After two weeks of stories surrounding the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, fans likely know almost everything about Super Bowl 50 except for the final result.
Whether you are betting on the outcome of the game or just watching for fun, predicting anything in the NFL is never easy. These are two of the top teams in the league, finishing as the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences. When they get together Sunday, we will see a competitive battle that could come down to just a couple of plays.
However, only one team can end up on top and raise the Lombardi Trophy. Here is a breakdown of what to expect in the biggest game of the year.
Super Bowl Betting Odds (via Odds Shark)
Spread: Panthers -5.5
Money Line: Panthers (-220), Broncos (+180)
Prediction: Panthers 24, Broncos 20
One of the biggest factors in this game will be the Denver defense. The squad finished the regular season allowing the fewest yards in football, and it didn't stop there, keeping both Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and New England Patriots signal-caller Tom Brady in check during the playoffs.
The unit is simply loaded with playmakers, from pass-rushers like Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware to cornerbacks like Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib. Opposing quarterbacks have no one open to throw the ball to and no time to wait before getting sacked. Meanwhile, a stout defensive line helps prevent teams from picking up yards on the ground as well.
With Carolina ranking as the No. 2 rushing attack in football, this will be extremely important.
Trey Wingo of ESPN noted how well elite defenses have done in this game in the past, a trend the Broncos hope will continue:
SB 50 will be the 12th time the #1 rated defense has made it to Super Sunday(Denver). Those defenses went 9-2 in previous 11 Super Bowls— trey wingo (@wingoz) January 26, 2016
Carolina shouldn't be overlooked defensively, either. An experienced secondary led by cornerback Josh Norman has forced opposing quarterbacks to total a passer rating of just 73.5 this season, the lowest in the NFL.
Peyton Manning has had a great career, but the 39-year-old quarterback hasn't played at his best this year and could end up struggling to find openings down the field.
Denver also is at its best when it runs the ball with C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, although this will be difficult against Carolina's front seven.
While it will be a narrow margin, the defenses will keep the score low and close. This should be enough to stay under the total while giving the Broncos enough to cover the relatively large spread.
Betting line aside, the winner of this game will be the team that can make the key plays, and that is where MVP favorite Cam Newton will make the difference. Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips had high praise for the fifth-year player, via Ed Werder of ESPN:
The Broncos haven't had to face a mobile quarterback quite like Newton this year. The Panthers star can rush for first downs to extend drives as well as escape the pocket to create big plays down the field. In what should be a back-and-forth game, that could be the difference.
Although the defenses will play the biggest role, the star quarterback will be the one leading his team to victory.
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