We're down to the final game. The NFL's two best teams are set to collide on the world's biggest stage in Super Bowl 49 to determine the champion of the 2014 season. The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots will face off on Feb. 1 in a Super Bowl as tantalizing as you could imagine in terms of compelling matchups and intriguing storylines.
This game has all the makings of a Super Bowl for the ages with these two teams going head-to-head in a quest to make history. Nobody has won back-to-back titles since the 2003-04 Patriots, so it's only fitting that New England stands in the way of the Seahawks becoming the ninth team in NFL history to achieve the feat.
The Patriots are trying to end a decade-long championship drought, and a win would give Tom Brady and Bill Belichick their fourth Super Bowl ring, which would put them both in rarefied air. The only quarterbacks to win four rings are Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, and the only head coach with four Super Bowls titles to his name is former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll.
While neither team is a surprising entry in this year's Super Bowl, the Seahawks and Patriots didn't take the easy road to the top of their conferences. Seattle suffered through the inevitable Super Bowl hangover, starting 3-3 before winning 11 of 12 games to reach the big game. The Patriots were just 2-2 after a Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, before reeling off 12 wins in their last 14 games.
With both No. 1 seeds battling in the final showdown of the season, this is set up on paper to be a highly competitive and entertaining Super Bowl. It is the 11th time that the league's top seeds will be matched up in the big game since 1975 (when the NFL's playoff format began basing home field advantage on teams' regular season records), and recent trends favor a Seattle victory: the NFC has won the last six Super Bowls between No. 1 seeds.
However, if history is any indication, we might be headed for another blowout like last year's 35-point win by the Seahawks over the Denver Broncos. That game, too, featured the AFC's and NFC's best teams and continued a trend of underwhelming Super Bowl games between top seeds. Only one of the 10 previous matchups was decided by single digits -- the San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21, in Super Bowl 16 -- and the average margin of victory in those 10 contests was more than 20 points per game.
There appears to be little consensus on who will win this game among our resident NFL experts. The OddsShark computer is taking New England, but the other guys on our panel are basically split even between the Seahawks and the Patriots. As a reminder, these are picks to win the game (not against the spread), so choose wisely and do your research before making your big Super Bowl prediction:
|Super Bowl||Ryan Van Bibber||Stephen White||Joel Thorman||David Fucillo||Danny Kelly||PFT Commenter||Matt Ufford||OddsShark Computer|
|NFC vs AFC||SEA||SEA||NE||SEA||SEA||NE||NE||NE|
Our panel consists of: David Fucillo, SB Nation's fantasy guru; Danny Kelly, SB Nation NFL contributor; PFT Commenter, SB Nation's hot takes expert; Joel Thorman, SB Nation NFL blogs manager; Matt Ufford, editorial producer, SB Nation studios; Ryan Van Bibber, SB Nation's NFL editor; and Stephen White, retired NFL defensive end and SB Nation NFL contributor.