The 2016 NFL Super Bowl finally arrives this Sunday, when Peyton Manning leads his Denver Broncos into the fray against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. It truly is set up to be an epic Super Bowl, so it’s very fitting that the league is celebrating the 50th title game in it’s history. Will Manning ride off into the sunset, or will Newton stake his claim to history by dabbing Carolina to their first ever Lombardi Trophy?
Carolina and Denver do not have a lengthy history, as their matchup in Super Bowl 50 will be just the fifth meeting between the two sides ever. That gives them four prior meetings, with the Bronco dominating the series, 3-1. The only meeting in the Peyton Manning era came in 2012, when the Broncos crushed the Panthers, 36-14.
Broncos Preview (+6)
Denver is a very interesting case, as they’ve gotten to this point almost solely on the heels of their top-ranked defense. The Broncos stifled many a quality quarterback in 2015 and boast a very tough defense that can get after the quarterback with ease. As great as their defense is, however, this team survived by the skin of their teeth in both of their playoff games and very well could be one of the weakest Super Bowl teams we’ve ever seen. That’s certainly the case offensively, at least, as Manning appears in what is surely his final NFL game, attempting to win his second ring. That could be tough to do against a very good Panthers team, especially after seeing what their advantageous defense did to Carson Palmer and the #2 ranked Cardinals offense in the NFC title game. Manning will need to limit mistakes and hope C.J. Anderson and the running game are effective, otherwise there is the very real fear of this turning into the blowout we saw last time Denver was playing on Super Bowl Sunday.
Panthers Preview (-6)
Carolina is the easy favorite to win it all this weekend, as they enter with an elite 17-1 record and had everyone believing they could have run the table only a few weeks ago. They can’t nail down perfection anymore, but they can still win the franchise’s first ever title behind what has been a truly magical ride. Cam Newton has had an MVP-caliber season even with top wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (knee) lost since preseason. Newton has done damage with his own legs and has trusted in Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn Jr. and Jonathan Stewart to give the Panthers a very balanced and methodical approach on offense. Against all odds, Carolina capped the 2015 NFL regular season with the #1 scoring offense and march into Super Bowl 50 with a chance to make history. Luckily it’s not all on Cam and the offense, though, as the Panthers defense has come up big several times this season – most notably with a first half shutout in the Divisional Round against a good Seahawks team and a total demolition of the Cardinals two weeks ago.
There is a very real possibility that everything clicks just right and Peyton Manning wins a close, amazing Super Bowl and ends his career in a fashion very few can dream of. But that’s not overly logical. It’s true that defenses win championships and on paper Denver’s is the best, but that may not tell us enough when you factor in how pedestrian Manning’s offense is these days. With Carolina’s defense being quite strong themselves, a combination of stifling Manning and the league’s highest-powered offense could be enough to get Carolina over the hump. The big question will be whether the Broncos defense can keep this a game, or if Carolina will blow right by them on both sides of the ball.
These teams have been opposite performers against the spread, with Carolina going a very solid 9-4 ATS in their last 13 playoff games and Denver going just 2-5-1 in their last eight playoff games against the spread. The Panthers are the favorites to win and the Super Bowl favorite has posted a pretty strong 33-15 straight up record and a 26-18-2 mark against the spread. Dating back to 2002, however, the favorite is just 3-10 ATS. This is all just noise, however. The Panthers have shown they are not the fraud some have said them to be and they look like the better team across the board.