1. LIVE OR LIP SYNC?
Don't walk away at halftime! Unless, of course, you want to miss Beyonce in concert. And who wants to do that? Watch closely to see if she's really sings or lip syncs. Beyonce hasn't said which she did when she performed the national anthem at President Obama's inauguration.
2. DANCE, DANCE, DANCE
Ravens fans will rock the building during Ray Lewis' pregame Squirrel Dance, a YouTube sensation that Lewis surely will perform for the final time before retiring. Will smoke and flames accompany the star linebacker's ritual?
3. ROGER'S RECEPTION
Forget the hated Falcons, the biggest football enemy to fans in the Big Easy is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The Superdome will likely ring boos for the commish, who suspended the Saints' beloved coach Sean Payton (among others) for all of last season for his role in the team's bounty scandal.
4. TATTOO U
Count the tattoos, from the Ravens' Ray Lewis to 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick to, well, just about everyone on the field. Try to count how many players don't have tattoos.
5. RAGIN' CAJUN SOIREE
Welcome back. This is the first Super Bowl in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005. With Mardi Gras nearly upon us, too, it will make for as festive a celebration as any venue can muster.
6. TAKE THAT!
The NFL might be all about offence and lighting up scoreboards, but this Super Bowl features some of the hardest-hitting defenders in the league. Both defences are exceptionally physical, with Baltimore led by Ray Lewis, safety Bernard Pollard and end Paul Kruger, while San Francisco features linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, lineman Justin Smith and safety Donte Whitner.
7. SUPER PERFECTION
With a win, the 49ers would match the Pittsburgh Steelers with six Super Bowl crowns. The Steelers, though, have lost twice in the big game. The 49ers are a perfect 5-0 in championship games.
8. BIG STARS/SMALL SCHOOLS
While national champion Alabama, LSU, Oregon and other college powers are represented on the Super Bowl rosters, look for the guys from Delaware, New Hampshire, Washburn, Lane, Central Missouri, Idaho.
9. HAND JIVE
After the game, keep your eyes on the traditional postgame handshake between the coaching Harbaugh brothers, John of the Ravens and younger brother Jim of the 49ers. Jim, by the way, is known for his extra hard handshake followed by a hard backslap (ask Lions coach Jim Schwartz). For that matter, keep an eye on their interaction before the game.
Viewing this Super Bowl will be cozy even at $850, $950, or $1,250 per ticket, compared to the 2014 Super Bowl. Enjoy the warmth in the Superdome: New Jersey hosts the game in a year, and it will be played at MetLife Stadium. Yep, outdoors.
NEW ORLEANS - Like a savory Cajun gumbo, the Super Bowl has something for everyone's tastes.
A departing megastar in Ray Lewis.
A record-setting quarterback, Joe Flacco, finally reaching the NFL's biggest stage, where he'll face off against Colin Kaepernick - a player representing the new wave at football's glamour position.
Dynamic defences and big-play offences.
A return to New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina devastated the area.
A touch of history as the San Francisco 49ers (13-4-1) seek their sixth Super Bowl title when they meet the Baltimore Ravens (13-6) next Sunday at the Superdome.
Oh, yeah, and an unprecedented sibling rivalry, with Ravens coach John Harbaugh guiding his AFC champions against younger brother Jim and the NFC champ 49ers.
Others will have millions of words to write and say about a matchup featuring fierce defences, potent offences and story lines worthy of America's unofficial sports holiday.
And guess who will ignore all those themes? The guys on the field. While everyone else revels in the plot twists.
Such as the 37-year-old Lewis announcing the end of his Hall of Fame-quality career, stoking the emotional fire in his teammates and recapturing the level of play he had in his prime during three playoff wins. Lewis has 44 tackles in the playoffs after missing 10 weeks with a torn right triceps.
After performing his ritual dance before his second Super Bowl - he was the MVP of the 2001 game when the Ravens won their only championship - Lewis will strive for one more vintage performance.
