Jeff went 3-1 in the Championship round as he had winners on the Panthers, Broncos/Patriots under and Panthers/Cardinals over. His only loss came on the Patriots. Jeff finished the week at plus 100 units. Jeremy went 1-3 as he nailed the Panthers/Cardinals over, but came up short with the Patriots, Cardinals and Broncos/Patriots over. Jeremy finished the week down 200 units. Jeff currently has a 610 unit lead in our playoff-long contest. Can the Panthers cap off a stellar one-loss season with a Super Bowl victory? Will Peyton Manning win his second Super Bowl in what will most likely be his last game of his career? Let's get to the picks for Super Bowl Sunday.
Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers (-6)
Jeff: The Broncos sprung the upset 20-18 as a two point attempt by the Patriots with twelve seconds left in the game was unsuccessful. The Broncos defense was key to this victory as they put a tremendous amount of pressure on QB Tom Brady. The Panthers blew out the Cardinals as they had no answer for QB Cam Newton. Newton finished the game with 335 yards passing and two touchdowns. He also gained 47 yards on the ground and rushed for two touchdowns. The pair of number one seeds now meets in San Francisco to determine who will be the next Super Bowl Champion. This line opened with the Panthers as a three and a half to four point favorite in most places, and quickly shot up to six where it sits now. The public isn't giving Denver much of a shot in this matchup with all the action siding with the Panthers. The Broncos used their underdog role against the Patriots as motivation. I expect them to do the same here as they'll be out to prove all the critics wrong. The Broncos will need a tremendous effort on both sides of the ball if they expect to win this game, but I think they'll be up for this challenge. QB Peyton Manning will look to the short to mid-range passing game to the move the ball down the field. The offensive line will have to play well here as it is crucial to give him time to throw. The Broncos will want to get the running game going with RB C.J. Anderson and RB Ronnie Hillman. They'll have to run the ball with effectiveness if they expect to come away victorious. On the other side of the ball, the Broncos’ defense will need to contain QB Cam Newton. They can't afford to allow Newton to beat them with his legs while picking up key first downs. Getting pressure on him is critical to avoid Newton getting into any type of rhythm with his receivers. Having two weeks to prepare for this offense is a huge plus from a Broncos’ perspective. They have a great defensive coaching staff that will devise a plan to slow down this Panthers’ offensive attack. In a game that will be a lot closer than people think, look for this contest to be decided by a field goal either way. The Broncos are a solid 17-4 ATS in their last twenty-one games with two weeks or more of rest.
Pick: Broncos +6, 125 units
Jeremy: The Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos square off in Super Bowl 50 in a matchup of quarterbacks on different ends of the career spectrum. Peyton Manning and the Broncos held on for a 20-18 win over the Patriots last week while Cam Newton led the Panthers to a 49-15 rout of the Cardinals. In addition to the quarterbacks, this game features two of the best defenses in the NFL. Denver had the top overall defense in the league as they were the only team to allow less than 200 total yards per game. The Panthers ranked 6th and allowed just over 19 points per game. In addition to a stingy defense, Carolina also has the league's highest-scoring offense in both the regular season (31.3 PPG) and in the postseason where they have averaged 40 PPG in wins over the 2nd and 6th ranked defenses. The Panthers’ offense should be at full force for this game as RB Jonathan Stewart has been a full participant in practice after being limited the last several weeks with foot and ankle injuries. I'm expecting Denver's defense to try to contain the Panthers’ running game and force Newton to stay in the pocket and beat them with his arm. In order to do this he will once again rely on TE Greg Olsen who has been his favorite target all year hauling in 77 passes for over 1,100 yards. Denver ranked 23rd in the league against tight ends and was torched last week for 144 yards and a touchdown by Rob Gronkowski. The Broncos could be even more susceptible as safety T.J. Ward continues to deal with an ankle injury. On offense, the Broncos will look to Manning to do what he does best, orchestrate the game and find holes in the Panthers’ defense. Their running game, led by C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, will have to carry most of the load as Manning will struggle to move the ball through the air against Carolina's ball hawking secondary. Denver's defense will be good but facing a better offensive line than last week and without the home crowd noise, they won't be able to put the same amount of pressure on Newton as they did Tom Brady. This will certainly not be a blowout but I do ultimately see Carolina getting the win as they are the more balanced team with the hottest player in the NFL. Carolina is 11-4 ATS in their last 15 games while Denver is 1-3-2 in their last six. Historically, favorites in the Super Bowl are 26-20-2 ATS. I like Carolina to cover in this one.
