Kapadia: I think it’s important to realize there is more than one way to build a Super Bowl-caliber team in the NFL.
Every year we look at the teams left standing at the end of the year and try to extract lessons about the correct way to put together a roster, coaching staff, personnel department, etc. But consider the four teams that have made the Super Bowl the last two seasons. The Ravens snuck into the playoffs, their QB got hot, they caught a couple breaks along the way, and they ended up with the Lombardi Trophy.
The Seahawks and 49ers have somewhat similar stories. They built dominant defenses, relied on the run game and asked their young QBs to make plays.
The Broncos, meanwhile, have surrounded one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time with a plethora of weapons and relied on a prolific passing attack to get to the final game.
The point is there is no precise formula. If the Eagles reach the Super Bowl under Chip Kelly, chances are the offense will be the team's strength. But the overall plan is to build the core through the draft, find good fits in free agency, don't get locked into bad contracts, and aim for sustained success.
McManus: I couldn't help but think of the Eagles while reading Andrew Brandt's piece on the keys to the Seahawks' success, and the benefits of having Russell Wilson's salary ($526,000 this year) at such a manageable number for the time being.
There is no greater value from a management perspective: having the team’s franchise player at a fixed (read: cheap) rate for at least one more season allows for that treasured roster flexibility. It is no coincidence the Seahawks were active this past offseason, supplementing an already flush roster with additional talents such as Percy Harvin, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and more. Wilson’s value, from a financial and team-building perspective, cannot be overstated.
Nick Foles was taken by the Eagles 13 picks after Wilson and has similar financial numbers as Seattle's signal-caller. Foles made $500,000 this season and his base goes up to $615,o00 next year. Per the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, players cannot redo their rookie contracts until after their third season in the league. That means Foles, like Wilson, is locked in at a bargain price for at least one more year. That gives their teams some financial wiggle-room in the meanwhile.
So do the Eagles load up? It's not quite that simple. Howie Roseman needs to reserve future funds for not just Foles but other young core players on the roster like Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks that will be up for raises before long. The organization wants to focus the bulk of its resources on homegrown talent as it tries to build a model for sustained success.
Still, these types of situations don't come around every day. The Ravens were able to snare a Super Bowl in the final year of Joe Flacco's rookie deal before committing more than $50 million of guaranteed coin to him, which obviously impacts what Baltimore can and cannot do in other areas. If Foles keeps this up he'll be in line for a big pay day, at which point the overall flexibility just won't be the same. Something to think about.
PROP BET I LIKE
Kapadia: We'll use Bovada's list in case anyone would like to chime in with their own picks in the comments section. Here's mine...
What will be higher - seconds in the National Anthem sung by Renee Fleming (-130) or Peyton Manning passing yards (-110) in the first half?
Gimme seconds in the National Anthem! Bovada lists the over/under there at 145 seconds. I don't see Manning passing for that many yards in the first half against the Seahawks' secondary.
Bet the house, and thank me later.
McManus: Total Tackles & Assists - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DEN) -- 3
Scream it with me, Philadelphia: Take the under!
Kapadia: I've got Seahawks 27, Broncos 24. I think there will be a give and take between Denver's offense and Seattle's defense. But in the end, I think the Seahawks and their secondary get the best of that battle. They are healthy, have the bodies to match up with Denver's weapons and should be able to get some pressure up front.
On the other side of the ball, don't expect Seattle to stray from what it does best: run the football with Marshawn Lynch and ask Russell Wilson to make a handful of plays.
In the end, I think that'll be enough and the Seahawks take home the Lombardi Trophy.
McManus: I flip and I flop and I flop and I flip. Really the best two teams all season long. Both No. 1 seeds. Top offense in the league against the top defense. Should be a pretty great Super Bowl.
I'm going Broncos 24, Seahawks 20. I'm banking on Manning being able to find a way, even against this downright nasty defense. He has the experience and the weapons on his side. The Broncos 'D' is a bit underrated and will hold Seattle to a field goal when it needs a touchdown.