The Seattle Seahawks' convincing Super Bowl win confirmed a couple of trends that are working.
It helps to have a mobile quarterback such as Russell Wilson. It also helps to be physical, as Seattle and other teams have stressed finding physical players in the building process.
That's where you give the Denver Broncos some hope. They play the NFC West in 2014. To prepare for those games, the Broncos might try to get a little more physical with their offseason acquisitions.
"When you play those teams you know it's a physical division," Broncos president John Elway said. "You got to be able to play physical with physical teams, and that's always a goal is to be able to have a team that physically can stay with everybody in this league. It's a tough division that's a very physical division, so that'll be a great test for us."
The Indianapolis Colts, for example, copied the model that made Baltimore successful. When he joined the Colts, Chuck Pagano brought the Ravens' concept that bigger is better. Pagano wanted bigger, stronger players on defense. He's been trying to build a more physical offensive line. He put the fullback back in the Colts' offense.
The Colts proved the system worked, at least in the regular season, as they beat San Francisco and Seattle (despite the fact that they lost to the Rams and Cardinals to go 2-2 against the NFC West). If the Broncos can use the four games against Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis and Arizona as a test of their physicality, it could help them get back to the Super Bowl.
The downside of playing the NFC West is that it could cost the Broncos home-field advantage. The Broncos went 4-0 against the NFC East in 2013, but that won't be nearly as easy a task against the NFC West next season.
Getting the defense to be faster and more physical can be accomplished. Getting more physical on offense is tricky. Peyton Manning isn't mobile. The Broncos need offensive linemen whose priority is to knock down defenders quickly so the quarterback can get rid of the ball.
The Saints have similar issues with Drew Brees, and they invest in physical guards who knock down defenders and get away with lesser talent at tackle.
I agree with Elway's assessment that immobile quarterbacks aren't dinosaurs.
"I think you have both types in the league right now," Elway said. "You have Peyton, you have [Saints QB Drew] Brees, you have [Patriots QB Tom] Brady -- they're pocket guys. The young guys are the guys that are athletic and can move around -- you have the [Colin] Kaepernicks, Wilson, Cam Newton and some others. In this league, there is probably more of a combination of both right now than at any one point because with the athletic quarterbacks that teams have, they'll take advantage of what they can do. I think staffs are doing a hell of a job taking advantage of what their quarterback does best."
The solution for the Broncos and other AFC teams is getting more physical. It worked for Baltimore in its Super Bowl victory over San Francisco. Now we'll see if Denver, and even the New England Patriots, can do the same.