I know I say the same thing every year. We’ve heard two weeks of build-up for Super Bowl 50. We’re tired of all the overplayed storylines and laughably created storylines that fill two weeks of coverage. Ryan Murphy of the Broncos got so tired of it after a week that he picked up what he thought was a pro in the Bay Area and got sent back to Denver. (I’m surprised that’s not his actual story. Didn’t Eugene Robinson teach these guys anything?) As with every year, I’ll provide my favorite prop bets to go along with the pick. Last year I went 9-3 with the props so let’s keep it going.
Carolina -5.5 over Denver
Before we get to the props, it’s important to talk about how the game will play out. I’m not sure I’ve heard one pundit pick Denver to win this game. I may be over exaggerating, but it’s pretty crazy. Denver’s got the best defense in the league and won 14 games this year. They’re not a slouch, so we need to dive deeper into the information before we gift Carolina the Lombardi trophy.
We’ll start with Carolina’s side of the ball. If there’s any doubt that Cam Newton is MVP of the league, just look who his receiving core is. I’ve harped on it a lot this year and I’m still not completely sure how Ted Ginn, Corey Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, and Devin Funchess have been as productive all year, but it’s happening. One main reason is that Carolina shows opposing teams a lot more read option than other teams in the league and that’s obviously because Cam is the quarterback. The opposing defenses can’t be as aggressive as they need to be because the possibility of a handoff forces them to wait that split second longer to see the play develop. It will slow down Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware from getting to the passer. Carolina’s offensive line is playing better over the last 10 games than New England’s because of the injuries the Patriots sustained and Cam Newton isn’t a sitting duck like Tom Brady is. You won’t see a copycat of what you saw two week ago in Denver. Denver’s pass rush won’t be able to impact the game as much.
Denver’s secondary will get caught looking into the backfield on a few plays when they’re expecting a run. Denver’s elite corners don’t play as much of a factor in this game because Greg Olsen is the the team’s key receiver at tight end and the wide receivers are interchangeable week to week. If Denver sticks to its principles and stays disciplined, it should be able contain Carolina’s running game. Denver had the fourth best rushing defense in the league, but then again Seattle was #3 and Carolina trucked them early on last week. You just have to think Denver’s defense will do better with two weeks to prepare.
Everything comes down to Peyton Manning when Denver has the ball. Carolina’s sixth ranked run defense should be able to do a good job containing Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson. The injury to Thomas Davis will hurt Carolina, but not that much. Manning will make his usual audibles at the line of scrimmage to create a few plays, but generally the running game won’t see much traction. That leaves noodle-armed Peyton Manning with Emmanuel Sanders and secondary weapons. It seems as if Josh Norman will shadow Demaryius Thomas and if you’ve read any of my fantasy football columns this year, you’ll know that’s not a friendly match-up for DT. Carolina’s secondary is exploitable if you have the weapons and don’t meltdown like Carson Palmer, but I’m not sure Manning has what it takes. I know that’s the common sentiment, but facts are facts.
Manning completed less than 57% of his passes in his two playoff games. He threw for less than 225 yards in both games. The longest drive Denver had after its first drive last week was for 48 yards. They only had two that went over 35 yards. This is all AFTER Manning recovered from injury. Now he has to go up against the second best defense in the league! He hasn’t thrown any interceptions, which was a major thing for him earlier in the year, which is obviously a positive. Coach Greg Kubiak has made sure the offensive focus is run-heavy. Keep things simple and let the defense help you win the game.
So where does this leave things? You, me, and 99% of America thinks Carolina is winning this game. All signs point to a comfortable win. I just hate that no one’s on the Denver side. I hit the Carolina line early when it was -4.5. Now it’s up to 6. Would I bet this game if it was the regular season at that number? Hell no. But this is the Super Bowl and you have to take a side. So I’m going with Carolina -5.5 and telling you that if all this public interest on Carolina can get you Denver +7 at any point before kickoff, you should take it. (I’d love to have that -4.5/7 middle myself.) The Broncos defense and the simple game plan should prevent this from being a repeat of Seattle’s destruction of Manning two years ago. (. I’m scared.)
