The Denver Broncos hung on with every ounce of defensive strength they had to win the AFC Championship Game. Now that they have survived Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, they get rewarded with an appearance in Super Bowl 50 against the powerful Carolina Panthers.
As soon as Carolina had finished its 49-15 demolition of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game, the Panthers were established as 3.5-point favorites by Odds Shark for their confrontation with the Broncos in the title game. Within 14 hours of the initial establishment of the betting line, betting action on the Panthers had moved the line to 4.5 points.
The Panthers have come out on fire in both the divisional playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks and the NFC Championship Game against Arizona, but they were much more focused in the second half against the Cardinals. Instead of letting them back in the game as they did with the Seahawks (Seattle outscored Carolina 24-0 in the second half), they outscored the Cardinals 25-8 in the final 30 minutes.
The fact that the Panthers corrected an issue in one week against a very good opponent appears to have gotten the bettors' attention. Sixty-four percent of the early Super Bowl bets have come in on the Panthers, according to Odds Shark.
The over/under on the game is 45 points, and 62 percent of the bets that have been made have been on the over.
While the story of Peyton Manning winning a second Super Bowl undoubtedly has some romanticism to it, the difference between Manning and Cam Newton has much to do with the early line and betting patterns.
|Super Bowl 50 Point Spread|
|Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers||Feb. 7||Levi's Stadium||Car. (-4.5)||45|
Manning played a gutsy game while throwing two first-half TD passes against the Patriots, but the Denver offense was limited through a large majority of the game. Manning has not thrown an interception in either of the Broncos' playoff victories over the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Patriots, but he threw for just 176 yards in the AFC title game and averaged 5.5 yards per throw.
Manning's performance in the regular season was troubling as he threw nine TD passes and 17 interceptions.
Newton has come into his own with the Panthers this year, and he is a strong MVP candidate based on his stellar performance. Newton threw 35 TD passes this year, and he added 10 more scores on the ground. Newton had a dominant performance against the Cardinals, throwing for 335 yards and two touchdowns and also running for two more scores.
The Broncos have a dominating defense, and that defense came up with big play after big play against New England. Linebacker Von Miller simply imposed his will and physical skill in the game with five tackles, 2.5 sacks and one interception.
The Broncos were able to hold Tom Brady in check throughout most of the game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. However, it will take an even greater effort to contain the explosive Newton at Levi's Stadium in Super Bowl 50.
If they can't, the Broncos don't appear to have the offensive game to score enough points to beat the Panthers.
The Broncos are back for their second Super Bowl appearance in the last three years. They were hammered 43-8 by the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. Manning and the Broncos did not have the offense to threaten Seattle's powerful defense in that game.
This game appears to have some similarities, because the Panthers have a strong defense led by Kawann Short, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, and the Broncos don't have the explosive offense to trade points with Newton & Co.
The Broncos depended on their defense to advance to the Super Bowl, but that may not be enough to allow them to win the game on the NFL's biggest stage.