SEATTLE - At some point Sunday night, either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning will be holding the Lamar Hunt Trophy, stepping to a postgame podium, dodging questions about their legacies and making dinner reservations in New York for the Super Bowl.
Right around that time, the Seahawks and 49ers will begin their NFC Championship Game.
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It seems fitting that the second-most-anticipated quarterback duel of the day should follow the one between the future Hall of Famers, the household names. Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick? They're the other guys. Neither of them has even hosted "Saturday Night Live," so how good can they really be?
Well, pretty good. While the old guard is facing off in what could be one of their last showdowns, the young whippers are just beginning their snapping. Wilson and Kaepernick already have faced each other three times in regular-season games -- they're in the same division -- but never with stakes this high.
Theirs could be the next great quarterback rivalry in the NFL. And after Sunday, one of them will go to the Super Bowl.
The fact that they have similar skill sets only adds to the fascination with Wilson and Kaepernick. Both can move around the field and make plays with their feet. Both are natural leaders who stepped into their teams' pilot seats early in their careers. Neither was a first-round draft pick. Both played baseball well enough to be drafted by major-league teams.
"Colin's ability to run the football and throw the football extremely well, and my ability to throw the ball and run it, it's one of those things that I believe the quarterback position is changing a little bit," Wilson said this past week. "You have some guys that can move around and make plays."
In that way, they represent not only the changing face of the NFL but the changing philosophy.
"The most difficult factor in football to deal with is a running quarterback that knows when to and when not to," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Wilson and Kaepernick already have been linked in the most American of ways. They've appeared in a series of television commercials together for the Madden 25 video game. In one such ad leading up to their Week 2 meeting this season, they made an on-screen bet: The loser would shave an eyebrow.
Although it was a fictional wager and Kaepernick never actually paid up after the loss (a digitized version of him shaving was released by the video game company after the result), it was an illustration of just how associated the two players have become.
Unlike Brady and Manning, who often sidestep their rivalry, these two have no problem embracing it. At least one of them does.
"It is cool to think about Colin and I going against each other," Wilson said.
Kaepernick was more reserved in his admiration of the budding head-butting. Both realize, though, that something special will happen Sunday. Something that years from now may be looked back on as a hinge of history.
"There are still the Tom Bradys of the world that rip the defense by just sitting there in the pocket and throwing it all day and getting the ball out and all that," Wilson said. "I like to think about the 'new generation' of quarterbacks, and then you have Tom Brady and Peyton Manning on the other side in the AFC playing with each other. That's a pretty interesting thing to think about in terms of if the read-option and all that is here to stay."
Said Kaepernick: "What [Brady and Manning] do really doesn't affect us, but to be playing on the same Sunday as them is a great honor."