At long last, the media frenzy leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII is finally coming to a close. Players from the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos must surely be counting down the hours until Sunday's kickoff (6:30 p.m. ET, Fox), when they can get away from reporters and just play the game.
By now, you know the main storylines. The unstoppable Broncos offense squaring off against the unbreakable Seahawks defense. Future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning versus upstart youngster Russell Wilson. Richard Sherman versus the world.
With those in mind, here's a look at a few offensive players with the best chance to do damage on football's biggest stage.
Who Will Win?
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Date and Time: Sunday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
QB Peyton Manning, Broncos
Manning is an easy one to pick for success, even against this stingy Seattle secondary. Since the merger, no team ever scored more than the 2013 Broncos, who averaged 37.9 points per game in the regular season. Elliot Henderson of NFL.com provided a breakdown of the statistical records set by the team's offense this year.
Commanding the irresistible attack has been Manning, who has been able to dissect anything thrown his way, save for a bad performance in Week 12 against the New England Patriots. It's tough to slow Manning down when he has so many weapons like receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, tight end Julius Thomas and a couple of serviceable backs in Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball.
But Manning will have his work cut out for him against a Seattle secondary that featured first-team All-Pros Sherman and safety Earl Thomas, second team All-Pro safety Kam Chancellor and emerging cornerback Byron Maxwell.
You essentially have no room for error when playing Manning, and I suspect he'll be able to exploit some small creases in Seattle's defense before breaking off a big play or two. It's entirely conceivable that Sherman shuts down Demaryius Thomas, but there are simply too many players to keep tabs on with the Broncos.
So far this postseason, Manning has averaged 315 yards per game on 72.2 percent passing with four total touchdowns and an interception. With two weeks to prepare, Manning should be able to approach 300 yards passing and have at least two scores through the air. That would be quite an achievement against the Seahawks and the "Legion of Boom," which has allowed just 18 passing touchdowns and forced 30 interceptions in 18 contests this year.
RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
Lynch has made headlines this weekend for his brief interviews with the media, and that's to be expected when you're playing in New York's first Super Bowl.
When the lights come on, though, there are few running backs better than Lynch. He put it best when he told Deion Sanders on NFL Netword, "I'm just about that action, boss. That's what it is. I ain't never seen no talking win me nothing. ... Game-time, though, I'll be there."
Leave it to Lynch to put it so eloquently. As much as he's been skewered by reporters and columnists, Lynch's attitude with the media has appeared to soften throughout the week.
He's proven to be one the NFL's toughest backs to take down throughout his career and this season has been no different. Lynch has even ramped up his level of production in the playoffs as he has averaged 124.5 yards per game with three total touchdowns in victories against the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.
Broncos rank 2nd this season allowing 3.7 yards per rush between the tackles. But look out for Marshawn Lynch pic.twitter.com/Qy8SETUKyM— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 27, 2014
The Broncos are certainly tough against the run with defensive tackle Terrance Knighton leading the way, but Lynch is truly a beast. He became the first individual rusher to notch 100 yards against the 49ers this season in the NFC title game, and I suspect he'll hit the century mark for the third consecutive playoff contest.
WR Wes Welker, Broncos
Like Lynch, Welker made some headlines this weekend for an awkward interview. Also like Lynch, you can expect Welker to have a big day in the Super Bowl.
According to Greg Logan of Newsday, Welker is looking forward to the challenge of playing the Seattle secondary.
"We have to play physical ourselves and make sure we're going out there and playing the way we need to and not letting them dictate our routes or how we play or anything else," Welker said. "We have to play our game."
On the outside, Sherman and Demaryius Thomas figure to be locked up while big-bodied Maxwell will match up with Decker. So where does that leave Welker?
He could be seeing a lot of time matched up with nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond or outside linebacker K.J. Wright. If I'm Manning, I'm going to look for Welker, who is so good at finding soft spots in the zone to exploit for chunk yardage.