Pick: Panthers -6, 200 units
Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers (Total points: 45.5)
Jeff: The Broncos’ defense was on full display during their upset victory over the Patriots. They were able to slow down one of the most explosive offenses in the league as they held them to 18 points. The Panthers’ defense is also a tremendous unit that makes it difficult for opposing offenses. Both units put a ton of pressure on the opposing quarterback forcing them to get rid of the ball sooner than they'd like. I can see both offenses playing conservatively early trying to avoid a big turnover which will feed into a low-scoring initial part of the game. I think both offenses will find it tough to move the ball at times. During the regular season both teams were very stingy when it came to points allowed per game. The Broncos only gave up 18.5/game while the Panthers only yielded 19.3/game. Both teams also finished in the top six of the league in yards allowed per game as the Broncos let up 283.1/game and the Panthers 322.9/game. Throw in the mix that both units have had two weeks to prepare for this game and it bodes well for this contest being relatively low-scoring. In the end, look for this game's total to finish in the low forties while staying under the posted total as I'm predicting a final score of 23-20 either way.
Pick: Under 45.5 points, 175 units
Jeremy: The Super Bowl between Carolina and Denver features two strong running games and two excellent defenses. As mentioned above, Carolina has averaged 40 PPG during the playoffs and the two week break only gave their offense more time to get healthy. The break also will help Peyton Manning who has shown he performs better after some time off. I don't expect him to complete many passes deep but he should be able to utilize his short game especially with some swing passes to his running backs. Denver has scored 21.5 PPG during the postseason and despite his struggles during the regular season, Manning has yet to throw an interception. This won't be an aggressive aerial attack as in the past but I do see the Broncos reaching that average in this one. Cam Newton and the Panthers have shown an ability to score against any team anywhere in many different ways. 11 different players have scored offensive touchdowns for the Panthers, led by Cam Newton who has accounted for 45 passing and rushing touchdowns. This game also showcases two of the league's highest scoring defenses. Denver ranked third and Carolina 7th in defensive scoring which creates a high likelihood there will be a fumble or interception returned for a TD. Total points have gone over the posted total in 12 of Carolina's last 16 games. All time, there is a slight edge on the over in Super Bowls as 25 of 48 of the games with a posted total have gone over. This won’t be a high-scoring shootout, but I do expect it to go over the total with a defensive touchdown or two pushing the score over the posted number of 45.5.
Pick: Over 45.5 points, 75 units
Prop Bet #1: C.J. Anderson rushing attempts (Total rushing attempts: 13.5)
Jeff: The Broncos’ key to success besides a strong defense is establishing the run. RB C.J. Anderson and RB Ronnie Hillman have split carries for a good portion of the season. However, Anderson has outperformed and out-snapped Hillman throughout the playoffs. I think the Broncos’ coaching staff knows that in order to defeat the Panthers they must be effective on the ground which means feeding the more productive back which is Anderson. Anderson has eclipsed 13.5 carries in each of the last three games. Look for that to continue on Sunday versus the Panthers.
Pick: Over 13.5 carries for C.J. Anderson, 50 units
Prop Bet #2: Jonathan Stewart rushing yards (Total rushing yards: 68.5)
Jeff: The Panthers will also lean heavily on the running game like they have all season long. RB Jonathan Stewart has been tremendous in the playoffs especially since he has gone up against two excellent rush defenses in the Seahawks and Cardinals. In those two games, Stewart amassed 189 yards on the ground while averaging a little under five yards a carry. Stewart now faces another solid rush defense in the Broncos. There's no reason to believe that if Stewart gets his normal dose of carries (averages roughly 18-19 carries/game) that he can't exceed this rushing total. If Stewart gets 19 carries he only needs to average 3.6 yards/carry to win this prop.
Pick: Over 68.5 rushing yards for Jonathan Stewart, 50 units
Prop Bet #3: Will either team make a field goal in the fourth quarter?
Jeremy: The Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos possess two of the best placekickers in the league. Carolina's Graham Gano and Denver's Brandon McManus tied for 5th in field goals made. Gano ranked 2nd in the league in scoring while McManus ranked 10th. In a game which is likely to go back and forth several times, the kicking game could play a prominent role, especially late. 18 of the 60 combined field goals between these two kickers have come in the fourth quarter. With scoring at a premium, I expect at least one coach to use one of these weapons to gain the upper hand late in the game.
Pick: One of the teams will make a field goal in the fourth quarter, 75 units
Prop Bet #4: Will the Broncos score a rushing Touchdown?
Jeremy: With Peyton Manning under center late in the year and in the playoffs, the Broncos have leaned on their running game and defense to win games. C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman have led the charge and combined for 12 rushing touchdowns during the regular season although they only have one so far this postseason. Of Denver's 32 regular season offensive touchdowns, 13 have been on the ground. With one of the most dangerous secondaries in the NFL, Carolina has intercepted opposing quarterbacks 30 times combined in the regular season and postseason. They have also allowed the 5th fewest passing touchdowns which will force Denver to use their running backs even more, especially in the red zone as Carolina clamps down over the top. Look for Anderson or Hillman to punch one in on the ground.
Pick: The Broncos will score a rushing touchdown, 50 units