enough. And right now, Eli Manning vs. Tom Brady is a push.
So, one more time.. Why are the Patriots favored?
Because this has the makings of the exact same outcome from four years ago, except much less surprising.