- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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Each day from now until Feb. 2, ESPNNewYork.com will take you inside the challenge of staging the most unpredictable NFL title game ever. There are 15 days until the Super Bowl.
It won’t be long before the two Super Bowl teams are known, and on Monday, the grounds crew at MetLife Stadium will begin painting the team logos on the end zones of the field.
There’s plenty of talk of parity in the NFL, but after Pittsburgh and Dallas and their eight Super Bowl appearances, the Patriots (seven), 49ers (six) and Broncos (six) are close behind. If the Super Bowl were a neighborhood diner, these teams would be regulars.
So what does it mean for New York and New Jersey? Let’s take a look at how it would shape up for each of the four remaining teams to reach the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather venue.
Broncos: If Peyton Manning can lead the Broncos past the Patriots on Sunday, the elder Manning will be the toast of the town where his younger brother makes a living. Peyton led the league in passing yards during the regular season with 5,477, while Eli Manning led the league in interception with 27 for the Giants.
Patriots: This may be the most notorious possible Super Bowl team, since New England would practice all week at the Jets' facility. That’s right, the arch-rival of Gang Green would track mud all through the pristine Florham Park halls, while the Jets haven’t sniffed a championship since Super Bowl III. If the Patriots beat the Broncos on Sunday, it would be their eighth AFC title.
The Game: The Broncos are the favorite here. Manning’s passing numbers are too good, and the Friday injury report says everyone is healthy. That said, never dismiss Patriots coach Bill Belichick. And the Patriots did get the better of the Broncos in November, 34-31, in New England.
Seattle: The passing game has waned in recent weeks, but the Seahawks have been winning thanks to the bulldozing rush of Marshawn Lynch. If the Seahawks reach the Super Bowl, it’ll be coach Pete Carroll’s return to New York after his one season with the Jets in 1994. Not that anyone really remembers that far back anymore.
San Francisco: If you want to see how much last season's runner-up is gaining in confidence, look no further than the super-diss quarterback Colin Kaepernick sent to opponent Cam Newton before kissing his biceps after a touchdown run. Is it enough to get past the 12th man in Seattle? If the 49ers do prevail, coach Jim Harbaugh may have to look harder to find $8 khakis in New York City, but there is a Walmart near the NFC hotel in Jersey City.
The Game: Russell Wilson and Lynch are the favorites here, in large part because this game is in Seattle. If it weren’t, the oddsmakers might give the edge to the surging 49ers. If Seattle does make the Super Bowl, Californians might be allowed to purchase tickets ... on the secondary market.
Come back daily for more on the issues, logistics and personalities surrounding Super Bowl XLVIII.