Get the beers on ice and stick a few extra gold discs in your online account – this is what it has all been leading up to. Ever since Malcolm Butler intercepted that Russell Wilson pass a year ago every NFL team has been aiming to be playing in this game. Denver upset the Patriots with a very solid defensive display and stopping a 2 point conversion attempt with seconds left to roll out 20-18 winners and the Panthers embarrassed the Cardinals in a totally one-sided 49-15 win to make it here. I’m willing to bet there weren’t many people picked these two teams to make the Super Bowl, I didn’t even have the Panthers winning the NFC South!
I might look foolish now after Carolina put up 500 points on their way to a 15-1 record but I don’t think many people managed to predict most of the eventual division winners did they? Hands up who thought the Colts had a chance to win the Super Bowl? Keep them up if you thought Green Bay did? Of course neither side made it but neither side won their division either! And what about the damn Redskins? Go on, hands up again. I want to count who had Washington to win the NFC East! I did have the Broncos winning the AFC West but was tempted to go with Kansas City. After week 6 I was counting my blessings on that but boy did they turn it round?
Anyway, after all the fun and games of the regular season and a few weeks of playoff football to settle who will play in THE game of the year we have the Pro Bowl. A game where a whole bunch of the best players turn up for an exhibition game. Well, some of the best players turn up, a lot of them are on the Panthers or Broncos teams so didn’t show. A lot of others just decide not to bother so instead of Aaron Rodgers you end up with Teddy Bridgewater or Tyrod Taylor. Anyway, for taking part the players on the winning team get $55k a piece and the losing team get $28k a go. So in theory these players get a chance to go to Hawaii and see how much coconut milk they can fit into an NFL helmet and STILL go home 28 grand richer! Anyway, one team won and well done etc etc… what’s going on for the Super Bowl?
Sunday February 8th – 11.30pm
Carolina are 5.5 point favourites after being 3.5 early doors as a whole lot of people jumped on the Panthers to end this fantastic season with the Lombardi. I’d go with caution before wildly jumping on the Panthers, remember just 2 years ago when the Broncos were last in the Super Bowl and were favoured to beat out the Seahawks after Manning was blowing offensive records out all season long. He started that game by staring dumb-founded as the very first snap of the game sailed over his head and into the end-zone for a Seahawks safety. That game ended 43-8 to Seattle. Strange things can happen in a Super Bowl (1 yard line – don’t give the ball to Marshawn Lynch) and sometimes defence can win the game. Denver have had a crushing defence all year long and they proved it against New England. They harassed and beat up Brady all game long to make it here and have done so all season long. This week though, it may be trickier for Denver to be quite so dominant on defence on two fronts;
1: The Patriots didn’t have much of a running game all year, in fact in the Broncos game Brady was the top rusher with a heady 13 yards! Carolina definitely have a running game.
2: Brady is a pocket passer, Newton is not.
Denver knew they could play rush the passer all day against Brady and so long as the DB’s could stay in coverage for about 3 seconds they had the Patriots over a barrel. The Panthers o-line is much stronger than the Patriots so for a start Newton should have more time to find an open receiver. When the pocket starts to collapse, if the ball hasn’t been tossed then Newton will take off. And when he takes off it’s like having a spare LeSean McCoy or Adrian Peterson on the team. Newton is a big guy who doesn’t scamper like a lot of rushing quarterbacks. There’s a reason he has 10 touchdowns from the regular season before adding another pair against the Cardinals. Denver will have a much tougher set of match-ups to contend with in this game with Carolina’s varied offence so the threat of big plays is higher than it was a fortnight ago. I have a feeling Denver might not be as dominant at the line of scrimmage here and might struggle to get big sack numbers on Newton. It isn’t impossible; Von Miller is a nightmare to stop and was cutting through the Patriots o-line like a hot knife through butter. The Broncos will also want to keep pretty tight in coverage and hope for a few takeaways, they picked off Brady twice and have been pretty handy most of the rest of the year too.
The other side of the equation is the Denver offence and whether or not a 39 year old Manning can lead this side to enough points. Coming off a terrible season so far and yet more injuries will only make a tough job even tougher! We all know why Manning was benched in that game against the Chiefs shortly after he broke the record for all-time passing yards and it is something he’ll need to be extra wary of against Carolina. The Panthers have been experts in takeaways this year. They’ve even got a sign made up for their nickname – Thief Street. I would imagine Denver will run a fairly balanced attack thanks to their fairly solid ground game mixed up with the usual array of shorter passes the Broncos have been relying on this season. The longer pass seems to have almost vanished from the repertoire, probably due to a combination of depleted arm strength from Manning and a whole host of dropped passes from the receiving corps. Demaryius Thomas will be hoping for a big game with his mother not long out of prison and what better way to welcome her home than getting a score in the Super Bowl?
Injuries shouldn’t be too much of an issue with the extra week off between games but the Panthers do have a question mark over linebacker Thomas Davis. He is determined to play despite breaking his right forearm in the 2nd quarter against Arizona. It’s certainly do-able but it will really restrict his ability to push off players and I can’t imagine how painful it would be to play any position with an actual broken bone!
How will all this break down then? I urged caution before lumping on the Panthers and I still do, but it’s hard to bet against this Panthers team, especially after they carved through the Cardinals. I know Arizona helped them along with 7 turnovers in that game but Carolina are good at getting takeaways and taking full advantage of them. They’re generally around 10/11 on the -5.5 spread and 4/9 on the moneyline. If you think Denver can pull off the upset they’re being offered around at 2/1 with a few bookies.
Super Bowl gambling is brilliant and I have a friend who joins me every year by having a flutter. While I like breaking down the game and what I think might happen to try and extract good value bets my friend prefers to go with some of the, ahem, other markets available. This year he might be looking at the colour of the Gatorade that gets dumped (Orange is the favourite at 5/6, if you’re a danger hound aim for green at 18/1) or perhaps one of the 5 (FIVE?!) markets being offered on the coin toss. It’s so ridiculous I’ll break it down. All options are offered at 20/21 with Betvictor;
You can pick the outcome yourself.
Pick the team to win the coin toss.
Will the player calling the toss call heads or tails?
Will the player calling it get the call right?
More ridiculously… will the team that wins the toss win the game?
There are other regular markets to bet on as well of course, the MVP one is a favourite. Newton is the favourite at 4/6 with Manning next in line at 7/2. If you fancy Jonathan Stewart to have a breakout game he’s offered at 16/1 or perhaps Von Miller will destroy Cam and return a pair of forced fumbles to win the game – he’s 20/1. The first defensive TD to be a pick six at 9/2 looks decent value. Fancy Denver to muff another snap? A safety to be scored is 10/1.
Good luck with any bets folks, enjoy the game and remember. Drink irresponsibly – you only live once!!