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Giants aim to retain Super Bowl crown

NEW YORK -- The New York Giants are the reigning Super Bowl champions, but quarterback Eli Manning knows from firsthand experience that his National Football League team can't afford to be complacent.

“We know we've got to improve,” said Manning, whose team sneaked into the postseason last year then went all the way.

“We were 9-7 last year in the regular season. That's not good enough. We've got to have that urgency, that consistency, throughout the whole season, and play our best football for the 16 regular-season games.”

It's the opposite story for National Football Conference (NFC) rivals Green Bay, which powered to a 15-1 regular season then fell to the Giants in its playoff opener.

“We went through a great regular season, winning 15 games and doing a lot of things that hadn't happened here in Green Bay before, and got knocked out in the first round,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the regular season Most Valuable Player.

“It makes you realize the only thing that matters is winning championships, and you have to win some playoff games to get there.”

Manning and the Giants made the most of their postseason chance, beating favored New England Patriots for the Super Bowl title.

New England quarterback Tom Brady matched a Super Bowl record with his fifth career start last season, and will be a strong choice to challenge again to join boyhood idol Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with a record four Super Bowl wins.

With Brady at the helm, the Patriots remain the class of the American Football Conference (AFC).

Defense remains the cornerstone of the Pittsburgh Steelers and they again promise to be a smothering unit.

On offense, Ben Roethlisberger is another quarterback seeking a Super Bowl return and if he clicks with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley the Steelers could add an explosive offense to their defensive strength.

More mystery surrounds another future Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning, the four-time NFL Most Valuable Player who led Indianapolis to a Super Bowl crown in 2007.

He will make his long-awaited return from injury at the helm of the Denver Broncos and his arrival makes the Broncos instant contenders in the AFC West, but the 36-year-old missed all of the 2011 season after a fourth neck surgery.

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In this Aug. 24 file photo, Eli Manning, of the New York Giants, passes the ball in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears during a preseason game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (AFP)

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