This Sunday when Super Bowl XLIX kicks off in Glendale, Arizona, two hard-nosed, business-like squads – the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots – will square off against each other in a matchup that many believe could be decided by Seattle’s running game and how effective their defense will be in ratcheting up the pressure on Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady.
Both team’s rosters are filled top-shelf athletes and flamboyant personalities, but here are six players to watch:
THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Russell Wilson, No. 3: In a sport populated by giants, Seattle’s 5’11” quarterback is something of an anomaly. He also has the unnerving ability to play abysmally bad one moment, then morph into a superhero the next – which he did to beat the Packers in the NFC title game two weeks ago. He led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl win last season, in only his second year with the NFL. If he hopes to repeat the feat this weekend, he’ll definitely need to summon up that characteristic pluck that he’s used to carry Seattle this far.
Richard Sherman, No. 25: Cocksure, confident (perhaps ridiculously so), the Stanford grad is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and he’s perfected trash-talking to an art form. But he may have one tiny distraction on Sunday: His girlfriend, Ashley Moss, is nine months pregnant with their first child – she’s in Phoenix for the game and could give birth at any time.
Marshawn Lynch, No. 24: The undisputed hub of Seattle’s offense, the running back’s ground game is the Seahawk’s single best chance for winning. When he gets cranked up and goes into what’s known as “Beast Mode,” he’s as hard to tackle as a Humvee. (Actually, a Humvee might be easier to bring down.) Even if he has a monster game, don’t expect to hear much from him; he’s notoriously hesitant to talk to the media, even earning fines from the league for his failure to participate in interviews.
THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Tom Brady, No. 12: It’s been a brutal week for Brady. Not only did he catch a cold from one of his kids, but the husband of supermodel Gisele Bündchen has been hammered over the recent Deflategate controversy. Not that those things really matter. This marks the sixth Super Bowl appearance for the dependably unflappable Brady – who’s won three – so he knows the drill. And a decade has passed since the last time he walked away with the trophy, so he’s starved for a win.
Rob Gronkowski, No. 87: Nicknamed Gronk, this 6’6″ monster tight end throws himself into every game with the wild abandon of a high school junior varsity player. He’s hard to bring down and has solid, fumble-proof hands, so you can bet he’s going to be a big target for Brady.
Darrelle Revis, No. 24: He may not be as flashy as Richard Sherman, but the Patriots’ cornerback is a dangerous defensive force. This marks Revis’s first Super Bowl, so he’s undoubtedly hungry and his ability to shut down receivers – known as being “stranded on Revis Island” – could prove to be a deciding factor in the game.