As Super Bowl week kicks off, it's tough for Baltimore to pick sides

Do you root for old rival Peyton Manning or the brash Richard Sherman?

Let's just stipulate that — for Baltimore football fans — nothing that happens over the next week is going to compare with last year's gloam in the Dome, but that doesn't mean anyone will be able to ignore the buildup to Super Sunday.

There is little question that the best two teams won the right to play for the Lombardi Trophy, and there is even littler doubt that this Super Bowl will get the full New York treatment even if neither team is from anywhere near the Big Apple and the MetLife Stadium is actually in New Jersey.

The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks were the top seeds in their respective conferences and they couldn't provide a bigger contrast in both style and substance.

The Broncos scored more points than any team in NFL history during the regular season and the Seahawks were the best defensive team on the planet. Peyton Manning is so old-school he once ran afoul of the league for wearing black high tops to honor Johnny Unitas. Russell Wilson is the choice of a new generation of quick, run-and-gun quarterbacks who are changing the offensive face of the sport.

So, if you're a Ravens fans, whom do you root for if you don't already have one of the teams in your office playoff pool?

It's a tough call for a lot of reasons.

The seemingly obvious answer would be the Broncos, by virtue of the fact that they are representing the AFC and, well, there's no real shame in getting kayoed on opening night by the eventual Super Bowl champion.

There is, however, the small matter of fact that they are led by guy who will go down as the greatest player in Indianapolis Colts history, which could make it hard for some old-time Baltimoreans to embrace the Broncos. That might seem a little petty after all this time, but some wounds never heal.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, aren't exactly bursting with national charisma. They got to the mountaintop on the strength of that smothering defense, which ought to garner some respect from the fans of a Ravens franchise long known for the same kind of bruising play on that side of the ball.

Of the two teams, it is really Seattle that the Ravens would most like to emulate going forward, considering the Seahawks also feature the bruising running game that John Harbaugh has committed to re-establishing next season. It's probably fair to say that no one would be wondering about Joe Flacco if the Ravens had been able to pound the ball on the ground in 2013 the way they did before the mysterious disappearance of Ray Rice.

Pulling for the Seahawks would be a lot easier if their NFC championship celebration had not started with the crazy rant by cornerback Richard Sherman that distracted so much attention away from a dramatic victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Maybe Sherman was just blowing off steam after a very intense matchup against a hated division rival, but his very public denigration of 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree in the otherwise heady aftermath of one of the greatest sports moments in the history of Seattle smacked of such poor sportsmanship that it had to alienate a chunk of the league's uncommitted national fan base.

Whether it plays that way around here might be a different story, as the Ravens have had no shortage of outspoken defensive stars over the past decade — most notably Terrell Suggs, who said some unkind things about the New England Patriots after last year's victory over them in the AFC title game.

No doubt, plenty of other compelling storylines will develop over the course of the week, though it's hard to imagine any of them matching the absurdity of last year's deer antler scandal or the sheer drama of the second half power failure (and aborted 49ers comeback) at the Superdome.

Then again, this year's Super Bowl is taking place in the center of the media universe, so there's no telling what might make big headlines.

Hopefully, it won't be the weather.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" on Friday mornings at 9 on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.

 
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