National Football League

Super Bowl 50 Won’t be the Blowout You Might Expect

I’m not going to write an intro. People don’t read them.

Ever go to Ever read an intro? Of course not. After clicking the headline “Taking Up These 10 Hobbies Will Make You Smarter,” all you want to do is check how many hobbies on the list are things that you’re already doing.

peyton manning
Sunday will mark Manning’s fourth career Super Bowl appearance.

When you realize you don’t do any of them, you declare the article a comic use of buffoonery that’s unworthy for even the internet. Then you go back to Facebook, where you click on, “30 Striking Images You Won’t Believe Are 100% Real” and the sick cycle continues.

So, no intro. Let’s do this thing already. Here’s why Super Bowl 50 won’t be the blowout many expect.

Peyton doesn’t have to be great for four quarters.

Peyton Manning is receiving plenty of attention ahead of Super Bowl 50, and for good reason. This could be his final game and if he could win one more Super Bowl then he’ll further cement his legacy as one of the best ever. (Notice how I said “further cement his legacy” – the guy is already a legend.)

But Manning is also drawing negative attention as everyone highlights his limitations. His arm is shot, he can’t throw deep, he throws to many uncatchable balls, he can’t play in cold weather, he can’t play if it’s windy, he can’t play if he didn’t get a good parking spot that morning, he can’t…

Manning isn’t the same quarterback he was even two years ago. But if his defense plays as well on Sunday as it has all season, then the game should be close in the second half. If C.J. Anderson and the running game get going, the Broncos will be able to sustain drives and keep Newton on the sidelines.

The bottom line is this: Manning doesn’t have to match Newton and the Panthers for four quarters. In fact, he can’t. If Carolina gets up big again in the first half, Gary Kubiak might as well insert Brock Osweiler because Manning isn’t going to orchestrate a comeback through the air.

But can Manning do what he did against the Steelers and Patriots? Can he put together two good drives to get the Broncos into the end zone? I think he can.

Play good defense, run the ball, don’t turn the ball over and put points on the board when they get into the red zone. That’s the Broncos’ formula for Sunday, just as it’s been over the last two games.

Denver has the athletes to counter defensively.

A mobile quarterback like Cam Newton forces defenses to account for them on every play because they’re a run threat. Defenders know where Tom Brady is going to be, but Newton essentially forces defenses to play 11-on-11.

But it’s not just Newton that makes Carolina’s run game so dangerous. They also have some of the most complex, yet dynamic run concepts in the league. They’re multiple in how they can attack you on the ground, whether it’s Newton on a read-option or rushing Stewart in Power-O.

Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the running game, Newton will use play-action out of a heavy set to hit Ted Ginn Jr. deep. Mike Shula, the architect of the offense, has emerged as a masterful play-caller this season.

But the Broncos didn’t reach the Super Bowl by accident. Think about it: They overcame a shuffling at quarterback, an inconsistent ground game, and a receiving corps that was prone to drops this season. Their defense wasn’t just good, it was great all season.

Opponents that try to spy Newton with a linebacker or attempt to hold the edge with a defensive end have often gotten burned (either by Newton himself or Stewart, who has run through gapping holes with defenders out of place). But not every defensive coordinator has an athletic edge player with the instincts and quickness to chase down Newton in open space. Wade Phillips does in Von Miller.

Phillips also understands that Miller and DeMarcus Ware can’t just pin their ears back and rush Newton like they did Brady in the AFC title game. If they do that, massive running lanes will emerge for the Panthers to exploit. Containing Newton in the pocket will be a bigger priority than pressuring him.

Phillips also knows that his defense will be at a numbers disadvantage if he tries to slow down Carolina with only his front seven. That’s why using T.J. Ward in run support can keep the scales even and give the Broncos an extra man in run support.

Of course, an 8-man box leaves the secondary vulnerable, but fortunately for Phillips the Broncos have three excellent corners in Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby. Linebackers Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan also did a tremendous job in coverage during the AFC title game, and free safety Darian Stewart came up with an interception as well.

Slowing down Carolina’s offense won’t be easy but Denver certainly has the pieces, as well as an experienced coordinator in Phillips that has seen everything that the Panthers will throw at him on Sunday.

Everyone is on Carolina.

When I say “everyone,” I of course don’t mean everyone in the free world. I mean most people. I mean 74% of betting tickets are on the Panthers to cover the 6 points on Sunday. Not just win: Cover the spread.

This isn’t a Week 6 game in Charlotte: This is the Super Bowl. The best of the best. Played on neutral sod. Yet 74% of the betting public is tripping over themselves to lay a touchdown (sans the extra point) in the biggest game of the year? Wow.

It was the same for the AFC Championship Game. Over 75% of wagers were on the Patriots to cover versus the Broncos. Granted, New England was only laying 3.5 points and not six like Carolina.

But the game was also in Denver. Had it been played in Foxboro, the Patriots would have been a 6.5 or 7-point favorite. The Panthers, meanwhile, are a 6-point favorite 2,677.9 miles from their own city and in the biggest game of the season.

People were convinced the Patriots would rout the Broncos. People were wrong. Vegas doesn’t make a habit of getting killed by one-sided action.

Thus, with everyone on the Panthers, coupled with the Broncos’ talent on defense, I’d take the six points with Denver if I were in Vegas on Sunday. I simply don’t see a blowout.

Read More: Miklasz – Enough Already About Cam Newton and Race. It’s All About Style