Reasons Why Panthers Should Be Your Super Bowl 50 Pick

Jay Pryce

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 1:57 PM GMT

Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 1:57 PM GMT

The Broncos and Panthers clash in Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7th (6:30 p.m. ET), join us inside as we breakdown this matchup and present our NFL pick.

Hundreds Of Proposition Wagers Available At SBR's Super Bowl 50 Betting Guide

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":2969911, "sportsbooksIds":[169,1096,93,19,92,238], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]
NFL Pick: Panthers -4.5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

Denver Broncos (14-4 SU, 8-8-2 ATS)
Denver's offense has been middling at best this season, and has not perked up too much since the Canton-bound Manning returned from an injured foot. It put up 22.1 points per game off a dismal 5.2 yards per play (24th most). With Manning under center, though, its points per game inches up to 23.2.

The unit fails to extend drives, converting just 34.4 percent of third down attempts (27th). Moving the chains, in fact, has been a struggle all year. Piling up just19.2 first downs per contest, Denver faced off against just one team (Vikings) with fewer on the year. Nevertheless, coach Gary Kubiak's bunch tends to give just enough every game to compliment arguably the league's best defense.

Denver's D is one of the most high-quality in recent memory, allowing just 4.5 yards per play, tops in the NFL. It's first in the league at stopping both the run and the pass with 3.3 and 5.7 yards per attempt, respectively. 

But facing better-than-average running teams has been the one of the franchise's tiny blemishes. All four of Denver's defeats (4-4 SU, 2-5-1 ATS ) occurred against squads rushing for more than 4.0 yards on the ground per carry entering a matchup. Against run games accruing less, the Broncos are 9-0 SU and  5-3-1 against the Super Bowl odds. In addition to perhaps a more effecting running game presenting a balanced attack to keep coordinator Wade Phillip's defense honest, Denver's time of possession decreases by roughly three minutes a contest against said foes. Less control of the ball means less points per game for Manning and company: 23.6 to 20.9. The Panthers power running game and read-option offense enter the championship tilt putting up 4.27 per carry. 

 

Carolina Panthers (17-1 SU, 13-5 ATS)
Dating back to October 2013, Ron Rivera's men are 28-2 SU (19-10-1 ATS) when kicking off the betting favorites. They take care of business when expected too.

Carolina enter with the No. 1 scoring offense in the league with 32 points on .487 points per play.
Its 3.8 touchdowns per game ranks first in the league, as Newton's crew is the best at making it count inside the red zone with a 70 percent TD rate inside the 20-yard line. 

The Panthers are tops in the NFL in other key categories too, including the turnover game. They top the league with a +1.6 margin, fueled by their 2.7 takeaways per game. The swarming pass defense picked it off every four percent of opposing QB dropbacks, again tops. They may rattle the 2015 turnover-prone version of Manning, especially if Denver finds itself coming from behind and asked to stretch the field. 

If high-efficiency run teams are Denver's weak spot, then heavily pass-centric teams are Carolina's when it comes to covering the number. Squaring off against offenses that have a pass-to-rush ratio over 1.52, the Panthers are 1-5 ATS (Saints twice, Colts, Falcons, Giants). Rivera's defense rolled over in almost all of these contests late. It was possibly fatigued and unable to harass the QB, or unable to keep up in the secondary, or bitten by playing in prevent mode. Whatever the case, Carolina allowed an average of 11.8 fourth quarter points against these teams. Denver leans on the pass slightly (1.42), but one wonders if Manning has the arm strength and late-game stamina to march up and down the field if a rally is needed. 

 

Final Analysis
I'm keeping my Super Bowl play small. I like Carolina to win, but the number (-4) is tough to lay against the league's most efficient defense. Nevertheless, if Carolina can jump on the Broncos early, Manning and company may find it incredibly difficult to come back. The Panthers dropped 27 points or more in all but one of their last 16 games and own a 13-2-3 record in the first half. I'll eat the points. Take the Panthers as your NFL pick.

comment here