Super Bowl XLVI: The Sequel

(RNN) – Some sequels have a hard time living up to the original. Super Bowl XLVI could turn out the same way.

There have been dozens of followup movies that fell short of the high standards set by the original. From Staying Alive to The Hangover Part II, many have sailed wide when trying to recapture the magic.

But every now and then, you get The Dark Knight.

Super Bowl XLII, the Batman Begins of this year's match-up, featured plenty of A-listers. They included Tom Brady and Randy Moss of the New England Patriots, and Eli Manning and Michael Strahan of the New York Giants.

Some of the main characters (Brady, Manning) came back for Part II, and some (Moss, Strahan) went the Katie Holmes route and moved on to other things.

Both the first movie and the first game told us stuff we already knew: The Giants defense is really good and Bruce Wayne grows up to be Batman.

Both offered twists on the usual storyline (Why can't the Pats score? Why is Batman driving a tank?) and a surprise ending (Eli leads the winning drive! Liam Neeson is the bad guy!).

Director Christopher Nolan – known for his work on independent films – helmed a major studio franchise. Patriots coach Bill Belichick – known as a defensive guru – mentored a record-setting offense.

In the end, the pursuit of perfection fell just short. New England, with an 18-0 record, fizzled in the championship. Christian Bale's "scary voice" fared even worse.

Four years removed from the first, Sunday's Super Bowl sequel provides many of the storylines people look for in sports and entertainment. It could be a leading man triumphing in the end, a chance for redemption or an underdog's improbable run to glory.

But for this sequel to topple the original, somebody will have to step up and be "The Joker."

Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance in The Dark Knight took the story to new heights. He showed how a new addition to the cast can take something that's good and make it an instant classic.

Both teams possess new faces that could pull off the same star turn in Super Bowl XLVI.

The candidates:

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has to be the overall favorite for the part. The second-year player became Brady's go-to guy, scoring 18 touchdowns this season – more than any other tight end, ever.

And after suffering a high-ankle sprain in the AFC Championship, what could be more dramatic than him gutting out an injury and making the big catch in the big game?

If the star can't play or proves ineffective, look for understudy TE Aaron Hernandez to steal the spotlight.

The Giants' success will rely upon their defense, or more specifically, their defensive line.

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul could be the best among an elite group of pass rushers for New York. He tallied 16.5 sacks in his second season and may emerge as the NFL's newest superstar with a big performance Sunday.

The Patriots' defenders will also need to keep close to wide receiver Victor Cruz, unless they want to see mucho renditions of his signature touchdown celebration, "The Salsa Dance."

Super Bowl XLVI - New York Giants vs. New England Patriots, 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday

The Giants have played amazing football since winning their last game of the season and making the playoffs. But this is a team that had its share of peaks and valleys.

Manning should not have trouble completing many passes to Cruz and wideout Hakeem Nicks against an average secondary. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw will need to provide some balance, otherwise the defense will focus exclusively on stopping the pass.

The Patriots' fatal flaw in the 2008 match-up was overconfidence (or this play). Their reliance on the deep passing game fed right into the Giants' biggest strength, allowing Brady to get sacked five times.

In the playoff game against Baltimore two weeks ago, New England got back to the things that worked when they won three championships: short and intermediate passes and establishing the running game. However, their defense has been suspect and is not nearly as good as the squad that played in their last Super Bowl.


At 34, this may be Brady's last, best hope for adding ring number four and tying his boyhood idol, Joe Montana (along with Terry Bradshaw) atop that list. He doesn't miss out on the opportunity.

The Patriots baffle the Giants D with enough runs and short passes to keep their QB upright. New York moves the ball on offense, but New England steps up on defense when they get inside the 20-yard line.

The difference between a TD and an FG is the difference in the game. Patriots win, 27-23.

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