This is the first time in NFL history that an offense ranked first in points and yards will face off against a defense leading the league in points and yards allowed. These were the best two NFL teams all season, and they couldn't be more different. It feels like the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks play in different eras, not different conferences.
Over the next two weeks, we'll dissect both rosters in every way imaginable. We'll learn too much about various players' tangential connections to New York, and probably hear the words "legacy" and "narrative" too many times.
But this is a game to be celebrated. It's the matchup we deserve as football fans. Here are a few of the storylines we won't get sick of leading into Super Bowl XLVIII:
Welcome to the big game
Peyton Manning is the only player in this game with a Super Bowl ring. The Seahawks don't even have a player on the roster that has played in the Super Bowl, which shouldn't be such a big surprise considering the team hasn't been in the big game for nearly a decade. The Broncos haven't been there in 15 years. Both organizations have been building to this moment for the last two seasons, but it's great to see a fresh set of title contenders at this level.
A different sort of coach
Pete Carroll doesn't talk, act or think like other NFL coaches. In a sea of offensive-minded coaching drones without much personality, Carroll stands out. The Seahawks do an incredible job of drafting and signing unique players and building their schemes around those talents. This is a team that evaluates differently, and then develops its roster like few others. And Carroll does it all with an insanely energetic style that flies against an overly self-serious league. Carroll is 62 going on 34. Everything about his approach and his team fascinates me.
A game of contrasts
It's not just the highest-scoring offense in league history against one of the best defenses of the new millennium. It's the soon-to-be five-time MVP facing off against a second-year quarterback. This is the largest age gap between two starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl history, beating out Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XLIII. The disparity in quarterback styles is even greater.
This is a storyline that will be hammered, but we won't get sick of it. It's football. It's the best of the best facing off on the biggest stage. And there are a million directions you can take the discussion because Seattle and Denver are both deep, talented and versatile.
John Elway back on the big stage
Yeah, he's not playing. But one of the most legendary players in the league's recent history is back as the architect of another potential champion. Elway's skills as an executive have been underrated since he re-entered the league. Not only did he recruit Manning, he signed one of the best free-agent classes in recent memory: Louis Vazquez, Wes Welker, Shaun Phillips, Terrance Knighton and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie all have been huge steals. There's not a lot of precedent for Elway in our sport's history. Perhaps Jerry West and Larry Bird are his true models.
Knowshon Moreno and Doug Baldwin
Battista: Peyton's path to XLVIII
With Peyton Manning going back to the Super Bowl, Judy Battista chronicles the iconic QB's remarkable renaissance. **READ**
The Super Bowl media spotlight always makes stars out of players who have great stories to tell. Moreno is hardly a diamond in the rough, but he's going to shine all week. The former first-round draft pick's career was on life support before Manning arrived. Now, he's one of the team's spokesmen and most productive players.
Baldwin is so overlooked that even his own team tried to replace him. If not for Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin's injuries, Baldwin was slated to be the team's No. 4 receiver. He isn't the most physically gifted player, but no wide receiver makes more big plays for Seattle. Where a young Tom Brady had Troy Brown, Wilson has Baldwin.