Super Bowl 48  

 

Peyton Manning vs. Seahawks' D tops Super Bowl storylines

Thank you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you -- thank you, football gods.

I've argued before that the 2013 campaign will go down as the greatest ever. And as if a regular season filled with drama, competition, stories and excellence wasn't enough, there's more: We have the most amazing possible Super Bowl before us.


» On Twitter: #SB48

Super Bowl coverage:
» 'Hawks stomp Broncos in SBXLVIII | Smith is MVP
» Manning falls flat on big stage | No-so Super night
» Manning running out of time | 'Not embarrassing'
» 'Hawks' dominant D new normal | Why effective?
» 'Best defense since '85 Bears'? | D sets tone
» 'Hawks savor the moment | Carroll's a.m. rounds
» Harvin saves his best for last | Intimidation factor?
» Broncos center takes responsibility for safety
» Lynch dances with himself in locker room | Watch
» Namath's coin flip gets picked by ref | Name it

Video:
» Watch all the Super Bowl commercials
» Game highlights | Trophy presentation | Remix
» Highlights: Seahawks D | Harvin | Wilson | Sherman
» Safety first | Pick six | Harvin's return | Kearse TD

Photos:
» Super Bowl XLVIII | Halftime | Celebrities

NFLShop.com:
» Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII champs gear

In a league where wonderful competitive balance reigns supreme and playoff upsets are an annual norm, the two best teams made the title game. The quarterback who had arguably the best regular season in history is in, as is the NFL's top-to-bottom most talented squad, ready to fight for the Lombardi Trophy in the spotlight provided by the single greatest city in the world.

If I can channel my inner Bart Scott for a moment, I'd like to say that I can't wait. And I'm sure you can't wait, either.

I want to tackle someone just thinking about it.

I thought the Patriots would beat the Broncos because of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Instead, the lack of overall talent on New England's roster reared its ugly head, and Peyton Manning's Denver bunch played a fantastic game that truly never felt in doubt.

I think Manning does, without question, belong on the Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks. While he's already arguably the best regular-season quarterback in NFL history, there had been one fair knock against him: the sub-.500 playoff record he carried into the AFC title match. But now, having beaten Belichick and Brady on Championship Sunday, Manning is bound for his third career Super Bowl appearance, bumping his legacy up a notch. If he wins, he'll be officially, historically untouchable.

The Manning storyline alone is remarkable. For all of the rightful chatter in the court of public opinion, let's not lose sight of his journey to get back to the top. If, after he missed the 2011 season with a neck injury that required multiple surgeries, you had asked whether Manning was more likely to make another trip to the Super Bowl or never play again, conventional wisdom would've steered you toward the latter scenario. Capturing a second Super Bowl ring against what is clearly the NFL's best defense would be an accomplishment, to say the least.

This is going to be an epic showdown, a classic confrontation of pure strength against strength, and Manning's biggest test of the year.

Seattle and its defense are legitimately that good.

If there's one thing about Pete Carroll's team, it's that the Seahawks ooze not just talent but confidence. Peyton Manning? Legacy? Greatest season ever? Whatever.

As we saw all season -- and in that epic NFC title matchup with the San Francisco 49ers -- Seattle's defense is bone-crushing. Earl Thomas is a star. I voted for both Thomas and Kam Chancellor on my ballot for first-team All-Pro -- choosing them out of all the safeties in the NFC and AFC. Richard Sherman is the best corner in the NFL -- if you don't believe me, just ask him.

I can't wait to see how the fierce and physical "Legion of Boom" matches up with the wealth of pass-catchers Manning has in Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and Eric Decker. I can't wait to see how this Broncos offensive line, which has superbly overachieved all year, holds up in protection against Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and the Seahawks' vaunted pass rush.

But that's not all:

» Russell Wilson has been so incredibly tough and clutch in just two years as a pro -- and now he's in the Super Bowl. He's one of my favorite players in the league; I was on his bandwagon before there even was one.

» The Beast Mode attack of Marshawn Lynch -- who is the epitome of toughness -- could wear down Denver's defense.

» Broncos coach John Fox overcame midseason heart surgery to lead his team to the Super Bowl -- which will be played in the place where he was a favorite of the fans and ownership as the New York Giants' defensive coordinator.

» Future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey finally reaches the big game in what could be his final season.

And, as if you needed more than the matchups and storylines provided by the two outstanding teams, we have the best plot point ever:

Super Bowl XLVIII is the first-ever New York Super Bowl, and it will be played outdoors.

For the first time, the Super Bowl will be held in a cold-weather location in an unprotected venue. The concept is brilliant. Mother Nature is always a factor and a variable in the NFL during the regular season and for most of the playoffs, so of course she should play a role in the league's showcase game. I hope it snows. I hope there's wind. I hope we hear the meteorologists utter the phrase "wintry mix" the day before.

The grand stage of the New York metro area, which owns big events, was made for this. The media capital of the world will make media day epic. I loved every second of Sherman's postgame interview on Sunday, in which he showed the real, raw emotion of beating a hated rival. I can't wait to see how he mixes with local and national reporters.

Best team in the league? Check.

Best quarterback? You bet.

Best city in the world, with Mother Nature looming? Of course.

The best season ever is about to get ever better with the ultimate exclamation point in 13 days.

Thank you!

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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