It’s hard to believe, but the Super Bowl is in just over a week, and after a turbulent season filled with surprises, the participants in the big game have been determined. Neither team is surprised to have made it this far; both came in with high expectations and have managed to attain them. However, both teams also had their fair share of detractors at times throughout the season.
Representing the National Football Conference (NFC) is the Seattle Seahawks, who won the Super Bowl just a year ago. The Seahawks is actually the first defending Super Bowl champion to return to the big game since the 2004 season, on the verge of being called a dynasty.
For roughly three-quarters of the regular season, it was highly doubtful they would get this far again. However the Seahawks remained cool and collected, as they won nine of their last 10 games in the regular season to claim the NFC West division title and home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs.
Seattle appeared doomed in the conference championship game against the Green Bay Packers. They trailed 19-7 with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and had just given the ball back to the Packers. The Seahawks needed a miracle. Thanks to a successful onside kick and a touchdown drive in overtime—after winning the coin toss to determine possession—they were able to escape with one of the greatest comeback victories of all time. These Seahawks are a battle-tested bunch.
On the other side, the New England Patriots will be representing the American Football Conference (AFC). The Patriots is actually the last team to win consecutive Super Bowls, in February 2004 and 2005, respectively, the previous NFL dynasty.
New England comes in as arguably the hottest team in the league, having won 12 of its last 14 games. Their low point in the season came in week four, when they got humiliated by the Kansas City Chiefs on a Monday night in late September. After the game, critics were questioning the future of quarterback Tom Brady. Observers began to wonder if backup Jimmy Garoppolo should be inserted into the starting lineup and if the franchise needed to blow up their current core and start from scratch.
By the end of the regular season, the Patriots left little doubt that they were as dominant as ever. Additionally, New England also needed an unlikely comeback in the playoffs to reach the big game. Facing the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round, they became the first team in history to erase two separate 14-point deficits in a playoff game. Brady threw the game-winning touchdown with five minutes left, and the Patriots’ hopes stayed alive. Now the Patriots hope their unmatched experience will pay off in spades, as this is their sixth trip to the Super Bowl in the last 14 seasons.
The stage is set, and the storylines are established. In a matchup where the defending champions are facing the last team to pull off the feat, who will prevail? We’ll have the answer on Feb. 1. Get your party supplies ready and pull up plenty of chairs for all your guests, because this should be a game for the ages.