So it’s finally here, Super Bowl 50 is this sunday and after that the long, bleak oblivion that is the off-season. With just one game left in the season a degenerate like myself has to get their money’s worth on Sunday. Fortunately the Super Bowl is a gamblers paradise, with the usual game bets and a myriad of unique proposition bets. A bookie will give you odds on what colour gatorade gets poured over the winning coach, or which song Coldplay will open the halftime show with. While those are fun bets to place there are some more sensible ones that can be broken down a bit deeper, and that’s what we will be doing after we take a look at the Super Bowl spread line itself. So let’s get on with it! The line is from William Hill. Denver are then nominal home team but this is a neutral site game so the usual 3 point home field advantage isn’t in effect here. Carolina Panthers (-5.5) over Denver Broncos Is there really any surprise that I’m taking the Panthers? They dismantled the Seahawks and Cardinals in the playoffs, both of whom are more complete teams than the Broncos. Now there is little doubt that the Broncos defense is spectacular – just ask Tom Brady how brutal their pass rush can be – but they are fallible. They can cover very well but their weakness is against the Tight End, Greg Olsen isn’t Rob Gronkowski but he’s damn close and Gronk almost swung the AFC Championship game single handedly to the Patriots. They’re also suspect against the deep pass, something Cam Newton has been throwing with regularity and accuracy. Denver’s great pass defense has its foundation in their run defense, which has been able to keep teams in 3rd & long situations, thus allowing Wade Phillips to send his stable of pass rushers marauding after QB’s. That run defense – 3rd best in yards per game – will be put to the test by Jonathan Stewart and the Panthers, who themselves are the 3rd best rushing offense in yards per game. But it’s not just Stewart plunging between the tackles that will cause Denver problems, it’s Cam Newton’s ability to pull the ball and take off around the corner himself. Newton’s 636 rushing yards was 80 more than the next QB, Russell Wilson, and no Broncos fan needs reminding what happened last time they played Wilson. Denver also struggled in the regular season against another mobile QB in Alex Smith. It might not be their kryptonite but it’s certainly going to be a key point of emphasis for the Broncos front 7 to stay disciplined in pass rush and backside pursuit against Cam. Then there is the utterly one-sided match-up of the Denver offense against the Carolina D. The Panthers defense isn’t quite as good as it was at the start of the season, and Thomas Davis’ broken arm is sure to hamper him on the field. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Broncos run at him early to test him. But there’s still the quality of Kawann Short and Kony Ealy up front, Luke Kuechly roaming around tackling everything in sight and the stellar Josh Norman on one side. Peyton Manning would normally be able to get some success moving safeties around with his eyes but Kurt Coleman and Roman Harper have been so good this year that might not work either. To cover the 5.5 line the Panthers will probably have to hit 27 points, which is very doable given the advantage they’ll have against the Denver offense. Don’t let the Broncos early touchdown and 20 points against New England fool you, for the last 3 ½ quarters the got just 161 yards on offense, with 8 drives that failed to register a first down. They had trouble against a good Patriots team, and this Panthers one is far better.
Defense or Special Teams Touchdown – Yes 6/4 With the defensive talent on show there should be some turnovers. Luke Kuechly has had a pick 6 in both playoff games this season and there would have been a defensive score in the AFC Championship Game but for an early whistle. There has also been a defense or special team score in Peyton Manning’s previous 3 Super Bowl appearances… Peyton Manning Completions – Over 21.5 10/11 If the game goes as expected and the Panthers take an early lead and start extending it then Peyton is going to have to throw. And throw a lot. Greg Olsen Receptions – Over 5.5 Evens Like I said, Denver are weakest against the tight end and Olsen is Carolina’s #1 receiver. They will get him involved. “Carolina Blowout” Winning Margin 13-18 6/1 + 19-24 8/1 + 25-30 12/1 This is a nice little combination of bets to place if you think Carolina will win comfortably. Any win by 13 points to 30 guarantees you a 4/1 return if you place equal bets on each of the 3 options. Colour of the Gatorade Bath – Blue 6/1 Well, both teams have blue in their colours so… Kinda makes sense I guess???