During the 2015 season, the Redskins fed off of the role of being underdogs. They played the “no respect” card, one that was well earned due to their 7-25 record the previous two seasons, all the way to a 9-7 record and the NFC East title.
Using perceived disrespect as added motivation is common in sports and it’s not surprising to see both Super Bowl participants trying to claim underdog status.
The actual underdogs in this game are the Broncos. The Panthers were set as 3.5-point favorites immediately after they demolished the Cardinals in the NFC championship game. Money coming in on Carolina has pushed them up to being six-point favorites.
That’s fine with Broncos safety T. J. Ward. “We feed off the underdog role,” he said. “It sounds clichéd but I feel like every time challengers knock on the door or the media says what we can’t do, we always answer the challenge. I’m eager to get to Sunday.”
The Broncos were underdogs the last time they played and it worked out just fine. The Patriots were three-point road favorites in the AFC title game and the home team held on for a 20-18 win to advance to the Super Bowl.
“That’s kinda been our identity all season,” cornerback Chris Harris said. “We’ve been underdogs quite a bit this season, more than I have been since I’ve been with the Broncos. We use that all as motivation. I saw on TV that 96 percent of the world thinks we’re going to lose, so you buy into those things and use them as motivation.”
The Panthers went 17-1 this year and they have rarely been underdogs lately. But when you look back to the start of the season, opinions of the team were not that high. After all, they had won the NFC South in 2014 with a 7-8-1 record and they were 60-1 longshots to win the Super Bowl.
As a result, the players think they have something to prove. “You can’t take that chip off our shoulder,” Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson said. “That’s something that’s permanent.”
This may all seem like silly posturing but maybe there is some advantage to being an underdog. The team that was the betting favorite going in has won just two of the last eight Super Bowls.