Super Bowl 50, which will be played on Sunday, February 7 at 6:30 pm in Santa Clara, California, at Levi’s Stadium, features the top team from the NFC, the Carolina Panthers, and the top club from the AFC, the Denver Broncos. Both teams got to the big game by defeating the number two seeds in their conferences, as the Panthers beat the Arizona Cardinals and the Broncos the New England Patriots.
The Panthers are the favorite at -5.5. For a Super Bowl, that’s a fairly decent spread. Some bookmakers have them at -6.0. The over/under sits at -45.0. That seems like a big number for a game that has two of the best defenses in the NFL going up against one another. Here’s our take on what looks to be a major defensive contest.
Offense May Win It
With the defenses fairly evenly matched, you’ve got to wonder what the difference-makers will be in this Super Bowl. Will if be the defenses? In one way it may be. The teams whose defense performs the best will certainly have an advantage in Super Bowl 50. But let’s say both do well, accumulating three or more sacks, recovering a fumble, and stealing a pass or two; then what?
It could come down to a few choice offensive elements. For the Panthers, it will most likely be the always-dangerous Cam Newton. Why Newton? First, the Carolina quarterback has reached a new level of maturity this year. He’s become a first-class leader on the field. He’s making better decisions too when in tight spots.
Newton’s passing numbers have improved throughout the season, as he’s gone from completing about 54% of his passes in the first half to completing almost 60% over the course of the entire season. Along with 35 touchdown passes, he also has run for 10 scores. He can turn broken plays into game winners.
For the Broncos, it’s about giving QB Peyton Manning enough time to pass. Manning is vulnerable in the pocket and is fairly fragile. Plus, his passing chops are now inconsistent. That means two things. First, his line must protect him. The other thing that Manning needs in order to be effective is for the Bronco running game to be effective.
The Broncos have two fine rushers in RBs Ronnie Hillman (863 YDs, 4.2 AVG, 7 TDs) and C.J. Anderson (720 YDs, 4.7 AVG, 5 TDs). If Denver’s running game is solid that will give them the opportunity to keep the Panther D honest, and it will also offer them some solid scoring opportunities.
Here’s the bottom line on these defenses. Both are great. Denver has held teams to 18.5 PPG and Carolina to 19.3 PPG. When it comes to sacks, Denver is tops, 51 to 44. The Panthers are best when it comes to picks, 24-14. Carolina has 24 forced fumbles and 15 recoveries, while Denver has posted 25 and taken 13.
Top defensive players for Denver include the versatile LB Von Miller (11 Sacks, 4 FFs, 3 REC) and tough as nails LB Shaquil Barrett (5.5 Sacks, 4 PD, 5 FFs, 2 REC). The premium performer in the Denver secondary is CB Aqib Talib (13 PD, 3 INTs, 2 TDs). The guys to watch for on the Panthers include Kurt Coleman (9 PD, 7 INTS, 1 TD), Josh Norman ( 18 PD, 4 INTs, 3 FFs, 2 REC, 2 TDs), and LB Thomas Davis (5.5 Sacks, 7 PD, 4 INTs, 4 FFs, 1 REC). DT Kawann Short leads the team with 11 sacks.
Who We Pick
In Super Bowl 50, we like the Carolina Panthers as well as the over. The Panthers have not only been on a roll, but they have done so in superlative fashion. The Broncos have had a tough time beating worthy opponents, having barely made it by New England and almost losing to Pittsburgh.
Take the Panthers at -5.5. For a final score we expect it to be around 37-13. That means bet the over. That’s Super Bowl 50 for us.