(Reuters) - The Super Bowl has an unwanted reputation for being a bust rather than an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but this year’s NFL championship game between the two most dominant regular-season teams has the makings of an instant classic.
After punching their Super Bowl tickets with contrasting wins in their respective conference championships on Sunday, the New England Patriots and defending champion Seattle Seahawks have set up a rare Super Bowl clash of No. 1 seeds.
The tantalizing matchup, scheduled for Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona, will mark just the 11th time that a pair of No. 1 seeds will decide the Super Bowl since the National Football League implemented a conference seeding system in 1975.
Even oddsmakers in Las Vegas, where over $100 million will be bet on the Super Bowl, are unsure who to back as many odds for the championship game are a “pick ‘em,” meaning there is currently no spread for either team to cover.
And while the massive hype that precedes each Super Bowl has often set a worldwide audience up for disappointment as far as the actual games have played out, Seattle and New England look headed for a must-see showdown.
In the end, either the Patriots add to an amazing run of success that includes three Super Bowl titles in a four-year span ending in 2005, or the Seahawks repeat as champions to become the closest thing the NFL has seen to a dynasty in years.
Seattle snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in their improbable win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship to become the first defending champion to reach the Super Bowl in 10 years.
Dynamic Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, 26, struggled at the helm of an ineffective offense until the final minutes of Sunday’s game but is now one win away from becoming the youngest quarterback in NFL history to win two Super Bowls.
New England, playing in the penultimate round of the NFL playoffs for a fourth straight year, routed the Indianapolis Colts in what was second most lopsided victory in an AFC championship. [IDnL4N0UY1J8]
Spearheading the Patriots offense is future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, whose 20 postseason wins is more than 21 current NFL franchises. For Brady, a win in Glendale would put him alongside Terry Bradshaw and boyhood idol Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks with four Super Bowl titles.
Those storylines alone should be enough to keep many fans glued to a game that is by far the most-watched U.S. sporting and television event and one that averaged a record 112.2 million viewers last year.
But having the top teams from the regular season decide the NFL’s championship in a one-game showdown is no guarantee of a stellar spectacle as one only needs to look to Seattle’s 43-8 rout of the Denver Broncos in last year’s Super Bowl.
Reporting by Frank Pingue. Editing by Steve Keating.