Metro shows you how the Panthers and Broncos stack up then tells you where to place your bets.

Carolina Panthers (-6) vs. Denver Broncos

Super Bowl 50 takes place at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Sunday and promises to be a fantastic game. The Panthers come into this tilt red-hot having dismantled the Seahawks and Cardinals in consecutive weeks, while the Broncos have scraped by the Steelers and Patriots in two tense back-to-back contests. As a result, the Panthers have been set by oddsmakers as sizeable favorites.  

Interestingly, this is the third straight season that the top seeds from each conference will face each other in the Super Bowl. The top seeds have faced each other 11 times in Super Bowl history, with the NFC winning eight of those matchups and the betting favorite going 8-3 ATS. Those trends favor Carolina, but banking on those trends would be like betting on black in roulette because it came up red five straight times; it isn’t really predictive.

Carolina can certainly win this game but it won’t be a cakewalk. Denver’s number-one ranked defense that gave Tom Brady and the Patriots fits on Jan. 24 could hold the Panthers in check too, though Carolina presents a vastly different challenge. The Panthers had the best offense in football this year based on the strength of their run game, which averages 148 YPG. By contrast, New England couldn’t run the ball at all, and Brady was hit 20 times after dropping back over 50 times. Cam Newton is far more mobile than Brady, so even if his significantly-better offensive line can’t hold the Broncos at bay (the Panthers allowed only 61 QB hits in the regular season compared to New England’s 97 QB hits), Newton can evade the pressure and keep the ball moving. If Jonathan Stewart can’t move the chains on the ground, then Newton can find TE Greg Olsen downfield, just as Brady found TE Rob Gronkowski early and often against the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game (Gronkowski finished with 8 receptions and 144 yards, including two crucial catches in the Patriots’ final possession). The Broncos’ defense is great at causing turnovers, but the Panthers don’t often make mistakes; they have the best turnover ratio in the league at +20.

On the other side of the ball, the Broncos’ offense has been moribund all year, and they’ve struggled to move the ball in the postseason as well. Peyton Manning threw for just 176 yards in the AFC Championship Game and struggled visually as he missed several golden opportunities due to inaccurate passes. Manning didn’t throw any INTs in that game but he threw 17 passes to the other team in just 10 regular season games this year, and the Panthers led the league in INTs with 24; that is a recipe for disaster. Once Carolina’s elite run stoppers shut down C.J. Anderson, Manning will have to drop back behind his shaky offensive line (which allowed 97 QB hits in the regular season) and will be forced into mistakes.

Denver’s defense will keep this game from getting out of hand, but the Panthers will ultimately prove that they are the better team. Lay the points with Carolina.

Predicted Final Score: Panthers 27 – Broncos 16

The pick: Panthers -6