Phoenix: Sunday`s Super Bowl 49 caps a National Football League season marred by scandal with a compelling clash between Seattle and New England that promises to clear away the clouds.
Each team can cement a place in Super Bowl lore with a victory.
Fans partied Saturday night around Phoenix and at the NFL Experience gridiron theme park near the University of Phoenix Stadium in suburban Glendale, Arizona where the game was scheduled to kick off at 4:30 pm (23:30 GMT).
But the teams were tucked away, their preparations complete.
"Everything is done," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "The hay isn`t in the barn ever around here, but everything is done."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn`t even hold a walk-through practice on Saturday, saying the Pats are "as ready as we`re going to be."
The Seahawks hope to become the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since the Patriots did so a decade ago, while New England can become the sixth team to win four or more titles -- a list led by Pittsburgh with six.
It`s a dazzling matchup of old guard versus new as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady takes on Seattle signal-caller Russell Wilson, and an intriguing clash of coaching styles in Belichick and Carroll.
But this season, the NFL`s championship spectacular -- the game that has made Super Bowl Sunday an unofficial US national holiday -- follows a season of turmoil for a league accused of complacency or even conspiracy in its handling of issues ranging from domestic violence to concussion dangers.The Patriots themselves will take the field trailing a whiff of scandal, with the league still investigating whether they intentionally deflated footballs to gain an advantage in their playoff triumph over Indianapolis on January 18.
For critics, "Deflategate" is just further proof that Belichick`s glittering post-season resume has been built on the back of rules bent to breaking point.
But even those put off by Belichick`s gruff demeanor must find it hard to argue with his five Super Bowl rings -- two as the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants and three as head coach of the Patriots.
Carroll, on the surface, is the warm and fuzzy opposite of Belichick, but has produced Seahawks teams that even the Patriots coach admires for their "relentlessness."
Now Carroll`s Seahawks will try to usurp the Patriots` throne as the league`s dominant team, gained with Super Bowl titles in 2002, 2004 and 2005.
The Patriots will be playing in their eighth Super Bowl overall, and seeking to reassert themselves after falling in the title game in 2008 and 2012.
Brady can join his boyhood idol Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks with four Super Bowl wins.
The legacy of 37-year-old Brady is secure no matter what the outcome on Sunday, with a league-leading 49 touchdowns and 7,017 passing yards in the post-season.
His excellence has belied his unheralded entrance into the league in 2000, when New England took him in the sixth round of the entry draft, 199th overall.Wilson, Brady`s opposite number in Seattle, has also outstripped expectations since being drafted by Seattle in the third round in 2012.
Considered by many NFL experts too small at 5-foot-11 (1.80 meters) to play the position effectively, Wilson outshone Denver`s future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning in last year`s Super Bowl.
To be sure, Wilson was aided then, as he will be now, by the Seahawks` punishing defense, which has proven capable of dismantling the league`s finest attacks.
Nevertheless, the Seahawks still bring the fire of underdogs, even a Super Bowl triumph failing to erase the sting of being overlooked on draft day.
"It`s not necessarily proving people wrong," said wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who, like fellow Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse, was undrafted.
"It`s more so proving ourselves right."