Saturday night's epic game between the Denver Brocos and the New England Patriots is likely to be the most-watched NFL playoff contest in history, as America's choir boy Tim Tebow faces Tom Brady, the playboy powerhouse.
The two quarterbacks could hardly be farther apart. Mr Tebow is a 24-year-old rookie who continues to stun opponents with miracle comeback victories when his team faces oblivion. Mr Brady, on the other hand, wields the football as an oppressively powerful veteran whose precision is monolithic and whose franchise has built an empire of playoff victories and Superbowl appearances.
Off the field, Mr Tebow has inspired legions of adoring Christian fans with his unashamed expressions of public faith and his simple pledges to maintain his faith -- and his virginity -- despite the fame and money football has brought him. He's most-often seen in public with his mother.
Face-off: Tom Brady, left, and Tim Tebow, right, meet again at 8pm Saturday when they play each other in Foxborough, Massachusetts
The choir boy and the playboy: Tim Tebow (left) is often seen along side his mother Pam. Tom Brady (right) is usually out and about with exotic supermodel Gisele Bundchen
Mr Brady, by contrast, is a polished celebrity who is known for his well-publicised marriage with exotic supermodel Gisele Bundchen, whom he began dating after leaving his girlfriend who was pregnant with his child.
Combine those competing personal stories with Mr Tebow's ability, time and again this season, to help the rag-tag Broncos win games they should have lost, and the fact that New England trounced Denver 41-23 when the teams met last month, and it's a recipe for prime time TV gold, analysts say.
Raising the tensions even higher: If the Brocos, who have lost as many games as they have won this year, manage to defeat the Patriots, they will move on to the conference finals and a chance to play for a trip to the Superbowl -- an improbable path for a team that has looked so mediocre on paper.
'Given Brady’s success and Tebow’s attraction right now, coming from a lot of different angles, I would not be surprised if this becomes the highest-ever rated playoff game,' Henry Schafer, a celebrity pollster at Marketing Evaluations, told the Boston Herald.
TIM TEBOW: ROOKIE MIRACLE MAN
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Star power indeed. Mr Tebow, who is only in his second NFL season, does not have nearly the on-field talent that Mr Brady or other top-flight quarterbacks possess. His regular season pass completion rate was just 46.5 percent. Mr Brady's, by contrast, was 65.6 percent.
But it's hard to understate Mr Tebow's appeal. A new ESPN poll named him America's Favorite Active Professional Athlete. He scored three percent of the vote, ahead of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Mr Brady placed fifth in that poll.
His name recognition is second-to-none. A poll in September ranked his influence as a celebrity only slightly lower than Lady Gaga's.
Fans have been drawn to Mr Tebow's down-to-earth personal style and, most importantly, his Christian faith.
He claims to have remained a virgin, despite being a star college quarterback at the University of Florida. He recorded a personal anti-abortion commercial with his mother that aired during the Superbowl in 2009.
His 'Tebowing' on-the-field prayer stance has become an iconic image -- replicated around the world by devoted fans and cynical detractors alike.
First meeting: Quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots beat the Denver Broncos 41-23 December 18
And his on-the-field success has led fan fervor into a fever pitch.
More than 41 million people tuned in last week to watch the Broncos' come-from-behind overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers -- nearly twice the number of viewers for the last American Idol finale.
When the Broncos won, it generated more than 9,400 Tweets per second -- more than the killing of Osama bin Laden, the death of Steve Jobs or the Royal Wedding.
And finally, his passing yards 316, which devote fans equated to John 3:16 - 'For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.'
When he came out of last week's game, he began with: 'First and foremost, I want to thank my lord and saviour Jesus Christ.'
In a recent interview with CBS News, he stuck to his humble guns.
'I think number one is, what my mom and dad preached to me when I was a little kid: Just because you may have athletic ability and you may be able to play a sport doesn't make you any more special than anybody else,' Mr Tebow said.
'Doesn't mean God loves you more than anybody else.'
But he's become a divisive figure, as well.
Some non-Christians have objected to his very public displays of religious devotion and argue it has no place on the field in professional sports.
Mr Brady has become a lightning rod for criticism. His extreme success has drawn the jealous ire of fans from the Indianapolis Colts to the New York Jets.
He's been to four Superbowls, won three of them and was named MVP twice.
'I think everybody has a story to tell. Every player who has made it this far has had to overcome some adversity,' Mr Brady told the Associated Press.
'I think everybody has to fight through some things, which really, you can see kind of someone's strength of character and what they're made of when they're faced with adversity.'
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