The Broncos and Patriots will play a football game Sunday. Then the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks will pummel one another in an event that should probably be enclosed within an octagonal cage.
The 49ers and Seahawks might be the two best teams in football, and they manage to get under one another's skin a way that few divisional foes can. The coaches seem to genuinely dislike one another. Each set of opposing fans calls the other guys frauds. The on-field action is rough, and frequently accompanied by disparaging commentary.
How did we get to this uncomfortable, flammable, highly entertaining moment? Let's examine a timeline of the NFL's most intense rivalry.
2002: The Seattle Seahawks move from the AFC West to the NFC West. San Franciscans fail to notice.
Apr. 2, 2007: Jim Harbaugh, Stanford's new football coach, is forced to defend his recent public assertion that the Pac-10's other private-university coach, Pete Carroll, plans to leave USC. "I definitely said that," Harbaugh acknowledges. "But we bow to no man. We bow to no program here at Stanford University." Something is born, and it is not a love affair.
Nov. 14, 2009: Harbaugh dials up a late 2-point conversion to run the score to 55-21 in a victory over Carroll's high-profile Trojans. "What's your deal? You all right?" a stone-faced Carroll asks Harbaugh at midfield after the game.
"Yeah, I'm good. What's your deal?" Harbaugh replies.
Stanford will go 2-1 against Southern Cal under Harbaugh.
June 21, 2010: Seattle hires former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan as its senior personnel executive. He will show a willingness to acquire his former San Francisco players.
Jan. 7, 2011: The 49ers hire Harbaugh as head coach, bringing him again into direct competition with Carroll, who happens to be coaching the Seahawks.