"You win a championship, you get the first-place schedule, you lose players, you lose coaches. You draft last. You get penalized for being good and winning a championship," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "That's why it's such a challenge and such an accomplishment to get yourself back [to the playoffs] the following season."
Those who have done it acknowledge the difficulty of the task. Pees recalled the intensity teams brought even to preseason games against the Patriots in 2004. Former NFL running back Terrell Davis, one of the stars of the Denver Broncos' 1997 and 1998 championship teams, remembered how motivated struggling teams such as the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals were against the Broncos in 1998.
"What it does for a team like the Raiders, maybe it's 15 minutes more they spend watching tape of you. Maybe guys who are traditionally not practice guys practiced their [butts] off that week," said Davis, now an analyst for the NFL Network. "You're essentially playing playoff games every week, it seems like. That wears you down. You can't play 16 playoff games."
The Ravens do share some characteristics with teams that have repeated. They have stable ownership under Steve Bisciotti, an enviable front office led by general manager Ozzie Newsome, a demanding coach in Harbaugh, an established quarterback with Joe Flacco, and veteran leaders determined to maintain the organization's standards after losing stars Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
A different team
Eight players who started that game are no longer Ravens, six of them from the defense. The roster overhaul was unprecedented for a Super Bowl champ, and it was triggered by the team's salary cap and age problems.
"I think sometimes when you win a championship, you get lulled into thinking that, 'OK, we have to bring that same team back.' But it's good to have some change," Cowher said. "[The Ravens] still have a lot of the foundation of what won last year, and they know what it takes to win."
Bruschi put the onus of avoiding a hangover largely on Harbaugh and some of the veterans acquired in the offseason, including defensive end Chris Canty, who earned a Super Bowl ring with the Giants in 2011 and then watched the team go 9-7 and miss the playoffs last year.
"There is an opportunity for complacency. Certainly, I've lived that nightmare before," Canty said. "You have to put your team back together every single year. It's not like you're picking up where you just left off in February with the same football team. It's a different team."
After their celebratory trip to the White House and their lavish ring ceremony, Harbaugh and other team officials have worked to distance themselves from last year. While the Lombardi Trophy is prominently displayed in the team facility, Harbaugh has made it clear that is the 2012 team's achievement. The 2013 Ravens are out to get a trophy of their own.
"If you're smart and humble, you realize that you have to work harder than you did the year before," Pioli said. "I think it takes a great deal of humility throughout the organization, and that's why they have a chance. The leadership group in terms of Steve, Ozzie and John, they are all strong men with tremendous humility. They don't think they have it all figured out."
Baltimore Sun reporter Childs Walker contributed to this article.