Defense wins Championships and I am going with the better defense here getting 6 points. I did a poor job in evaluating the Cardinals. Before the season started I said they would be the most overrated team, then they proved me wrong after wins vs. Seattle and Cincy just to prove me right in the NFC Champ game. They just don’t have ANY edge rush which would have been the key against Newton. This SB isn’t about Peyton “Noodlearm” Manning against the flying Panthers defense, it is about Cam Newton and his poor tackles against the best defense in the NFL. Before the season started, every guy with a knowledge said the Panthers defense is going to be good but their offense stinks, because Kelvin Benjamin is hurt and Carolina’s OL isn’t upgraded. While the interior played very well, Michael Oher and Mike Remmers are probably still the worst tackle tandem in the league. People don’t recognize that because the Panthers didn’t play a tough schedule in terms of pass-rushing, especially edge experts.
As much as you say SOS doesn’t matter, it does. Panthers’ offensive numbers are inflated because of their schedule. According to PFF, Cam Newton was pressured on 192 dropbacks this season. His output was 80/157 51%, 6TD, 6INT and the 19th worst rating under pressure of all QBs. When under pressure, Cam Newton still struggles to read defenses. In their only loss at ATL, Cam Newton got pressured on 16 of 34 dropbacks, 10 of the 16 pressures via both tackles. Newton couldn’t escape from the pocket (2 scrambles) because of the edge rush. This is going to be a very bad matchup for Oher and Remmers against Ware and Von Miller. Wade Phillips will send 4 and 5 men rushes to drop 6-7 guys into coverage, so Cam will have a hard time reading this phenomenal defense. The next problem is that Carolina gets 32% of their yardage from TEs. Denver can go man to man with Carolina’s wide receivers, because Talib, Harris and Roby are one heck of a group and have a good matchup as they had all season long except for the Steelers game when Harris had only one arm. This allows Phillips to work out special schemes to contain Dickson and Olsen. Stop the run (CAR only gets 10% of their yardage by the RBs) and make Newton read your defense. This will turn into three and outs as fast as you can say “REEEEEAAADYYYYYYYY”.
Peyton Manning did a lot of work during his absence and it seems that he and Kubiak have worked out a plan to just not turn the ball over. Since his return, Manning turned the ball over once on a fumble, but IMO it was Hillman’s fault, not Manning’s. The Broncos offense doesn’t need to do much, they just don’t. The Panthers are only middle of the pack against the run on PFF metrics. We will see some runs, and some 2TE sets with crossing routes to set up a TE against either Thomas Davis with one arm or his backup, to play the game away from Kuechly. We will also see Manning looking for the matchup of Sanders against either Finnegan or McClain, using his speed to set up 10-15 yard routes in press coverage. This offense doesn’t need to play to win, they just need to play not to lose and use short fields from their defense. Remember Peyton is playing the worst season of his career and he still managed to go 9-2 as a starter. He lost one game by more than 6 in the game he got finally injured. He still has one of the best Football IQs, he needs to read the defense, their blitzes and change plays out of the shotgun.
Since 1995, the underdog with the worse regular season record is 8-0 ATS in the Super Bowl.
Since 1995, the better playoff defense is 13-4 ATS in the Super Bowl (including the 2001 Ravens who were 0.3 PPG worse than the Giants). Three of the four losses were against an underdog with the worse regular season record. The only other team was the Seahawks in 2005.
Do teams who had a tougher road to the SB play harder? Do oddsmakers really benefit from “Joe Public” who is taking the better team on paper everytime? Whatever it is, a 8-0 ATS record doesn’t lie. The fact that defense wins championships doesn’t lie as well.
I expect a very low-scoring game. Maybe a 0-0 first quarter or 3-0 either way. The defenses will dominate in the first place and I can see more FGs than TDs. The field at SF has been terrible all season long, every offense struggled to move the ball there – an avg total of 31.1 PPG. They changed the field but it’s still from the same company. They use a different technology this time but can the field be in perfect shape after one month with a smaller layer of sand? Don’t know but it could be a factor that favors the defenses.
Everything is set up for Peyton Manning to end his career with a 2nd Super Bowl win. People call it fix, but I call it destiny. The comeback in week 17 off the Osweiler “injury”, the late fumble by the Steelers, the home field advantage against NE, the best defense in the league – everything points towards the perfect spot to take the Broncos at +6.