Peyton Manning’s effort to become the first quarterback to win Super Bowls with different teams will be the focus leading up the National Football League title game tonight, not the weather.
Manning and the Denver Broncos (15-3) play the Seattle Seahawks (15-3) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, with kickoff scheduled for tonight at 6:30 p.m. New York time. It’s the first game in the Super Bowl’s 48-year history to be played outdoors in a cold-weather city, and the forecast is for mild temperatures.
Manning, 37, has led the Broncos into the Super Bowl two years after undergoing multiple neck surgeries that forced him to miss the 2011 NFL season and had him questioning whether he’d play football again. He returned to add a fifth NFL Most Valuable Player award, and he set records for passing yardage and touchdowns in his second season in Denver to lead the Broncos within a victory of their first Super Bowl title since John Elway retired 16 years ago.
“I’m down the homestretch of my career, but I’m still in it,” Manning told reporters this week. “It’s not over yet. It’s still playing out. This has been the second chapter of my career, and it is an exciting chapter.”
The Broncos are listed by oddsmakers as 2 1/2-point favorites over the Seahawks, who have yet to win a Super Bowl in the franchise’s 38-year history, losing their only previous appearance. Denver is seeking its third NFL championship. The Broncos also have a record-tying four Super Bowl losses.
Organizers of the game, which is being co-hosted by New Jersey and New York, embraced the cold-weather potential, even including a snowflake in the host committee’s logo. Instead, it is not even assured to be the coldest in Super Bowl history. The coldest temperature at kickoff for a Super Bowl in a non-domed stadium was 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius) at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans in 1972. Today’s forecast calls for a high temperature of 48 degrees and a low of 31, with a slight chance of rain according to the National Weather Service.
“It looks like it’s going to be a lot warmer than we anticipated, but this is going to be a great experience,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week. “We are on the world’s greatest stage, with the biggest game, and two great teams.”
Both clubs practiced outdoors this week in preparation for the conditions -- the Broncos at the New York Jets’ training facility in Florham Park, New Jersey, and the Seahawks at the New York Giants’ complex, which is located across the parking lots from MetLife Stadium. Both teams conducted their final walk-throughs yesterday at MetLife Stadium, where players spent some time taking pictures and video.
“We’re ready to go,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “That’s kind of how we are. I don’t know if it’s loose, but we’re where we’re supposed to be.”
Seahawks second-year quarterback Russell Wilson, who went to last year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans as a fan, said he’s most concerned that getting in a normal gameday routine. Opera singer Renee Fleming will sing the national anthem during the pregame ceremonies, while Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers will perform at halftime.
“The biggest thing I learned from last year’s Super Bowl experience is the time it takes for pregame,” Wilson said. “The time that it takes for halftime is different from normal. Normally halftime is 15 minutes. For the Super Bowl, it’s 45 minutes. You have to understand that you can’t get too high, you can’t get too low, you have to be calm and patient and have a plan, a routine, that you can go through.”
The Seahawks are the first team since the 1990 Buffalo Bills to reach the Super Bowl without a player who’s previously taken the field in the title game.
Manning is one of four Denver players who have appeared in the Super Bowl and the only one with a championship. He has a 1-1 record in the Super Bowl, winning after the 2006 season with the Indianapolis Colts and losing three years later. The only other quarterbacks to make Super Bowl starts with two different teams were Kurt Warner and Craig Morton.
Manning is the NFL’s most visible player, earning an estimated $10 million annually in endorsements from companies such as Sprint Corp., MasterCard Inc., PepsiCo Inc.’s Gatorade, Adidas AG’s Reebok brand, Sony Corp., DirecTV and Papa John’s International Inc. No active U.S. athlete has more endorsement power than Manning, according to Repucom’s SponsorLink, which examines domestic trends and developments across the sports industry. He’s also the most well-liked active athlete in the U.S. and most influential athlete, Repucom said.
More than 164 million viewers watched the Super Bowl on television last year, the most-watched TV program in history, and advertisers this year paid an average of about $4 million for 30 seconds of air time. The game will be shown by 21st Century Fox Inc.’s Fox TV.
While Manning ranks second all-time in career passing yards, touchdowns and wins by a quarterback -- trailing only Brett Favre -- he entered this season with a 9-11 record in the playoffs and trails younger brother Eli in Super Bowl titles. Eli Manning of the Giants won his second title two years ago in Peyton’s former stadium in Indianapolis. Peyton can now get his second Super Bowl ring, becoming the 12th starting quarterback to do so, on his younger brother’s home field.
Manning, who signed a five-year, $96 million contract with the Broncos in 2012, spent time posing for pictures with teammates in the MetLife Stadium’s visiting locker room after their final walk-through yesterday. He also took a picture with Elway, now the Broncos’ vice president of football operations, while coach John Fox encouraged players’ families to come on the field and enjoy the experience as well.
“They worked really hard to have this opportunity,” Fox said. “Might as well enjoy it.”