On the surface, there isn’t much obvious difference between this year’s Patriots team and the one that lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl last year.
They won the AFC East, earned a first-round bye (albeit not the first seed) and head into their first playoff game with plenty of people predicting that they’ll make it to the Super Bowl for the sixth time in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era. Wide receiver Deion Branch things those people have a pretty good chance of being proven right because he thinks this Patriots team is ahead of last year’s group.
“We want to make this team, the 2012 Patriots team, a special team,” Branch said, via Tom Curran of CSNNewEngland.com. “Each year is going to be something different. We’re a lot better than we were last year. We don’t have the same players. That team, the 2011 team, was totally different from this year.”
Branch has some backing statistically speaking. This year’s Patriots team scored more points and allowed fewer than they did last year, although the offensive rise was more significant than the defensive improvement. Numbers don’t tend to matter all that much in the postseason as one or two twists can change the entire outcome of a game that looked a lot different on paper heading into the contest.