There are only so many things to say or write about the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. Yes, Peyton Manning might retire, and everybody is talking about how nobody is talking about Al Jazeera's allegations that he obtained human growth hormone.
And no, there is no rational reason for loathing Cam Newton's obsession with smiling. This is what happens when there are two weeks of air time and infinite amounts of Internet space to fill.
On the bright side, it'll all be over soon. Such nonsense gets shoved aside on Sunday night, when a new champion will be crowned in Santa Clara, California.
|Sun., Feb. 7||6:30 p.m.||Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos||CBS||CAR -5||24-16 CAR|
Odds via Odds Shark
Odds courtesy of Odds Shark.
Super Bowl Preview
This is less fun when everyone agrees.
ESPN rounded up predictions from 70 of the Worldwide Leader's reporters, editors, analysts and insiders. Fifty-three sided with the NFC champs. As Chris Berman—one of the few Denver backers—would say: "So you're all on the Panthers."
Out of eight Bleacher Report experts, only Gary Davenport picked the Broncos to prevail. He also, however, admitted to having his doubts about sentimentally choosing Manning to win what could be his swansong:
My heart wants it to be Denver. Unfortunately, eyes reside in my head. And that's where this problem arises: I don't see the Broncos winning what may be the game's most pivotal matchup.
The Broncos O-line absolutely has to protect Manning in this game. Denver is going to need to hit on some downfield throws to stay in this game. The Panthers hit too many chunk plays. Denver's defense may reduce them, but they can't eliminate them.
After watching the masses all but plan the New England Patriots' flight west, the Broncos once again get to flash the underdog card. Per the Denver Post's Cameron Wolfe, running back C.J. Anderson offered a positive spin on everybody choosing Carolina.
“We just have to go out there and play football,” Anderson said. “There’s no pressure on us. There’s nobody picking us. There’s nobody picking our 39-year-old quarterback to go play well.”
Who will win Super Bowl 50?
Then again, nobody is smiting Denver because of a media conspiracy. The Panthers have won 17 of 18 games this season, most recently dismantling two legitimate Super Bowl contenders (Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals) who finished the season No. 1 and 3 in Football Outsiders' DVOA respectively.
While nobody can top Denver's defense, Carolina can at least counter with an upper-echelon offense. Even if its top standing in terms of scoring oversells its proficiency, it's a group worthy of combating Wade Phillips' stellar defense.
The other battle doesn't look as competitive. As noted by ESPN's Sheil Kapadia, Denver's offense didn't even pass muster to an attack anchored by Trent Dilfer in terms of DVOA:
Denver’s offense ranked 25th in DVOA during the regular season. Football Outsiders has compiled DVOA rankings going back to 1989, and since then, no team that has played in the Super Bowl has had a worse offensive efficiency ranking—not even the Baltimore Ravens squad that won it all in 2000. They were 22nd.
Making matters worse, Carolina places No. 2 in defensive DVOA behind Denver. Even on their sluggish days, the Broncos have squeezed out around 20 points. This will prove challenging against a unit yielding 6.2 yards per pass attempt while snatching 1.7 interceptions per game.
Besides, Newton might not need an offensive explosion to secure a win. His defense has helped him out all year by establishing field position or generating points with turnovers. Unless Manning has found the Fountain of Youth since the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 24, he's in for a long evening.
Sorry for lacking originality, but add one more Panthers pick to the pile. Any fears they will pad their resume against poor opposition vanished after convincing victories over Seattle and Arizona, both buoyed by sprints out of the starting gate. That's a doomsday scenario for a Denver squad that needs to dictate a slow tempo.
Denver's style will crumble at the worst possible time. As it struggles to find the end zone, Carolina will rattle off enough explosive plays on the offensive and defensive end. The majority has been wrong before, but expect the Panthers to earn a grand celebration.
Advanced stats courtesy of Football Outsiders unless otherwise noted.