On Sunday, the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers will put all the hype behind them and play in Super Bowl 50.
When the two teams take the field at Levi's Stadium at 6:30 p.m. ET, both teams will have concluded an exhaustive study of each other and come up with what they believe is a winning game plan.
Most people believe the Panthers, who come into this game with a 17-1 record, have the better team and should end up with the victory.
The betting public has spoken, and the Panthers are 5.5-point favorites in the game. Also, 53 percent of the bets have been made on head coach Ron Rivera's Panthers. The over/under is 43.5 points.
While that's a fairly sizable advantage, it should be noted that late money has come in on Peyton Manning and the Broncos. At the midway point of last week, the Panthers were six-point favorites in the game and 60 percent of the bets had been made on Carolina.
|Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers||Carolina (-5)||44.5||Carolina; Over|
Odds Shark; Silverman selections
While the Broncos may not have the explosiveness on offense to match Carolina—mainly because of Cam Newton's athleticism and skill at the quarterback slot—the Broncos have enough weapons to push the Panthers hard and possibly steal the game if they can keep it on even terms going into the fourth quarter.
The Broncos have had the top-ranked defense in football all season and are coming off a superb effort in their victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
Linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware pressured Brady throughout the game, and the quarterback took hit after hit for four quarters. The Broncos limited him to one TD pass, and they came through with the play of the game when Bradley Roby intercepted Brady's two-point conversion attempt in the final seconds.
The Broncos defense is strong enough that the Denver Post's Troy Renck has questioned what Newton will be able to do against this unit:
The question has been how will #Broncos stop Cam. Why not how will Cam do against Denver's defense? "That's what it should be," said TJ Ward— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) February 3, 2016
Stopping or even slowing down Newton is a challenging assignment for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Newton has the ability to escape pressure and run with the football if he can't find open receivers. It's not a matter of simply turning Denver's pass-rushers loose and sending them after Newton. He can do too much damage with his legs.
The Broncos have to contain Newton. Certainly, they need to get their hands on him and sack him, but when the first wave of the pass rush is not successful, they cannot present Newton with open rushing lanes or give him an extra three seconds or more to let his receivers break open.
This is the most difficult and challenging part of the assignment, but Phillips appears to be the right man to come up with the proper defensive game plan. He is one of the most experienced defensive minds in the sport and should give his players the right blueprint to follow.
It will come down to execution. It seems likely that the Broncos will do as good a job defending against Newton as any team, but it still may not be enough to ensure the victory.
The advantage at quarterback that Newton has over Manning is significant. As a result, we like the Panthers to win and cover, and the over looks like the winning total to play.
Non-football fans may have an interest in the pregame coin toss. Odds Shark has four toss-related prop bets, including which team will win the coin toss, whether it will be heads or tails, whether the team that wins the coin toss will also win the game and whether the team that makes the call will be correct.
All of those prop bets are available at minus-105, meaning a bettor will wager $105 to win $100.
Casual football bettors may be interested in which player scores the first touchdown. Newton has the lowest-priced odds in that category at plus-700, meaning a $100 bet would return a profit of $700. Tight end Greg Olsen is the second choice at plus-750, Panthers running back is Jonathan Stewart is plus-800 and wideout Ted Ginn Jr. is plus-1,000.
Denver running back C.J. Anderson and wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are all listed at plus-900, while tight end Owen Daniels and Ronnie Hillman are plus-1,400.
Fans can also make a prop wager on the game's MVP award. Newton is the odds-on favorite to win the award at minus-130, while Manning is the second choice at plus-275.
No other player from either team is listed at a return of less than plus-1,000. Other possible Super Bowl MVP candidates at their betting returns include Luke Kuechly (plus-1,400), Ginn (plus-2,000), Anderson (plus-2,000), Von Miller (plus-2000), Olsen (plus-2,200), Stewart (plus-2,200), Thomas (plus-2,200), Sanders (plus-2,200) and Josh Norman (plus-2,800).
No other player is listed at odds of less than plus-3,000.
While we have no recommendation on the coin toss, we like Stewart scoring the first touchdown and Kuechly as the MVP.
Box Score Prediction
Look for Newton to complete 22 of 33 passes for 278 yards with two touchdowns. He will run seven times for 51 yards and also get into the end zone once.
It will be a much more difficult day for Manning, who will complete 12 of 28 passes for 185 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Stewart will carry the ball 18 times for the Panthers and gain 89 yards with one TD, while tight end Olsen will catch six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. Ginn will catch five passes for 65 yards, while Corey Brown will catch three for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Ronnie Hillman will carry the ball eight times and gain 33 yards, while Anderson will have 13 carries for 66 yards and a score.
Thomas will have five catches for 51 yards and a touchdown, but the speedy Sanders will be held to 39 yards on four catches.
Betting information courtesy of Odds Shark.