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Winning Points Super Bowl Forecast, Side and Total

Denver over Carolina by 3

(Santa Clara, CA)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is going to be pleased with a happy fairy tale
ending. Conspiracy theorists will have their say about what they will perceive as a
preordained staged coronation for NFL royalty and Madison Ave. poster child Peyton Manning. Do you believe in miracles? No. Storybook endings are another matter, though. So just like John Elway riding off into the sunset with a Super Bowl victory 18 years ago for Denver, Peyton Manning will do the same thing in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California capping off his Hall of Fame career just like his boss did. It’s Manning, the purist, not Cam Newton, the entertainer, who gets the last dance backed by one of the most dominant defenses of all-time considering the inflated, offensive-skewed rules of this era. Newton is the most dynamic force in football with his combination of passing and running skills that accounted for 45 touchdowns in the regular season – including a league-best 25 touchdowns in the red zone with no interceptions – and another five scores in playoff victories against the Seahawks and Cardinals. Arizona’s defense wasn’t Super Bowl worthy. Denver’s defense is. It’s the best in the NFL finishing No. 1 in total defense, pass defense and sacks. Carolina’s defense is good, too. The Panthers win by coming up with the football: 39 takeaways for a league-best plus 20 turnover ratio. No other team had better than a plus 14 ratio. The bad news for the Panthers in their devastating 49-15 NFC title game win against the Cardinals – which is a cause for some line inflation – is a broken arm suffered by strongside linebacker Thomas Davis and an eye injury to safety Roman Harper. Keep in mind the Panthers already are down two starting defensive backs – Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere. This has forced the Panthers to make do with with a pair of late-season street players, over-the-hill Cortland Finnegan and Robert McClain. Neither was even playing football at Thanksgiving. Veteran pass rusher Jared Allen also may not be ready after sitting out against Arizona. Davis was playing as well if not better than any Carolina defender. Denver lost its safeties, T.J. Ward (knee) and Darian Stewart (ankle), during its 20-18 AFC championship victory against New England. Both vow to be ready for the Super Bowl. It’s easier to believe they will play than Davis. This is Newton’s first Super Bowl and second for the Panthers, who fell to the Patriots, 32-29, in the 2003 Super Bowl. Denver reaches the Super Bowl for a record-tying eighth time. The Broncos last were there just two seasons ago laying an egg in a 43-8 loss to Seattle. It is the Broncos and Manning, though, making history by qualifying. The 39-year-old Manning – less than two months from turning 40 – who surpasses Denver general manager Elway as the oldest starting Super Bowl quarterback. The Broncos finished second-to-last in passer ratings this season. Manning was 34th out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks. No Super Bowl team ever entered the matchup with this bad of a quarterback statistic. Manning’s arm is shot. It’s almost painful to watch him throw downfield these days. But his wisdom, experience, game-managing skills are unmatched. Back him with a dominant defense – one that doesn’t need takeaways to stop an opponent – a hot running back in C.J. Anderson and better wide receivers than the opposition with Demaryious Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and Denver can spring the upset. The regular season statistics show these ghastly numbers next to Manning’s name: 17 interceptions compared to just nine touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of 67.9 when the league average was a record 88.4. But Manning is savvy and wise enough to avoid throwing at shutdown cornerback Josh Norman while not taking a chance on turnovers trusting his stud defense that shut down Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger during their last two games holding the Patriots and Steelers to a combined average of 17 points and a total of three touchdowns. Brady had one of his finest seasons of his storied career, but was held to a season-low 56.4 quarterback rating by Denver. Manning looked his healthiest in months posting a 103.8 quarterback rating during the first half of the Broncos’ win over the Patriots. Manning also didn’t turn the ball over for the third consecutive game. Another key factor for Denver is Anderson putting together a hot streak following a disappointing regular season. Anderson has rushed for 312 yards on 55 carries in his last four games, an average of 5.6 yards a carry. He’s at least Jonathan Stewart’s equal. Greg Olsen gives Carolina a top receiving tight end threat having hauled in 77 passes for a career-best 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns. Ted Ginn has stepped up nicely with big plays for the Panthers, but never has proven consistent. Newton’s wide receiving targets aren’t in the class of Thomas and Sanders. Manning isn’t hurting at tight end either with a pair of big-play veterans, Owen Daniels and Vernon Davis, who has the potential to make an impact with his deep speed. Denver shutting down Brady and the Patriots was as impressive as the Panthers blowing out the Cardinals by 34 points. Denver has recent Super Bowl experience. Other than beating the Seahawks, the Panthers haven’t defeated a winning team away from home. Carolina’s other road victories were achieved against Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Dallas, New Orleans and the New York Giants. The Panthers lost to Atlanta, 20-13, the last time they were away from Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers are an unsteady favorite. They nearly blew second-half leads to the Colts, Packers and Giants during the regular season and almost choked away a 31-0 halftime lead against the Seahawks in their opening playoff game before winning, 31-24, after recovering a late on-side kick. Point being this Super Bowl is about two closely-matched opponents so we’ll side with the one getting the points and has the better defense. Denver is a perfect 5-0 against the spread as an underdog, winning four of those games straight-up beating the Chiefs, Packers and Patriots twice. The underdog is 6-1 ATS in the last eight Super Bowls grading last year’s Seahawks-Patriots matchup as a pick. This game isn’t likely to be pretty. It rarely is with the Broncos. They’ve won an NFL-record 11 regular-season and postseason games by seven points or fewer. It’s difficult to grasp that Manning has gone from all-time great to being just a glorified game manager. But run-oriented Denver coach Gary Kubiak was astute enough to grasp that concept. Pride trumps ego. Manning wants to go out a winner in what sure looks to be his final rodeo. He’s smart enough to make it work by setting up his defense – not the other way around. That’s the Broncos’ winning formula. DENVER 23-20.

Let’s face it. If the Broncos are going to upset the Panthers, it’s
not going to be a shootout style game. The Broncos are an under team. The Panthers are an over team. This is very clear. The under is 11-6-1 in Denver’s matchups this season, while the over is 12-5-1 in Carolina’s games. So given the spread being above a field a Carolina and over parlay has some merit as does a Denver and under parlay if you prefer the Broncos as we do. The Panthers have scored 27 or more points in 15 of their last 16 games. They’ve scored 38 or more points in five of their past seven games. Those are darn impressive numbers. So the Panthers have some justification in feeling their offense hasn’t gotten the full respect it deserves. Cam Newton is a definite MVP. But this is his first Super Bowl. Accuracy isn’t his strong point. Will he be tight? The Broncos yielded an NFL-low 283.1 yards per game and a fourth-lowest 18.5 points per contest. Wade Phillips easily can take his place among
the great defensive coordinators of all-time. He has two weeks to game plan and get his starting safeties healthy. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are monster pass rushers. The Panthers thrive on creating turnovers. Peyton Manning was a turnover machine during the regular season, but hasn’t committed any in his two postseason victories. He’s certainly smart enough not beat himself especially when backed by an elite defense.


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