As the NFL prepares to close the book on yet another eventful and at times controversial season, the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers travel to neutral Levi’s Stadium for the Super Bowl 50, the biggest annual sporting event in the country (6.30pm ET, Sunday on CBS).
Here is our exclusive Panthers vs Broncos Super Bowl preview, concluding with betting picks predictions:
The Panthers are primed to take Advantage of the Broncos’ Limited Offense
The last time the Denver Broncos were in the Super Bowl, just a few years prior in 2013-14, they entered as one of the best offensive teams in the history of the sport. Peyton Manning (pictured) led an offense which shattered records, scored more points than anyone in history and showcased a team of weapons that during the regular season were near impossible to stop.
Well, that offense got absolutely obliterated in the Super Bowl against the NFL’s top defense in the Seattle Seahawks to the tune of 43-8. It was the second largest loss in Super Bowl history, the first of which also belongs to the Broncos, from Super Bowl XXIV.
This year’s Broncos team isn’t even half as offensively prolific, ranking just 16th in the league in total yards, 14th in passing yards and 17th in rushing yards. Now that said, the Panthers team is also not on the same level as that legendary Seahawks squad. Carolina has a good defense, ranking sixth in total yards, 11th in passing yards and fourth in rushing yards.
The match-up here is favorable for sportsbooks’ favorites Carolina if only for the fact that Denver’s postseason run has been marked by defensive dominance as opposed to any sort of offensive production. In fact, Manning hasn’t looked good at all, his age and injury perhaps finally getting the better of him. Manning’s ball has lacked zip since he returned at the end of the regular season and his receivers have not quite been on the same page. Carolina needs to take advantage of this in a way that the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t quite able to do.
Carolina’s best bet here is to limit what Manning is able to do in the pocket. He needs time and Denver’s offensive line has not fully been able to give that to him. So it comes down to the pass rush and being able to maximize the pressure on Manning. Without time, Manning’s throws have gone into the ground or otherwise have been woefully underthrown. Despite his struggles this year however, Manning has always been able to make those key throws when he can step up in the pocket. Carolina has to prevent that to have any chance of winning Super Bowl 50.
Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware will make it a Long Day for Cam Newton and the Carolina Offense
Make no mistake, the Panthers are and have been a strong offensive team all year long. However they are not a passing team (just 21st in passing offense). Carolina’s biggest strength is their ground game as Cam Newton’s legs have been even more valuable than his arm this season.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Denver has an incredible rush defense. Really, they have an incredible overall defense, ranking first in the league in total yards, third in rushing yards and first in passing yards defensed. They are everything that Seattle was in 2013 and luckily for them, the old adage of “defense wins championships,” is in fact more true than not most of the time. A big part of this defensive success has been the line, namely the sack masters of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller.
Alone, these are two of the best defensive linemen in the game but together, they are an unstoppable force. Be it the run or the pass, Miller and Ware have an uncanny ability to get the quarterback and as they showed against New England, who is one of the most organized offenses, a way to get around the silent snap count that Bill Bellichick teams thrive upon.
If the Panthers hope to win, they need Newton to be protected. They need him to be able to use all of his weapons, both his arms and legs. Now, there is a reason to be optimistic as a Panthers fan and that is the fact that against running quarterbacks, the Broncos defense hasn’t been as lethal a force as they have been against less mobile guys.
Given the propensity of guys like Miller and Ware to go hard for the sack, there is the opening for Newton to scramble and shred the defense up field as he has all year in his MVP-worthy season. Given the run is Carolina’s lead option, this could be concerning for the Broncos defense as they attempt to avoid creating too deep running lanes for Newton and lead running back Jonathan Stewart.
If Carolina can establish the run, the Broncos will be trouble. Newton is just as apt in the passing game and is very capable of pulling off big time throws. His weapons aren’t necessarily all-stars but they are the perfect complementary pieces to what has turned out to be one of the more balanced teams in the NFL this year.
Carolina Panthers vs Denver Broncos Super Bowl Betting Picks
Well here it goes: the final game, the final showdown, the final betting picks prediction of the season. Folks, this is not an easy one, not by any means. Both teams have X-Factors but both also have weaknesses. Thus far in the playoffs, Denver seems to have had more exposed than Carolina as they have gotten by on the skins of their teeth. Carolina meanwhile, took to Seattle in a way no one really expected. They silenced the doubters who cited their easy schedule and standing in one of the worst divisions in football as a real reason to write them off.
You can’t write them off though. Carolina may be a surprise but they are a good team nonetheless. And it all starts and ends with Newton and his renaissance season.
So, the sportsbooks’ spread is between five and six points, a touchdown’s margin, in favor of these very Panthers. This could be Manning’s swan song and the pieces could be in place for him to ride off in the sunset. But that sounds too perfect and football is rarely ever that perfect. As much as the Broncos are sentimental favorites and as much as defense has proven to be the focal point of Super Bowl success, my preview’s pick here is the Panthers to defy the deficit on the spread.
I’m just not sold on Denver in the Super Bowl. I don’t think the end result will be a replica of 2013, but given the way Carolina has dominated through the NFC, I reckon they should win by greater than the margin of a touchdown.
- So bet on the Carolina Panthers -5pts on the spread @ -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook to win their first ever Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl 50 champions. Currently that is the best value option available with Bovada going -6pts and 5Dimes -5.5pts for the same odds.
- As for that total points scored in this game, its set at 44pts or 45pts depending on the sportsbook. I like the over on this as well and once again it is BetOnline Sportsbook who currently offers the best value on this, going over 44pts @ -109 odds. Bovada are over 45pts @ -110 and 5Dimes are over 44.5pts for the same odds.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.