After two weeks of build-up, speculation, and predictions, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will finally clash in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Broncos make their return to the NFL’s title game after a 15-year drought. Current team president John Elway last guided Denver to two consecutive Super Bowl victories in 1999 and 1998.
The Seahawks enter the second Super Bowl in franchise history, last falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006.
Sunday will mark only the second time in the last 20 years that the two best teams from each conference play for the Super Bowl title. The last time was when the Dallas Cowboys trounced the Buffalo Bills in 1993.
It will also be the first time the Super Bowl is played outdoors in a cold weather city, with temperatures expected to reach a low of 32 degrees. However, it could be even colder on the field by kick-off.
The quarterback matchup pits a surefire Hall of Famer looking to further solidify his legacy among the greatest passers in history, and a rising star making his first Super Bowl start after two short seasons.
Denver’s Peyton Manning fired off a record 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns, and the Broncos became the NFL’s most formidable and high-scoring offense in league history, earning the AFC’s top record at 13-3.
The NFC’s Seahawks tied Denver for the best overall mark behind their top ranked defense, and smart play from quarterback Russell Wilson and hard charging running back Marshawn Lynch. The duo formed the NFL’s fourth ranked rushing attack, averaging 136.8 yards per game on the ground, and Wilson tossed 26 touchdowns for the second straight year.
Lynch has been especially dominant, recording his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season at 4.2 yards per carry. He’s also hauled in 36 receptions for 316 yards and two scores.
Seattle’s defense, headlined by All-Pro first teamers Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, allowed a stiff 14.4 points per game and forced 39 total turnovers, both tops in the league. Though they’ve surrendered 229 rushing yards in their two playoff victories prior to Sunday, the Seahawks have only given up 32 total points and six third down conversions off 23 attempts this post season.
The Seahawks are considered Denver’s toughest opponent this season, as the Broncos only faced two top 10 defenses during the regular season.
The Broncos can equalize the Seahawks formidable secondary with their pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, who also combined for 25 touchdowns. Thomas and Decker were one of just two sets of 1,000-yard receivers on the same team this season.
Running back Knowshon Moreno has craftily balanced out Denver’s explosive attack with the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career, and pulled down a career-best 60 receptions for 548 yards and three touchdowns out of the backfield.
The Broncos defense, led by the young core of linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety Duke Ihenacho, hasn’t received nearly as much adulation as Seattle’s, but the group was eighth in the league against the run. Denver ranked 27th against the pass, but opposing offenses were forced to throw more often after being down by several touchdowns from Manning.
Denver veteran defensive back and 12-time Pro Bowler Champ Bailey will make his first appearance in the Super Bowl after anchoring the Broncos defense for more than a decade.
Coverage of the game will be provided by FOX, with announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman teaming up in the booth for the fifth time.
According to the NFL, the game will be broadcast to 198 countries and territories in 25 languages. In the last four years, the game has surged past the 100-million viewer mark, and some experts believe Sunday’s game could break the all-time record of 111.3 million viewers set back in 2012 when the New York Giants and the New England Patriots played.
Betting Odds: Denver -2.5
Over/Under: 48.5 points
Time: Sunday, 6:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Pregame Coverage: Starts at 2 p.m. on FOX and a full breakdown is here.
Predictions: A full list from many experts can be found here.