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Super Bowl XLVI: Countdown to kickoff

February 5, 2012 |  1:48 pm

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America’s unofficial holiday is gripping the country Sunday as Super Bowl XLVI moves toward kickoff.

Festive fans at house parties, cash-spewing gamblers swarming Las Vegas sports books, television advertisers reveling in their own big day and the New York Giants and New England Patriots are positioned as the anticipation of the most important football game of the year nears with a 3:30 p.m. Pacific time kickoff.

The Times will be providing live updates of Super Bowl XLVI throughout the NFL championship live from a Super Bowl gathering where one-liners from hard-core fans, bettors and casual fans just here for the ads and the guacamole are bound to materialize. My colleague Martin Miller will be providing coverage of the entertaining television ads at Showtracker.

Both franchises, the AFC's top-seeded Patriots and NFC East champion Giants, seek their fourth Super Bowl trophy in a rematch both of a Giants’ regular-season victory this season and New York’s classic upset of then-unbeaten New England in the 2008 Super Bowl.

After throwing for more than 5,000 yards as his team’s defense gave up more yards than in past Super Bowl campaigns, New England quarterback Tom Brady attempts to tie NFL legends Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with four Lombardi Trophys.

This bitter New York-New England renewal, at the home field of Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s brother, Peyton, -- Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium –- was declared an expected shootout by Las Vegas, which set the over/under line for points at 55, with the Patriots established as around a field-goal favorite.

The NFL has a day to affirm its own glory even after enduring an off-season of labor strife that forced owners to institute a lockout and threaten the start of the season.

 “The uncertainty of the lockout — `Will it be settled? When will the deal come? Will it happen?' — created a sense of anticipation for the new season. It fed into the public's awareness of the NFL. Even the concussion stories helped, because the public has become aware of the issue and is watching games to see how the rules are enforced, to see how the game changes,” Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS Sports who now runs a media consulting firm, told the Associated Press.

“They talk about it Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and they watch it on Sunday,” Pilson said. “The more separate issues related to the NFL that become part of the public discourse feed into the audiences.” 

NFL games accounted for 23 of the 25 most-watched telecasts last fall, and a total of 37 games each drew at least 20 million viewers. 

That, Pilson says, is in part a result of the country's  struggle against the recession. After all, what's cheaper than plopping down on the couch to watch a game?

The 2010 and 2011 Super Bowls were the two most-viewed programs in U.S. television history. Super Bowl XLVI should be no different.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

ALSO:

A Super Bowl with no quit in it

Giants vs. Patriots: How they match up

Bill Plaschke: Pick, don't pick on, the Patriots

-- Lance Pugmire

Photo: A stadium worker grooms the artificial turf in Lucas Oil Stadium before Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday. Credit: Tannen Maury / EPA

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