The first-ever playoff meeting between Carolina and Denver on Super Bowl Sunday is all about the two quarterbacks, Cam Newton and Peyton Manning. But there are underrated players on each side who could decide the winner. Here are some with MVP odds.
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos Receiver
Sanders is a very good player, priced at +2200 on Bovada's NFL odds to win Super Bowl 50 MVP honors, and I'm only including him on this list because Sanders is generally overshadowed on his own team by Demaryius Thomas, who got that massive new extension this past summer. Over the past four seasons, Thomas has 402 receptions for 5,787 yards. Those are both second in the NFL over that span to Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown. Thomas led the team with 176 targets, 105 receptions and 1,304 touchdowns this season. But Thomas also has had a problem with drops all year and he hasn't been as productive with Peyton Manning under center because Manning has little arm strength these days. Thomas has done very little in the two playoff wins, catching four balls for 40 yards vs. Pittsburgh and two for just 12 against New England. It's likely that Carolina puts Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman on Thomas, meaning Sanders could see more targets. Sanders, who caught 76 passes for 1,135 yards and six scores during the season, has been targeted eight times in each of the two playoff games and caught five in each. Manning has four touchdowns with two picks while targeting Sanders this season. And over the past two seasons, the Broncos have gained over a yard per target more on passes thrown his way than on passes intended for Thomas.
Owen Daniels, Broncos Tight End
Daniels is another guy who could thrive if Carolina puts its main focus on slowing Thomas. Daniels is +6600 on Super Bowl picks to win Super Bowl 50 MVP honors and no tight end ever has won the game's MVP. Daniels caught 46 balls for 517 yards and three scores in the regular season. He has had only two catches in each of the two playoff wins, but both were for touchdowns in the AFC title game against New England as Daniels burned Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins twice. He'll be guarded by a linebacker most of the time in Super Bowl 50 as well. Do you know that Daniels has never played for a coach other than Gary Kubiak? Wherever Kubiak lands, he makes sure that team signs Daniels.
Sylvester Williams, Broncos Defensive Tackle
Williams is part of the field to win Super Bowl 50 MVP at +3300. I can't say I think Williams will win MVP honors because he's not the type of defensive lineman to put up crazy tackles or sack numbers like Houston's J.J. Watt, for example. Williams plays on the nose and wasn't used a lot against New England because the Patriots usually don't even bother trying to run the ball. Carolina definitely will be running it often as the Panthers ranked No. 2 in the NFL in rushing offense. Denver was No. 3 against the rush in large part due to Williams, who usually takes up two blockers in the middle.
Mike Tolbert, Panthers Fullback
Tolbert was among 10 Panthers named to this season's Pro Bowl, although obviously none of them played in last Sunday's game. Few teams use a fullback much if at all these days, but the Panthers are a power running team and Tolbert does much of the dirty work ahead of the tailbacks. He played in every game and rushed 62 times for 256 yards and a score while catching 18 passes for 154 yards and three TDs. If the Panthers are facing a key short-yardage down, the ball might go to Tolbert. He has four conversions in six tries on third-and-1 or fourth-and-1 this season . This could be Tolbert's final game in Carolina as he's set to become a free agent. Tolbert is +15000 to win Super Bowl MVP honors.
Corey Brown, Panthers Receiver
One reason why not much was expected of Carolina this season -- it had a wins total of 8.5 at most online sportsbooks -- was what looked like a terrible receiving group after the loss of No. 1 Kelvin Benjamin to a season-ending injury in training camp. Brown, in his second season out of Ohio State, was one guy who stepped up. He caught 31 passes for 447 yards and four scores. OK, not all that great. But he also had an 86-yard TD catch-and-run in the NFC title game rout of Arizona. You can bet the Panthers will try at least one deep one with the speedster against the excellent Broncos secondary. Brown is +6600 to win Super Bowl MVP at Bovada.
Kurt Coleman, Panthers Safety
While Josh Norman gets all the publicity in the Carolina secondary, Coleman does it all back there. With teams largely avoiding Norman, Coleman had seven interceptions in the regular season, tied for second in the NFL. He also added 90 tackles and is good against the run. Coleman had eight tackles in the divisional-round win over Seattle and four more against Arizona along with two interceptions. Coleman, a seventh-round pick out of Ohio State in 2010, is +15000 to win Super Bowl MVP.