The last time Peyton Manning made it this far, he was the driving force behind the most prolific offense in NFL history. That’s not going to be the case in Super Bowl 50 when he lines up against the Carolina Panthers. Make no mistake – the reason that the Super Bowl 50 betting line favors the Carolina Panthers so strongly is because of Peyton Manning’s inability to be the same player that’s racked up so many wins and records.
The Panthers and Broncos ranked 6th and 4th respectively in points allowed during the 2015 campaign. Both have surpassed their regular season standards in the playoffs. Each team ranks 1st and 2nd in points allowed during the playoffs. Carolina’s given up just 19.5 points against in two games, while Denver has allowed 17.0 points on average against Pittsburgh and New England.
We could wax poetic about the differences between the defenses, but the fourth and long of it is that they’re both brilliant.
The bigger concern is the offensive disparity between the two teams. Denver ranked 19th in points gained with just 22.2 on average, while Carolina led the league in this category with a mind shattering 31.2 points per game.
I like looking at the general ability of a team to score points because it’s a flat metric. The advanced stats are great to a certain extent, and I appreciate them, so features like DVOA and team efficiency aren’t lost on me. Hell, I’ve been referencing them on a weekly basis. But points scored and points allowed are as bare bones as you get, especially when you’re looking at a betting spread. It’s a great place to start.
Perhaps the biggest curiosity is whether or not Denver is going to be able to score against this defense. Let’s let history help tell a story here so we can start to get a clearer sense of that Super Bowl 50 betting line.
I’ve dusted a few examples of when great defenses played each other in the Super Bowl, or when an average offense met a top end, point stopping unit. I’ve noted how each team ranked at the end of the regular season in terms of points scored and allowed below, and included notes as to why this reflects how you should bet the upcoming Super Bowl 50 line next weekend.
No matter which way you slice it, Denver’s defensive unit outranks Carolina’s and vice versa on the offensive side of the ball. That’s important to remember as you worm your way through this little journey.
SUPER BOWL XIX – San Francisco 49ers over Miami Dolphins 38-16
49ers – 2nd Scoring and 1st Defense
Dolphins – 1st Scoring and 7th Defense
Key Stat – Dan Marino attempted 50 passes to reach 318 yards
Let’s assume/agree that Carolina is going to do its job on offense and score points for the simple reason that their offensive line is miles and miles ahead of what Pittsburgh and New England had. The question now becomes: Can Peyton Manning deliver? This was Dan’s best season ever and he was just 23 years old. Asking Peyton to put his arm through that much work is unthinkable, but it’s happened. He threw 48 passes against Cleveland and 45 against Kansas City.
As much as we want to bag Peyton’s arm strength, this is going to be his last game. If anyone’s literally willing to leave his arm on the field, it’s Manning. But that’s the minimum work rate you can expect from Manning to make this game competitive, which is fine because he attempted 37 and 32 passes in the each of his playoff starts so far.
Super Bowl XXIV – San Francisco 49ers over Denver Broncos 55-10
49ers – 1st Scoring and 3rd Defense
Broncos – 8th Scoring and 1st Defense
Key Stat – Elway threw a very “2015 Peyton Manning” Game
This is to remind you that flood gates can open at any time. Joe Montana’s 49ers were one of the finest offenses ever built, and they ripped the heart out of Denver and never looked back. Elway threw 10-of-26 completions for just 108 yards and 2 picks, which allowed Gary Kubiak to come in and play garbage time in a championship game. This game is ominous for Denver because of the guys involved (GM Elway and coach Kubiak).
SUPER BOWL XXV – New York Giants over Buffalo Bills 20-19
Giants – 15th Scoring and 1st Defense
Bills – 1st Scoring and 6th Defense
Key Stat – Does “wide right” count as a stat?
Offensively, the Giants weren’t anything special. They ranked 22nd in passing and 15th in rushing, while scoring just 20.9 points per game. But their defense was out of this world.
Buffalo should’ve won this game. This is one of those cases where defense wins championships, but luck had everything to do with the final outcome. If Denver’s defense is truly capable of shutting down Carolina, it might just come down to the kickers. McManus’s longest is 57 yards, and Gano has arguably been the best kicker this season.
SUPER BOWL XXXV – Baltimore Ravens over New York Giants 34-7
Ravens – 31st Scoring / 1st Defense
Giants – 27th Scoring / 5th Defense
Key Stat – Kerry Collins and Trent Dilfer combined for 275 passing yards
If there’s any proof that a defense can absolutely carry a corpse at quarterback, it’s this game. Kerry Collins was garbage, and Trent Dilfer is about a hundred-times better as an analyst. But the hope then hinges on playing a team that has a similar problem. Did we mention that Cam is going to be the MVP of the season?
SUPER BOWL XXXVII – Tampa Bay Bucs over Oakland Raiders 48-21
Bucs – 18th Scoring and 1st Defense
Raiders – 2nd Scoring and 6th Defense
Key Stat – The offense scored the first 27 points for Tampa
One of those Super Bowls that people dismiss because of the overriding x-factor that was Jon Gruden coaching against his former team. Like Super Bowl XXIV, turnovers killed any momentum for the losing team and a desperate Gannon was victimized by Tampa over and over again.
The thing is that Brad Johnson went to fucking work in the first half. He set up two field goals, a touchdown run by Mike Alstott, and threw a pair of touchdowns to Keenan McCardell to put Tampa up 27-3 while the defense obliterated Gannon and the Raiders. Everyone pretends that Tampa’s defense did everything in this game – and they did a lot – but Johnson deserves some credit.
Unlike the Ravens-Giants game, Oakland should have had a clear advantage at quarterback. Gannon was the league MVP. Is this a bad time to mention that Cam is going to be the MVP of the season?
SUPER BOWL XL – Pittsburgh Steelers over Seattle Seahawks 21-10
Seahawks – 1st Scoring and 7th Defense
Steelers – 9th Scoring and 3rd Defense
Key Stat – Ben Roethlisberger had a 22.6 quarterback rating
This is one of those stat lines that gets me in to fights. Roethlisberger was not terrible in this game, but his passing numbers were horrific on paper. He completed just 9-of-21 passes for 123 yards, zero touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Against a top defense, his running game came to the rescue as well as some trickery from Ken Whisenhunt in one of the most entertaining Super Bowl plays ever.
There are a few things to draw from this game. First, you can win a Super Bowl with your quarterback playing like crap. Also, the guy playing in a potential retirement game can up the ante for his teammates, just like Bettis’s presence in this Super Bowl did. I’m not saying that Peyton Manning does or doesn’t deserve a fairytale ending, but the football gods seem to love them.
SUPER BOWL XLVIII – Seattle Seahawks over Denver Broncos 43-8
Seahawks – 9th Scoring and 1st Defense
Broncos – 1st Scoring and 22nd Defense
Key Stat – Seattle’s D/ST scores 25 points
Hey, it can happen. The problem in this game is that it can happen both ways. Who’s more vulnerable? Cam Newton and one of the better rushing games in the league, or Peyton Manning and his decaying right arm?
We’re still a long ways away from making our definitive picks for the game, but a look back over your shoulder at some anecdotal Super Bowls certainly helps. By the way, I hand picked these games because I believed they shared similarities to the elements we’ll see at Super Bowl 50.
Again, I didn’t really plan anything. I picked the games and then started writing. Then I went back and realized that the higher ranked scoring defense in each of the seven matchups is 6-1 SU in the Super Bowl. The higher ranked scoring offense is also 1-6 SU in those games.
Don’t count Peyton Manning out just yet.
At the very least, wait until next week.