Carolina 23 Denver 13 (I’m on the under as well.)
J.Camm’s Pick: I can’t lose to Mr. T anyway so, fuck it, I’m taking Denver.
Locks of the Week:
Six Point Teaser: Carolina (+0.5) and Under 51.5
The tease of Carolina and the under seems too easy. It’s based on everything I just said and it makes you feel safer than laying the points.
Now onto the props!
Double Result: Panthers HT / Panthers FT (-150)
If you think the Panthers are going to win, this is probably the bet that makes you the most comfortable. Carolina has done a great job this year of getting ahead of their opponents early and you won’t have to worry about laying the 6 points.
Broncos Points – Under 20 (-115)
Manning will have the pull a few horseshoes out of his ass if he’s going to put up more than 20 points against this defense. I don’t care how nice the weather is.
Peyton Manning Passing Yards – Under 238.5 (-115)
Look above at what I wrote about Manning and this should make sense.
Peyton Manning Longest Completion – Under 34.5 (-115)
Noticing a trend? His long ball ducks aren’t flying in Santa Clara either.
Ronnie Hillman Rushing Yards – Under 37.5 (-115)
Hillman has really fallen off in recent weeks. He’s averaged less than four yards a carry in six of his last seven games. Put that up against Carolina’s stout run defense and it will be a problem. C.J. Anderson has been the better back and should see more carries. This is the Super Bowl. You don’t mess around.
Who Will Have More? – Celtics Points -41.5 over Demaryius Thomas Receiving Yards (-115)
I picked this up from the Bill Simmons podcast with Cousin Sal, but it makes sense. Norman will limit DT to under 60 yards. The Celtics are hosting the Kings and the Kings give up the most points in the league at 108.1.
Cam Newton Rushing Yards – Under 41.5 (-110)
Denver’s fast defense should keep Newton relatively under wraps, especially because they generally rely on pressure from their front four and aren’t blitzing. They’ll be able to spy Cam a bit. Newton also has an average of 38.1 rushing yards per game this year.
Thomas Davis Tackles – Under 5.5 (-115)
It’s commendable that Davis is playing two weeks after breaking his arm, but it’s hard to tackle WHEN YOU HAVE A BROKEN ARM!
Ted Ginn Jr. Total Receptions – Under 3.5 (-180)
Mr. Ginn Jr. Has had a nice season, but he’s very boom or bust. He’ll be even more so going against Aqib Talib. Ginn is averaging 2.7 catches per game this year including 2.6 catches in his 10 games.
Ted Ginn Rushing Attempts – Over 0.5 (+280)
Carolina has used Ginn on a reverse in two straight games and likely will break out the dog and pony show again in an effort to keep Denver’s defense at bay. It’s worth a shot.
Total Field Goals Made by Both Teams – Over 3.5 (-120)
We’ve already detailed Denver’s struggles moving the ball last week and that resulted in two field goals. Carolina won’t be dropping touchdown after touchdown in this one either, so this is a nice number to hit.
Will Either Team Score 3 Straight Times without the Other Team Scoring – Yes (-170)
This has hit six times in the last seven years. It may seem uncommon, but there’s a reason it’s -170.
Total Penalties – Under 12.5 (-130)
As ESPN Chalk points out, 109 of 160 (68%) playoff games since 2001 have gone under this number. 70% of this year’s playoff games have gone under. Refs don’t want to interfere with playoff games, let alone the Super Bowl.
Will Either Team Score in the First 6.5 minutes – No (-140)
As explosive as Carolina’s offense is, the nerves and defenses of both teams should prevent an early score.
Will the Super Bowl be Tied After 0-0 – Yes (+110)
If you’re expecting a low scoring game like me then this has a good shot, especially early as teams feel each other out.
Last Week: 1-1