(RNN) - Two preseason favorites. Two No. 1 seeds. The top offense. The top defense. It may be formulaic, but having the season's two best teams in Super Bowl XLVIII should equal one good game.
Both teams started the year as serious contenders, and they followed through to claim their respective conference titles in 2013. But each got there by hitching their fate to incoming quarterbacks grabbed in the 2012 offseason.
The Denver Broncos brought in Peyton Manning. It may feel like a distant memory, but there were real concerns the four-time (soon to be five) MVP would be able to play at an elite level after multiple neck surgeries to repair nerve damage.
With only the benefit of a private workout, Denver brought in the then-36-year-old who had missed a year of football. Manning responded with two more seasons of gaudy stats and playoff appearances.
At the age many in the NFL retire, he broke the records for most passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55) in a single season.
As for the Seattle Seahawks? It was Matt Flynn.
The former (and once again) Green Bay backup was signed to a three-year, $26 million deal by Seattle before the 2012 season. The presumed starter would presumably have his clipboard held by a guy the Seahawks drafted in the third round, Russell Wilson of Wisconsin.
There's a better than good chance that's exactly how it would have played out for most teams. Few coaches would be so daring to bench a big-contract QB in favor of a mid-round rookie. Lucky for the 'Hawks, Pete Carroll is one of those few.
Wilson has provided his fair share of spectacular plays while providing a steadying presence at the position since Day 1.
Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman received plenty of attention for what he said, but his play this season has been good enough to back up the talk - most of it, at least.
The "Legion of Boom" gave up the fewest yards and points of any team in the league while grabbing the most interceptions. A giant secondary that includes the 6'3" Sherman, 6'3" Kam Chancellor, 6'1" Byron Maxwell and 5"10" Earl Thomas is the strongest part of an all-around great defense.
Running back Marshawn Lynch had his third-straight season of 1,200-plus yards rushing in 2013. A large, physical runner, "Beast Mode" has a history of stepping up in the spotlight. He totaled 249 yards on 50 carries with three TDs in the Seahawks two playoff games. When Wilson decides to let it fly, Golden Tate and the oft-injured but talented Percy Harvin will be his top options.
The addition of Wes Welker gave Denver one of the more talented receiver corps ever assembled.
Teamed with wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, not to mention tight end Julius Thomas, they provided Manning with options in the short and deep passing game, down the sidelines and across the middle of the field. A rotation of running backs led by Knowshon Moreno gave extra blocking on pass plays and made teams respect the ground attack.
Coach John Fox's Bronco defense may enter the game with a chip on its shoulder, as it has been the most forgotten aspect of the championship. Their season stats are as reflective of opposition forced to keep up with a high-powered offense as much as anything else. Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are talented cornerbacks, and 335-pound Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton will attempt to clog the middle of the line and stifle the run game.
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