Welcome to the Super Bowl Edition!
With about 80% of all Super Bowl wagering happening on the weekend of (Saturday, the 6th and Sunday, game day), Mr. (and Mrs) Betting Mann can use all the information available as early as possible, so here’s my early take on the 2015/16 ‘Big Show’ outcome.
One can probably argue if the best two teams are left standing, but I doubt you’d find a better match-up for storylines and pending post-game interests; Peyton Manning retiring or not, Cam returning to win back-to-back, the Denver brain trust drafting a quarterback, Panthers’ ability to re-sign Jonathan Stewart, Baltimore’s Steve Smith’s reaction to his old team’s victory (if they win, of course) and last but not least, the fall-out from the haters that choose to see one QB as the bad guy and the other the good guy. The safest prediction, you can expect this year’s Super Bowl to have huge ratings numbers, for sure.
With no clear-cut personal preference, all I really care about is a game worth watching through to the final row of zeros on the clock. Let’s jump right into the analysis.
DENVER BRONCOS vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS
The Line: Panthers -5.5
The Game: Sunday, February 7, 2016 – 3:30PM, PT on CBS – Forecast: 63-66f, Mostly Sunny/Winds 7-10m
The Skinny: First thing you need to consider is the saying, “Don’t believe the hype!” Carolina is nearly as good as they look, but of course, not unbeatable. It also helps add to the flare when a team is riding a wave of good fortune (most of which is induced by the team itself). But as I pointed out a week ago regarding the Patriots / Broncos game, sometimes losing teams make winning teams look better than they are… or do you really believe the Cardinals are that much worse than the Panthers on most healthy Sundays?
Unfortunately (from a betting standpoint), like a week ago with that Panther game, this contest can go either way, a blow-out or true to form. Here’s why:
Unlike last week initially, the Super Bowl does not begin and end with defenses being up for the challenge, both sides will be up for it. No, this game will be decided on the conspicuous difference in quarterbacks. But before you read too much into that, know this going in, the Denver Broncos defense will be the strongest unit Cam Newton has faced all year. Sure, they played and beat Seahawks twice this season, but that team is not as potent up front as they were when they won the championship a few short years ago. Cam will struggle more here than last week (when he was barely breathed on), and should Denver successfully contain him to the pocket, things will be interesting because the Broncos may have the smartest secondary in the league. They are excellent at baiting a QB and getting the timing of the pass-and-catch down. In addition, I saw Cam get rattled emotionally last week in victory. Imagine the pressure of three quarters with the score tied or close. With his running back Jonathan Stewart questionable (at this point), Cam may have added responsibility placed by himself onto his shoulders. Everyone agrees, he’s grown a lot this season. Is it enough? We shall see.
Peyton Manning affects this game more than any other factor, in my opinion. As of last week’s game, he has bought into Gary Kubiak’s plan it appears, and that’s a good thing. But under pressure, he flat out looked old and at times, afraid against the Patriots. His arm strength was poor and passes fluttered and barely reached the target at times. He flinched and missed opportunities. This can’t happen again. If it does, his being substituted will be a sad exit for a legend. Still (and pride aside), if Brock Alan Osweiler replaces him, Manning can leave the game with his second championship. To do this, the Broncos with need to be successful with connecting with backs out of the backfield and tight ends as much as running the ball. Demaryius Thomas will likely draw the Odell Beckham-stopper Josh Gordon, and Emmanuel Sanders needs to have a big day. That being said, coach Kubiak needs to take a page or two out of the Patriots playbook and get the ball out of the QB’s hands in Brady-like timing.
This may be the hardest game all year for anyone to predict because there are too many big IFs and BUTs and yet, although Peyton deserves to go out on top I have no dog in this hunt and no money down, so looking clearly through the looking glass I don’t foresee as many freakish plays that can send games spiraling into the Twilight Zone. If I were to wager, I’d bet Kubiak and staff were smarter than I. Broncos Win, 23-20
Last week’s Division round record vs. the spread: W2 – L0 (current post-season record: 6W-4L)
Good luck in the Super Bowl. Thanks, and good luck, Mr. Betting Mann!