After a spine-tingling AFC Championship Game and a blowout in the NFC title game, it's on to Super Bowl 50 for the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.
The Broncos hung on to beat the New England Patriots by the slimmest of margins, and when Tom Brady's two-point conversion attempt in the final seconds was intercepted by Bradley Roby, the Broncos and Peyton Manning clinched their trip to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, as the AFC representative. The Broncos never trailed in beating the Patriots 20-18.
|Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers||Feb. 7||Car. (-4)||45.5||Levi's Stadium||Santa Clara, CA|
The Panthers rolled to a huge 49-15 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The Panthers followed the same pattern that they demonstrated in the divisional playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks by jumping out to a big first-half lead, but this time, the Panthers did not let their opponents climb back into the game with a strong second half.
The Panthers went 15-1 in the regular season and earned the top seed in the NFC, while the Broncos went 12-4 and won the No. 1 spot in the AFC.
The early line for Super Bowl 50 opened with the Panthers as 3.5-point favorites, according to Odds Shark, but the line quickly increased to four points about an hour after the original line went up following the conclusion of the NFC Championship Game.
Bettors who are willing to risk $110 on either team would get a payoff of $100 plus their original $110 bet if their betting choice wins.
OddsShark (@OddsShark) January 25, 2016
The early total on Super Bowl 50 was listed at 45.5 points. Once again, a $110 bet on either the over or under would return $100 in profits for a victorious bet.
The Panthers would appear to have the advantage in this game because they have a more dangerous and balanced offense than the Broncos.
Manning came through with two touchdown passes in the victory over the Patriots, but he was held to 176 passing yards on 32 attempts. Manning has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness this year. He had a 9-17 touchdown-interception ratio during the regular season.
On the other hand, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is at the top of his game. He threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Cardinals, and he also ran for 47 yards and two touchdowns.
Newton's NFC Championship performance comes on the heels of a brilliant season. He threw 35 touchdown passes in the regular season with 10 more rushing touchdowns, and he is the likely MVP winner when the award is handed out February 6.
The Panthers and Broncos are infrequent opponents. They haven't met since the 2012 season, when Denver punished Carolina 36-14 in a game at Bank of America Stadium.
This is the Broncos' eighth trip to the Super Bowl, and they are 2-5 straight up and against the spread in their previous seven appearances.
The Panthers lost their only other previous appearance when they were defeated 32-29 by the Patriots when placekicker Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning field goal on the final play of Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Panthers were seven-point underdogs in that game, so they easily covered the spread.
Manning will play in his fourth Super Bowl and his second with the Broncos. His teams are 1-2 straight up and against the spread in his previous three appearances. This will be Newton's first appearance in the Super Bowl.