Tom Brady against ol’ pal Richard Sherman and the rest of the best defense in the NFL.
Russell Wilson against Darrelle Revis, former teammate Brandon Browner and whatever schemes Bill Belichick dreams up.
Marshawn Lynch and LeGarrette Blount and their tough-to-tackle running styles.
The occasional well-designed — and well-executed — trick play.
There is a lot to look forward to when Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks, the defending champions, take on Brady’s New England Patriots, the dominant franchise of the 2000s, in the Super Bowl at Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 1. Seattle can become the first team to win consecutive NFL championships since Brady, Belichick and Co. did it a decade ago.
In nearly a half-century of Super Bowls — this will be the 49th — there’s never been this long a stretch without a repeat champion.
On Super Sunday last year, the Seahawks beat Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 43-8.
After Seattle (14-4) and New England (14-4) won their conference title games at home Sunday, some Las Vegas sports books had the Seahawks — heading to the franchise’s third Super Bowl — as 1-point favorites, while others made the game a pick ’em.
New England reached its eighth Super Bowl, equaling the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers for most in league history. It’s the sixth time in the past 14 years the Patriots have made it this far; they won trophies after the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons.
But they lost in their past two Super Bowl appearances, after the 2007 and 2011 seasons, both times against Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
“It’s hard to compare, year to year. I think every situation’s different,” the 37-year-old Brady said. “We’ve had a lot of good teams in the past. This one is going to have to win a very important game to kind of leave our legacy.”
Here are some things to know about the Super Bowl:
YOU MAD BRO?: The last time these two teams met was in October 2012, when Wilson was a rookie who threw for the go-ahead touchdown with less than 90 seconds left, Sherman was not yet as highly regarded for his cornerback play — or as widely known for his confidence — but intercepted Brady, and Seattle won 24-23. That game was best known for what happened afterward: Sherman’s taunting tweet aimed at Brady. Something else to think about: Will Sherman’s injured left elbow be OK in two weeks?
SLOW STARTS, FAST FINISHES: Neither of these teams looked all that good early in the season. The Seahawks started 3-3, making preseason talk of a dynasty seem silly; the Patriots began 2-2, and folks were saying Brady was washed up after a 41-14 loss at Kansas City on Sept. 29. So much for any of that. Seattle is now on an eight-game winning streak, including Sunday’s stirring 28-22 overtime victory over Green Bay for the NFC championship after trailing 16-0. New England, meanwhile, won 10 of 11 games until dropping its meaningless regular-season finale. “You don’t want to judge your team after three or four games into the season,” Brady said after beating Indianapolis 45-7 for the AFC title, “and it’s important not to ride the roller coaster.”
THE QBS: Will Brady win his fourth Lombardi Trophy? Will Wilson win his second? Brady owns all sorts of postseason QB records, including 49 touchdown passes and six trips to the Super Bowl. Wilson, meanwhile, is 10-0 for his career in games against quarterbacks who own at least one ring — but only because he overcame four interceptions and a halftime quarterback rating of zero to rally Seattle in the closing minutes against Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. “I just continue to believe in our guys,” said Wilson, who wept after beating Green Bay.
THE COACHES: New England’s Belichick owns a record 21 postseason wins. Seattle’s Pete Carroll preceded Belichick as New England’s coach, then was a national title-winning college coach at Southern California, before returning to the pros. Both come from defensive backgrounds. Neither is afraid to call a trick play. Punter Jon Ryan’s touchdown pass on a fake field goal for Seattle’s first points Sunday. One of Brady’s three TD tosses against the Colts went to left tackle Nate Solder. A week earlier, receiver Julian Edelman threw a 51-yard pass.
LYNCH’S SILENT TREATMENT: Lynch, who ran for 157 yards against the Packers, has been docked $100,000 by the NFL for violating the league’s media policy, making a habit of either ignoring reporters entirely or offering one-word answers. Will he show at the annual circus that is Super Bowl media day?