We start the most important week of the NFL year discussing the most meaningless NFL endeavor of them all. Team Rice beat Team Sanders in the Pro Bowl 22-21, and if you watched it, well, that's on you.
Now it's Super Bowl week. It will be filled with discussions on weather. It also will be filled with discussions on whether — this is Peyton Manning's final game; Richard Sherman represents thug or theater; Colorado or Washington will sell the most pizza during the "highs" and lows of the big game, in light of those states' new law; the top-ranked Seattle defense can slow the top-ranked Denver offense; and potentially so much more.
There's also the debates over the best way to build a winner and the best ways to pick a winner in Sunday's big game.
As for building a Super Bowl champion, well, there are two direct and opposite approaches that delivered these teams to the highest pinnacle in American sports.
There is the idea of building around an elite quarterback who makes top-shelf money, adding value pieces here and there and otherwise relying on draft picks. The Denver Broncos are the poster child of this model, which needs a little bit of luck in regard to staying healthy because depth is an expensive proposition in the salary-cap-structured NFL. (For what it's worth, the New England Patriots also followed this model, and their injuries that mounted throughout the season finally caught up with them in the AFC title game.)
Then there is the formula that factors in a young QB on his NFL-mandated rookie contract that allows the team the chance to add veteran pieces and supply depth and difference makers. The Seattle Seahawks are the poster child for this plan, since second-year pro Russell Wilson is paid a snip less than $700,000 this year and the Seahawks have roughly one percent of the $123 million salary cap committed to Wilson and his backup Tarvaris Jackson. (Seattle is paying its QBs $1.52 million, or roughly $16 million less than the $17.5 million Peyton Manning earned this year in Denver.) With that extra cap money, the Seahawks were able to add difference-making defensive linemen Mike Bennett and Cliff Avril during the offseason as well as Percy Harvin's big contract.
Each method requires some excellent decisions on draft day. The Seahawks were fortunate to land Wilson in round three; the Broncos have added 11 starters, including Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas and Orlando Franklin, in the last five drafts.
Each method also puts extreme pressure on the championship window each team faces. The teams with the elite quarterbacks know the salad days are now and, since good luck in terms of good health is needed, the time is now. The teams with the balanced rosters know the clock is ticking on the rookie deal that makes their quarterbacks affordable.
So teams such as Seattle and San Francisco have to decide if Wilson or Colin Kaepernick are the long-term solutions at QB. If so, the going rate for an NFL starting QB is $13-15 million, and since that is a gigantic raise from their current deals, the roster will take a hit.
The rest of us must decide among the potpourri of wagering options in the singular sports testament to the influence of vested interest. Certainly the men's NCAA basketball tournament has bounced to record popularity because of brackets and March Madness, but it is a drop in the betting bucket compared to the super numbers the Super Bowl generates.
The direct and tradition wagers -- the point spread, which has Denver as a 2.5-point favorite, and the over/under, the number Vegas sets as the total number of points scored by the teams combined and is set at 47 -- are there for the taking. But the grand stage of the grandest of games means there are a slew of betting options, and some are so off-the-wall that they are more fit for Hail Marys than handicappers.
Here are five of the most outlandish propositional bets that Vegas offers:
• Of course you can bet on all of the 50/50 propositions such as heads or tails on the coin toss, which head coach will use his challenge first, whether Wilson's first pass will be completed and if Manning will throw for more yards in the first half or the second. All of those are basically coin flips, unless of course they actually are coin flips.
• There is a total on just about every stat in which you could bet the final number will be over or under that set by Vegas. For example, on Manning alone you can bet whether he will finish with more or less than a set number for total gross passing yards (benchmark is 286.5), completions (26.5), passing attempts (41.5), rushing attempts (1.5), longest completion (34.5) and the distance of his first TD pass (12.5 yards)
• The over/unders are of course echoed for various players and their appropriate stats, and they have ripple effects to all parts of the game. There are totals set for punts (over or under 9), total net yards for both teams (702.5) and
• There are a slew of odds-related bets, meaning Vegas offers better payouts for wagers not tied to one or the other outcome. Some of these include how many TD passes Wilson will throw (six or more pays 75-to-1, with two TD tosses ranking as a 9-to-5 favorite) and ranging to some long-shot oddities such as 60-to-1 that eight or more field goals are made, 200-to-1 that no TDs are scored and 5,000-to-1 that the Seahawks' final score is 2.
• In fact, Vegas merges several sports with prop bets on Super Bowl Sunday. There are lines set on betting whether Tiger Woods has more birdies than Denver receiver Demaryious Thomas has catches, or which is higher, Detroit Red Wings goals or Seahawks rushing TDs or Lionel Messi goals or Manning interceptions.
The interest, the wagers and the stakes help make the Super Bowl as super as it is. Whether you are building a winner or trying to pick one, the stakes are always higher come Super Sunday.
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6273. You can follow him on Twitter at @jgreesontfp and listen to him and David Paschall on "Press Row" weekdays 3-6 p.m. on ESPN 105.1 or at timesfreepress.com.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...