I didn’t have a ton of confidence heading into the NFC Championship Game. My Cardinals were matched up against the best team in the NFL this season. I thought we had a small chance, and it all depended on whether we could stop Cam Newton, who’s gonna win MVP tomorrow night. We couldn’t, and the game was over after the 1st quarter.
Denver’s defense will have the task of shutting him down, something that most defenses have failed to do this season. They’re stifling. Every part of the Denver defense is scary. They have players everywhere. The don’t have any weaknesses. They stop the run, lock up wide receivers, and contain the flats. Containing the flats is the one thing most defenses have failed to do this season against Carolina. That’s why the Panthers went 15-1.
Denver’s found themselves at the complete opposite side of the football spectrum of two years ago. They had the best offense in the NFL. Peyton Manning had an unbelievable and historical season. Now: Denver ranks 1st in the NFL in defensive DVOA, and 25th in offensive DVOA.
I’ve been quite conflicted on Peyton Manning playing in this game. Its been a horrible season for him, and, (I can say this without it being a hot take now, finally.) he’s really just not that good anymore. Denver’s incredible defense has gotten them here. It beat New England, not Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense. Man, you gotta love all the media people blowing smoke up Peyton’s butt after the win to beat the Patriots (and they’re still doing it throughout this week). Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are gonna have a fantastic time Sunday night (FML).
Manning’s practically been a game manager for the Broncos. He’s doing just enough, and the amount of value he’s giving the Broncos is probably pretty low, due to how great his defense was this year. Having a game manager in the Super Bowl is not ideal. The Broncos biggest issue won’t be stopping Cam Newton. They have the outside linebackers to contain Cam Newton, at least to an extent. That’s pretty much all you can hope to contain him to. But it will be offensively where the issue is, against an almost-underrated Panthers defense.
Denver’s had issues offensively all year. They’ve been mostly due to Manning’s inconsistency, or the quarterback inconsistencies (Hey, I thought Brock Osweiler played nicely this year!). They haven’t had a true running back, as Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson have split time. Chances are, if Denver does get an offense going, it’ll be through the air. How come? Well, you have to hope Manning has a good game. That’s the first problem/step. The odds of that: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Carolina’s front seven has been insanely good this season. They will get pressure on Manning.
Most would think the Broncos would be able to get some plays down the field, but we thought the same thing about Arizona, and the set of weapons they possessed heading in. Carolina’s secondary is the weakest part of the defense. Its one man show (Josh Norman of course) in the rotation they have, but their other starters are good. Denver will have to hope these big plays are made when the back-end of the secondary rotation is in; against guys like Cortland Finnegan and Robert McClain.
You just can’t trust Manning heading into this game. The media can, sure, but that’s their job: To relentlessly blow smoke up his butt.
At the same time, I just can’t project a blowout. Both defenses are too good. A Manning meltdown, which is possible, is the only way Carolina wins in a stunning fashion like they did against Arizona. This won’t be another NFC Championship Game (It really sucks to use that as an example when your team is the one that got absolutely destroyed.). Denver will keep it close defensively. Carolina needs to do what they do offensively and hope. This won’t be high-scoring. No one’s getting over 30 points.
Prop Bet Fun!
Overall line (-6 CAR): This seems a little low. I thought they’d put it a tad higher (7?). I guess Las Vegas had the shift of keeping the fire going under Manning’s butt when the line was made.
Over/under 44.5: UNDER. I’ll have my score later in the column, but defense is gonna dominate this game. The only big plays will be coming on Carolina runs and Denver passes.
(I’m gonna pull my favorite prop bets from Sportsbook’s brochure of bets)
Over/under total sacks by both teams 5: OVER. This could be a massive Luke Kuechley game. Kawann Short has emerged as a beast. Would it be unrealistic to think Carolina can single-handling win this bet?
Over/under largest lead of the game 13.5: UNDER. Again, defense will dominate this game. Take the over if you feel like a Peyton Manning meltdown is coming.
Over/under Cam Newton total rushing yards 41.5: UNDER. Denver has great flat-zone defense. They’ll contain the outside, preventing Newton from running.
(Now I’m gonna make fun of all the silly prop bets I’ve found.)
- Is Stephen Curry going to the game?
- The dab will be mentioned and shown on TV.
- Archie Manning and John Elway both get shown at least once.
- John Fox will get mentioned.
- Hey, what about Eli?
- Beyonce’s gonna have gray shoes.
- I don’t care what song Coldplay does first. I’ll be happy no matter what.
- The Super Bowl MVP will mention the team first.
Other miscellaneous Super Bowl related stuff
- What an incredible halftime performance we’re gonna have. Is Coldplay even the featured act anymore?
- I’m really happy for the Bay Area getting this game. However, the stadium being built where it is, in Santa Clara (which for people who aren’t familiar with the Bay Area, is an hour south of downtown San Francisco; I lived in the Bay Area for four years.) has kinda seemed like a cluster for the media. Super Bowl City is in the Embarcadero. Radio Row is near AT&T Park. Media Day (or night, whatever it is now) was at SAP Center, which is 15 minutes from Levi’s Stadium. I mean, congratulations on getting the game, but they could not have made this more complicated for fans and the media.
- I’ve had a couple friends at Super Bowl City though, and they’ve said it’s a great experience. Lot of cool people hanging around there.
- I’ve been so happy the commercials haven’t been ruined for me. Last year the leaks were rampant.
- What’s with me getting nailed with homework over Super Bowl weekend? Its been like this for three years now!
Denver is going to have to make big plays, and that’s assuming Peyton Manning has a decent game, which is an if in itself. Carolina has been unbelievable all season, and are the best regular season team in years. There’s a good chance they’re playing the 5th or 6th best team in the NFL. You’d think, if that’s the case, then this would be a blowout. But the Broncos have the best defense in the league. They have no weaknesses. Stopping Cam Newton is their No.1 goal, and their stout front seven should be able to limit the Panthers unique running game at least a little.
It’s more about what Denver isn’t gonna be able to do, and against this Carolina defense, that may be a lot things.
Pick: Carolina-26 Denver-17
Who do you think will win?