Crowds surround a marquee holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Super Bowl Boulevard in Times Square, as part of the Super Bowl lead up, in New York February 1, 2014. Photo by Andrew Kelly, Reuters.
NEW YORK - New York was counting down the hours to the Super Bowl here Sunday, with the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks preparing to face off in one of the most eagerly awaited finales to the American football season in years.
Denver and Seattle, who began training camps in mid-July with winning this game as their goal, were set for an early evening kickoff in Super Bowl 48 in suburban East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The National Football League's championship extravaganza, making its Broadway debut as the first outdoor Super Bowl played in a cold-weather city, was forecast to kickoff at 44 degrees (6.6 Celsius) under cloudy skies.
Fears of snow or bitter cold have given way to confidence the game will not break the coldest Super Bowl mark of 39 (3.8 C) set in New Orleans in 1972, but there's still a bite in the chilly air of the Big Apple region.
Seattle's only prior Super Bowl trip ended in a loss to Pittsburgh in 2006 while Denver lost to Dallas in 1978, the New York Giants in 1987, Washington in 1988 and San Francisco in 1990 before John Elway brought the Broncos victories in 1998 and 1999 in their most recent prior appearances.
Denver's Peyton Manning could become the first starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams, having led Indianapolis to the crown in 2007 and lost to New Orleans with the Colts three years later.
Manning guides a record-setting Denver offense that scored a one-season NFL record 606 points. Manning set new pass records with 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards, but he does so without studying opposing team videos until the early hours of the morning.
"I don't stay up as late. I need to get my rest more," he said. "Maybe I was a robot early on. Now, maybe I am a little more human."
But Manning still studies plenty and he sees the NFL's top-rated defense on the other side of the field against him, with the fewest points surrendered and the most takeaways.
"Unity. That's one word that jumps out. That is a close-knit bunch of guys from what I see on film," Manning said. "They are constantly high-fiving each other, picking each other up off a pile. I see them constantly communicating. You can just tell they are a close-knit unit. That's a big part of their success."
Manning and younger brother Eli, the New York Giants quarterback, were both sons of former NFL quarterback Archie Manning. Eli has won two Super Bowl titles, most recently two years ago at Indianapolis when it was the home stadium for Peyton. Now Peyton could win his second Super Bowl on Eli's team's home turf.
"Even though I was eight years old when he retired, I can remember certain things which have helped me and Eli," Manning said.
Manning, 37, is this year's only Super Bowl player with a title, with only a handful of other Broncos having ever played in the big game before and no one having been there for the Seahawks.
"For a lot of the players, it's their first time and they are pumped up," Manning said. "I'm just as pumped being in my third."
It will be the greatest age gap between starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl history with Manning 12 years older than Seattle's Russell Wilson.
"Even though it's our first time there, we want to be able to step into the situation like we've been here before," Wilson said.
Wilson attended last year's game as a fan and learned some things that stuck with him, the biggest of them being that halftimes are twice as long as normal with Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers set to entertain on the field during the break in play.
"You have to understand that you can't get too high or too low, you have to be calm and patient and have a plan, a routine, that you can go through," Wilson said.
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