First look: Seven things to watch in Super Bowl XLIX

The Seahawks will head to Arizona in two weeks with a chance to become the NFL's first back-to-back Super Bowl champion since 2005. It's fitting the team standing in their way is the Patriots, who are the last franchise to repeat as Lombardi winners.

It's a classic old guard-new guard matchup with the stakes at their highest. Will the Seahawks edge toward dynasty status? Can Tom Brady win a fourth ring and solidify his GOAT credentials? Will Richard Sherman outshine Darrelle Revis? Can Marshawn Lynch find a way to escape Media Day? Here's our first look ahead:

  1. What a great matchup this is. Bill Belichick and Brady squaring off against a historically great Seahawks defense. Michael Bennett bragged last week that the Seahawks have the No. 1 defense of their era. No one will deny that claim if Seattle goes back-to-back with wins over Brady and Peyton Manning.
  1. Last February, Manning had his chance to solidify his argument as the best quarterback ever against the Seahawks and fell woefully short. Now Brady gets a golden opportunity in his record sixth Super Bowl appearance. On the flip side, Russell Wilson has conjured memories of a young Brady in his ability to find instant success at a young age. Like Brady, Wilson has always played like a quarterback wise beyond his years. Now the two passers collide.
  1. The Seahawks didn't escape the Packers unscathed. Far from it. Cornerback Richard Sherman suffered an ugly elbow injury that left him playing with one arm in crunch time Sunday. Safety Earl Thomas missed snaps with what we learned later was a dislocated shoulder. Expect both superstars to suit up in two weeks -- Sherman has already promised his availability -- but you have to wonder how their injuries could limit them.
  1. The Patriots' unending run with Belichick and Brady has placed the organization in rarefied air in the sport's history. The Patriots will make their eighth Super Bowl appearance on Feb. 1, which ties them with the Cowboys and Steelers for the most all-time. Urgency was never going to be a problem for the Patriots, but Belichick and Brady understand they won't have too many more opportunities like this.
  1. You have to love this coaching matchup. Belichick is widely seen as peerless in his field, but the team of Pete Carroll, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell -- in what will likely be their last game as a unit -- won't be embarrassed. Just think back to last year, when Carroll and company coached circles around an overmatched John Fox. It's a big reason why Fox loaded up his U-Haul for Chicago.
  1. We get a healthy Rob Gronkowski for Super Bowl week. This is both fun and important. The All-Pro tight end played on a badly sprained ankle in his first trip to the Super Bowl in 2012. There are many Pats fans who will go to the grave believing there's no way they lose to the Giants a second time if not for the treacherous Bernard Pollard. Now Gronk's 100 percent and looming as a major X-factor against a banged-up Seattle secondary.
  1. This will be the first time these teams play each other since Week 6 of the 2012 season. You may remember that as the "U Mad Bro?" game, a moment that launched Sherman into the greater national consciousness and surely infuriated Brady (even if he'll never admit it). Expect both players to be asked about their shared history in the relentless manner that's unique to Super Bowl week.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps Championship Sunday, and breaks down the Seahawks' historic comeback against the Packers. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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