When Lewis leaves, it will be up to Flacco to grab the reins - if he's still in Baltimore. The only quarterback to win playoff games in each of his first five seasons plays out his contract next Sunday.
Not a bad place to do it, under sports' most glaring spotlight. Should he win, the dollar signs on his next deal will be astronomical.
Flacco is a guy who succeeds away from Baltimore in the post-season: His six victories on the road are the most for any quarterback.
Trying to prevent that will be an opponent steeped in Super Bowl success, albeit not recently. A 49ers victory gives them six rings, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for most in the Super Bowl era. And the Niners never have lost the big game.
Still, their most recent championship was 18 years ago, with a guy named Steve Young at quarterback. Before that, the four titles came with another Hall of Famer, Joe Montana, throwing passes.
Now, it's Colin Kaepernick, the heavily tattooed second-year signal caller - his favourite tattoo says, "My gift is my curse.''
"I just feel like that's something that applies to my life in many different ways,'' he said.
Kaepernick far more resembles Young than Montana. He has Young's elusiveness, but he also is bigger, has a stronger arm, and his long, powerful strides when he takes off downfield would do Usain Bolt proud.
Like Flacco, Kaepernick owns a post-season record, rushing for 181 yards in a divisional-round victory over Green Bay. Then he helped beat Atlanta with his arm to get the Niners back to the Super Bowl.
Just like the coaches, particularly in this one. There's no escaping the Harbowl, nor will there be as Super Bowl week swings into full gear.
Sons of a highly successful college coach, Jack Harbaugh, they have taken vastly different routes to get to the top. John, who is older than Jim by 15 months, is a career coach who earned his current position with the Ravens largely because of his special teams work in Philadelphia. Among the candidates he beat out for the Ravens job was Rex Ryan.
John Harbaugh has led Baltimore to the post-season in all five of his years as coach, an unprecedented achievement.
Jim was a first-round draft pick by Chicago in 1987 out of Michigan. He quarterbacked four NFL teams before heading into coaching, and was a winner at San Diego - the Toreros, not the Chargers - and Stanford before San Francisco hired him in 2011.
Last season, he took the Niners to the NFC title game. This year, they took that huge next step.
So this year's family reunion comes early, and in NOLA.
New Orleans has been a big part of the Super Bowl for decades. This will be the 10th time it has been held in the Big Easy, but the first in 11 years.
When Katrina ravaged the region, the NFL was adamant that the Saints would return - they did in 2006 after a full season on the road - and so would the Super Bowl once New Orleans was ready for it.
Here it is.
*AP Sports Writers David Ginsburg in Baltimore and Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.
NEW YORK - Super Cold?
NFL officials aren't just bracing for potential wintry weather at next year's Northeastern Super Bowl - they're embracing it, Commissioner Roger Goodell said this week.
The first Super Bowl ever in the New York metropolitan area is almost exactly a year away in a region currently clenched by bitter cold, reviving chatter about whether the weather will chill fans' enthusiasm. But Goodell said the league would be prepared if there's snow, ice or low temperatures for the game on Feb. 2, 2014.
"Football is made to be played in the elements,'' he said as he and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg previewed a week of city events leading up to the championship at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., home of the Giants and Jets. Pre-game parties and other activities also are set in New Jersey.
"We're going to celebrate the game here, we're going to celebrate the weather and we're going to make it a great experience,'' Goodell said.
The Super Bowl has never been played outdoors in a cold-weather setting before. Organizers are positioning it as a cool - perhaps literally - new experience for fans and a lucrative showcase for both New Jersey and New York City, which are sometimes grudging neighbours. Events will range from a pre-game tailgate party at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey to a four-day festival that will shut down 10 blocks of Broadway.
An early estimate suggested the 2014 Super Bowl could generate $550 million to $600 million in economic activity on both sides of the Hudson River, host committee president Al Kelly said.
"I think New York City is already the nation's Super Bowl champion of tourism,'' Bloomberg said.
The city estimates it drew some 52 million visitors last year.
*Associated Press writer David Porter in Newark, N.J., contributed to this report.