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Superbowl 50 preview

Carrying on the successful tradition of the last few years, America's big she-bang is previewed by the guru that is Ian Steven, @deevo82. Want to see some evidence of his talent? Check out his pre-season player prop previews here.

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SUPERBOWL 50
Carolina Panthers v Denver Broncos
San Francisco


The unique spectacle that is the Super Bowl is about to descend upon us for the 50th time (or should that be “Lth time”?) as the Carolina Panthers lock horns in a tussle which is part PT Barnum and part Roman Colosseum.

Worried that fans will be overstimulated by the intense battle on the grid iron coupled with the razzamatazz of the peripheral entertainment, the NFL have wisely chosen Coldplay as the half time entertainment to gently soothe spectators into a coma-like status as one of mankind’s most tedious ensembles encourages a 15-minute beer break for viewers at home.

We can forgive Commissioner Roger Goodell for his musical myopia as last year’s curtain ender was an all-time classic with Malcolm Butler picking off Russell Wilson in the end zone to seal the victory for the Patriots. I actually think it was the best Super Bowl of all time, but can we expect more of the same this year around?

The Panthers enter the game as heavy favourites with the best price of 1.50 to win outright after going 14-2 in the regular season. They have a physical quarterback playing lights out in NFL MVP Cam Newton and look set to one stage further than they did in Super Bowl XXXVIII and hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

Part of the reasoning behind Carolina being such heavy favourites was the way in which Ron Rivera’s men dispatched the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs – two very good teams with tough defences. Carolina jumped out to an early lead in both games and rode the back of their solid defense to close out the match.

In stark contrast in Denver, in week 10 Payton Manning threw four interceptions against the Chiefs and was benched by head coach Gary Kubiak, promptly dismissing the Broncos as contenders in the eye of many experts. Manning enjoyed a mini-renaissance after resting foot and rib injuries that caused his woeful form, using his veteran guile and benefitting from a devastating pass rush to stun the defending champion Patriots in the AFC Championship game.

If you like wagering on winners, then the handicap would probably be the smart choice with the Broncos sitting at +7.5 @ 1.62 with Ladbrokes and Skybet. It might not be as close as last year but it should not turn into the rout that humiliated the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVII (this is getting confusing) at the hands of the Seahawks.

The half time/full time market also holds some intrigue as the Panthers have shot out the gates early in the playoffs to hold commanding leads only to waiver in the second half and allow opponents to come back into the game. You can get 11.00 from Ladbrokes in a Panthers/Broncos split which whilst not only boosting your bank balance, it would also ensure we had a cracking sporting spectacle to watch.

We have already touched on the quarterbacks and they are both rightly at the head of the queue to be named Super Bowl MVP in Santa Clara. 64% of all MVPs have been quarterbacks. There is a huge margin between the two of them however as Newton has the best price of 1.73 but for Manning you can get a whopping 5.00 from a number of different bookies. Peyton isn’t an average quarterback riding the back of a strong defense like Trent Dilfer with the Ravens and Brad Johnson with the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl ring. We are talking a first ballot Hall of Famer, he leads the NFL all-time with most yards and touchdowns in a career with a 96.5 QB rating. That is a huge price when you consider he has players like Brandon Marshall and Emmanuelle Sanders to throw to in order to inflate his numbers.

Other interesting players in the MVP conversation are Luke Keuchly at 26.00 with the linebacker possibly getting into double figures in tackles, Aqib Talib at 150.00 who has the talent to make a couple of interceptions if Cam feels pressure and an outside bet in Thomas Davis at 150.00 who will play the game with a broken arm and will form part of the narrative during the evening.

It will be interesting to see what Denver does to limit the effectiveness of the Carolina passing game as defensive co-ordinator Wade Phillips produced a blinder against the Patriots in the Championship game, bamboozling Tom Brady with his coverages. There has been speculation that Aqib Talib could match up on tight end Greg Olsen in a big to thwart their biggest weapon and Newton’s favourite target but that could leave the Broncos susceptible to the running game. Ron Rivera has no qualms whatsoever handing the rock toe Jonathan Stewart to pound it down the throats of their opponents – especially if they take a linebacker out of their run defense to allow Talib to match up on Olsen. You can get 2.25 from Paddy Power on Stewart gaining the most running yards and those are pretty tasty odds for a team who need to keep Denver honest and not allow their pass rushers in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware to pin their ears back.

Speaking of pass rushers, both sides are loaded with Derek Wolfe adding to Miller and Ware whilst the Panthers have Charles Johnson and Jared Allen (who is playing with a broken foot.) For the Panthers to pressure Manning successfully however, they need Kawann Short to push the pocket from defensive tackle to allow Manning no room to step into his throws. Both offensive lines have played well this season as units but neither can boast blue chip talent and are facing some seriously skilled defenders. You can get 2.2 on the over/under at 5.5 sacks which is definitely something to take on board.

We have already spoken about Thomas Davis and his inclusion to play at linebacker with a broken arm. The man has already come back from three ACL tears in his career so it seems wild horses could not keep him away from playing. As courageous as has intentions are, Gary Kubiak has basically had two weeks to work out how to exploit a player who can only utilise one arm to tackle. The logical approach would be to run right at Davis, forcing him to shed off a block before trying to make a tackle but the risk is that you still allow Kuechly to roam side line to side line unimpeded from the weakside of the play and nothing gets by him. What is more likely to happen is that the Broncos will try to identify man coverage (remember Peyton is the best in the business at reading defences) before using motion to get Davis isolated on either one of the tight ends or a running back. The linebacker should be able to shadow his opponent but he will struggle to wrap up in the tackle. You can get an over/under of 13.5 receiving yards @ 1.85 with Ladbrokes on CJ Anderson which seems to be quite a low target that has been set.

Finally, clock management is an important part of any NFL game and this is an area the Broncos definitely have an edge. Gary Kubiak is an ex-quarterback whilst Manning may be the best of all time at the position. They have collectively seen most things a defense can throw at them. Manning also is adept at running a no-huddle offense and can move players all over the line of scrimmage like chess pieces. Can Newton on the other hand is on a tighter leash in Mike Shula’s offense. He has simpler reads to make than Manning and if there is something he does not like, he is coached to call a timeout rather than risk a turnover and there is tremendous value in this. Both teams are 1.91 with Coral and Ladbrokes to call the first timeout when in reality the Panthers are 50% more likely to use the first timeout of the game.

Who do I think will win? The Panthers offensive line will be key in my opinion. If they can create some holes for Jonathan Stewart and protect Newton, then they can win the game. But there is so much experience on the Broncos side line with Kubiak and Wade Phillips that makes me edge towards the Broncos, especially with the handicap in their favour.

Bets -
links are to Oddschecker market comparisons

3 points on Carolina to call the first timeout @ 1.91 with Ladbrokes and William Hill.

2 points on Jonathan Stewart gaining the most rushing yards @2.25 with Paddy Power.

1 point on CJ Anderson to get over 13.5 receiving yards @ 1.85 with Ladbrokes

0.5 points on Peyton Manning being named MVP @ 5.00 with various.

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