There is a two-week break between the conference title games and the Super Bowl, but it is never too early to start evaluating betting options.
While it's not necessary to go overboard with your picks, the options are seemingly endless when it comes to predicting the biggest sporting event of the year. You can make multiple bets on the outcome of the game as well as specific props involving every aspect of the action.
Although the majority of prop bets won't be released until Thursday night at 10 p.m. ET, per David Payne Purdum of ESPN Chalk, there are good ones to target already available. Here is a look at top picks to make for the Feb. 7 matchup between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.
Super Bowl 50 Odds Info (per Odds Shark)
Spread: Carolina (-5.5)
Money Line: Panthers (-220), Broncos (+180)
Best Bets: Broncos +5.5; Under
The Panthers began as 3.5-point favorites, but the public has jumped all over the NFC champions thanks to their dominant performance the last time out. They embarrassed a very good Arizona Cardinals squad with a 49-15 win in the NFC Championship Game, and all of a sudden a team that went 15-1 all year is getting respect.
With the way quarterback Cam Newton has played lately, it makes sense to expect the Panthers to keep on rolling.
The problem is the Broncos defense was the best in the NFL this season and hasn't slowed down in the playoffs. It shut down quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots thanks to a deadly pass rush and a playmaking secondary, much to the surprise of many. Safety T.J. Ward explained the lack of respect toward the Broncos before the game helped them out, per Andrew Mason of the Broncos' official website:
We felt like we were totally disrespected by everybody in the media. I don't think I heard one telecast about us winning. And as good a defense as we've been playing all year, that was the focal point: that Tom Brady was going to shred us apart. So we took total disrespect [from] that. Total disrespect.
Keep us the underdog. Tell us how bad we are, and how we can't cover and stop this person, and I bet we win the Super Bowl.
There are no holes in this unit, which will make it difficult for Newton and Co. to move the ball as well as they have lately. It seems to be a good bet that no matter who wins, it will be a low-scoring battle.
With that said, the Panthers have their advantages. Newton's running ability will help him pick up some extra first downs, while the elite defensive front seven will slow down Denver's rushing ability. Peyton Manning will be forced to throw over the top to win, and he could struggle in this area.
An early prediction for the final score is Carolina winning 24-20, but this is still enough for the Broncos to cover and win the under in a close call.
Prop Bets (per 247Sports)
First-Half Line: Panthers -2.5
If there is one thing the Panthers have done extremely well lately, it is getting off to hot starts. Britt McHenry of ESPN noted this is due to the preparation coming into the game:
#Panthers always off to fast start. Corey Brown said Fri how ready they were, more prepared than wk prior. Known to ease up in 2nd half tho— Britt McHenry (@BrittMcHenry) January 25, 2016
While the Cardinals weren't able to get back in contention against Carolina like the Seattle Seahawks did the week before, the theme of an early lead remained constant. In two playoff games, Carolina outscored opponents 55-7 in the first half. In fact, the team has had a 14-point lead or more at halftime in seven of its last nine games.
Adding an extra week of preparation could lead to even more success in the game's first 30 minutes.
As previously discussed, the Broncos defense should not be overlooked. However, Carolina has proved it can get out to fast starts—and should earn a halftime lead.
Shortest Touchdown Scored: Under 1.5 Yards (-125)
Newton had 10 rushing touchdowns this season, one short of the NFL lead. He also had two last week against the Cardinals, including one from the 1-yard line. He accomplished a similar feat three different times during the regular season as well as four more from two yards out.
At 6'5", 245 pounds, the quarterback is one of the best weapons near the goal line and is almost unstoppable from the 1-yard line. This doesn't even take into account the ability of running back Jonathan Stewart and fullback Mike Tolbert near the end zone.
Add in the willingness of the Broncos to stick with the run near the goal line, and there seems to be a good chance of getting a short-yardage touchdown in the Super Bowl.
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