NEW YORK (AP) — It’s time. Finally.
After a week of interviews, practices and plenty of hype, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks are ready to kick off the Super Bowl in a matchup that makes even the most casual football fans drool.
It’s Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ top-rated, record-setting offense going against Richard Sherman and the Seahawks’ stingy, No. 1-ranked defense.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. EST on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., the first Super Bowl held outdoors at a cold-weather site.
“We’re ready to go,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll declared Saturday after his team’s final walkthrough. “That’s kind of how we are. I don’t know if it’s loose, but we’re where we’re supposed to be.”
The chilly conditions that concerned so many were a non-factor Saturday, with temperatures in the mid-40s under clear, blue skies. In the weeks and months leading up to the big game, many wondered if the Super Bowl would be played in bone-chilling temperatures with some snow — or even worse, a blizzard.
It won’t be a winter wonderland Sunday in New Jersey, although there was a 50 percent chance of rain or snow flurries. Fans will still have to bundle up a bit, but it probably won’t even be the coldest Super Bowl.
Forecasters were calling for a high of 49 degrees, with the evening low only expected to dip to 32 degrees — likely after the game is over. The coldest Super Bowl was in 1972 in New Orleans, when the temperature was a reported 34 degrees with a wind chill of 24.
“We’re pretty much weather-proof,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “We live in Denver, so we practice in just about every element there is.”
Here are five things to know Sunday as the Super Bowl draws closer to kickoff:
MEATY MATCHUP: The Super Bowl features the classic pocket passer in Denver’s Peyton Manning against Seattle’s quick-footed, quick-witted scrambler in Russell Wilson, who represents the new guard at quarterback in the NFL along with the likes of Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton.
Seattle’s defense will be looking to make Manning uncomfortable by forcing him outside the passing pocket. Denver, meanwhile, will try to contain Wilson by keeping him in the pocket and prevent him from making plays by scrambling.
Both teams are 15-3 and have relied on their quarterbacks to get them here, despite their different styles.
“It’ll be great to go against Peyton,” Wilson said. “Obviously, it’s not me versus him, but he’s a guy that I have so much respect for. All of the amazing things he’s done over his career, he’s built this unbelievable legacy, and he’s one of the best — if not the best — quarterbacks to ever play the game. One day I want to be like him in terms of the way he thinks.
“He’s just a master of the game.”
SOUNDS OF THE GAME: Listen up!
In the hours before the Super Bowl, several members of the Broadway cast of “Rock of Ages” will perform two 30-minute sets outside MetLife Stadium. The second will close out Fox’s pregame show from 5:10-5:40 p.m. EST. Phillip Phillips and The Band Perry also will perform before the game, and Bill O’Reilly will have a live interview with President Barack Obama.
Queen Latifah, along with the New Jersey Youth Chorus, will sing “America The Beautiful” before the game, and opera singer Renee Fleming will perform the national anthem.
Grammy Award winner Bruno Mars will perform during the halftime show and will be joined by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
NFL HONORS: Manning won his fifth The Associated Press NFL MVP award Saturday night in a landslide.
Denver’s record-setting quarterback, who threw for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards in leading the Broncos to the AFC’s best record this season, earned 49 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league. New England quarterback Tom Brady got the other vote.
Manning also won the AP’s Offensive Player of the Year award for the second time.
Carolina grabbed two major awards, with Ron Rivera winning AP NFL Coach of the Year and linebacker Luke Kuechly voted top defensive player.
Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy and Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson were the top rookies. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers took the Comeback Player of the Year award.
PUNTERS REJOICE: Ray Guy’s wait is over.
Guy became the first punter elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, highlighting a class that included defensive end Michael Strahan, receiver Andre Reed, defensive back Aeneas Williams and defensive end Claude Humphrey. Two first-time eligible players, linebacker Derrick Brooks and offensive tackle Walter Jones, also were selected.
Among the finalists who didn’t get in were two with ties to Manning and the Indianapolis Colts — coach Tony Dungy and receiver Marvin Harrison.
“Good things are worth waiting for,” said Guy, who last played for the Raiders in 1986. “It’s just a matter of time when it will show up. And I knew it would, sooner or later. It had to, whether it was me or somebody down the road. But sooner or later, it had to show up, because that is a part of a football game.”
SECURITY! The Transportation Security Administration added about two dozen dogs to monitor passengers coming in and out of Newark Liberty International Airport around the Super Bowl.
The TSA has also added 200 screeners at Newark to handle the larger volume of travelers, and TSA agents from LaGuardia Airport will be screening train passengers at New York Penn Station and New Jersey’s Secaucus Junction on Sunday.
The TSA said Friday that fans will not be allowed on the rail line that serves MetLife Stadium on Sunday unless they show their tickets to the game and adhere to the NFL’s bag policy.
AP Pro Football Writers Howard Fendrich and Barry Wilner, AP Sports Writers Tim Booth, Tom Canavan and Rachel Cohen, and AP National Writer Paul Newberry contributed to this report.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org