After what seems like an eternity of waiting, the Super Bowl is finally here. So, what can we expect in just over 48 hours when Super Bowl 50 kicks off? We’ve put together a 10-point primer on all things Manning and Newton along with what you should expect when each team has the ball. Additionally, we’ll let you know what to expect from the commercials, CBS’s coverage, and why this game is much more important for Cam Newton than Peyton Manning.
Here’s our 10-point primer on Super Bowl 50:
1. Vegas like Carolina, but the Super Bowl loves underdogs.
Most Vegas sportsbooks have Carolina listed as a 5.5 to 6 point favorite over Denver heading into Sunday. If that line holds, Carolina would be the biggest Super Bowl favorite since Super Bowl 43 when Pittsburgh was a 7-point favorite over Arizona.
But while Vegas likes Carolina, the Super Bowl has been kind to underdogs. Since 2001, favorites have covered in just 4 of 14 Super Bowls. In fact, underdogs have prevailed in 6 of the last 7 games, not counting last year’s Super Bowl which was a pick’em at kickoff.
2. Peyton Manning can accomplish two more “firsts” for his career.
Have you been beaten over the head with enough Manning talk this week? Good. Here’s some more. Sure, this is likely to be Manning’s last NFL game. But two big milestones are on the line for him.
First, Manning can become the first QB in NFL history to win 200 career games — regular season and playoff. That’s a hell of a lot of wins. And, for those keeping score at home, Tom Brady has 194 total wins.
Second, Manning can become the first QB to win a Super Bowl with two different teams. It’s evident that Manning isn’t the quarterback he used to be, but accomplishing these two feats on Sunday should not go unnoticed.
3. Irresistible Force vs. Immovable Object In The Running Game.
The key to success for Carolina all season has been their running game. The Panthers have had 100+ rushing yards in 31 consecutive games. That’s the longest streak since the Steelers (1974-1976). It’s a large part of why they led the league in scoring this season (31.3 ppg).
But if there’s one team that can stop the Panthers on the ground, it’s Denver. The Broncos defense allowed just 3.28 yards per carry this season — best in the NFL. There’s a perception that the middle of Denver’s defense is where you can attack them. And while that’s true simply based on the fact that their corners and pass rushers are so good, the interior defense is pretty solid, too.
4. Manning + Panthers Defense = Disaster?
On paper, Manning doesn’t matchup well against Carolina’s defense. The Panthers were just one of two teams who had more interceptions than touchdown passes allowed during the regular season. Coincidentally, Manning was just one of two quarterbacks with more than 250 attempts to throw more interceptions than touchdown passes in the regular season. The other? Nick Foles.
5. What to look for when Denver has the ball …
With Manning’s limitations, Denver is going to have to be committed to the running game. Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson are huge keys to the game. Fortunately for Denver, Carolina can be susceptible in the running game. You’ve heard all about Panthers DT Kawann Short this week. His status as a sneaky-good player is no longer a secret. However, it remains to be seen how effective Thomas Davis can be less than two weeks after surgery to repair a broken arm. Additionally, Carolina’s safeties can struggle in run support. I’d look for a heavy dose of Hillman and Anderson sprinkled in with the customary Manning quick screens to his wideouts, which provide the most effective way of moving the ball through the air.
6. What to look for when Carolina has the ball …
The perception is that the Panthers can’t throw the ball. Think again. Throughout the season, the receivers have developed a chemistry with Newton. Ted Ginn can burn any defense, provided that he can actually catch the ball. Rookie Devin Funchess may not see a ton of targets, but is a huge threat in the red zone. Greg Olsen is a top-3 tight end and can find success over the middle against the Broncos much like Rob Gronkowski did. Believe it or not, this Panthers receiving corps has more speed than the Patriots, who struggled to get open two weeks ago. Carolina won’t be scared to throw the ball early and often in this game.
7. This game is more important for Cam Newton than Peyton Manning.
A win for Cam Newton can put him on the map of superstar NFL quarterbacks. It could possibly mean that he becomes the new face of the NFL. A win for Manning certifies him with multiple Super Bowls, but should have little to no impact upon his legacy. Manning will go down as the best statistical quarterback in NFL history, who didn’t far as well in the playoffs. Nothing more, nothing less.
8. What about the coaching?
Panthers coach Ron Rivera can join the exclusive list of people to win a Super Bowl as a player and coach. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak can make John Elway look like a genius by not retaining John Fox.
This looks like a pretty even matchup. Kubiak deserves credit for juggling Manning and Osweiler all season and adapting the offense to their strengths. Rivera has displayed a “let-it-loose” mentality that has resonated with his team all season. If the Broncos are down early, I get the sense that Kubiak could play it tight, which would be reflected in his team. I don’t get the same sense with Rivera. I’ll give a slight edge to Carolina here.
9. Will the commercials be any better?
Last year’s commercials were a dud, capped by the Nationwide “Dead Kid” commercial which was one of the worst all-time. I’ve purposely avoided all ads until the game, but this year could provide a rebound. Bud Light is rolling out Amy Schumer and Seth Rogan. We’ll also see the usual quirky spots from Snickers, Doritos, and Coke. And, oh, don’t forget about the Clydesdales.
10. What should we expect from CBS?
Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be calling the game. As we mentioned earlier in the week, they certainly won’t be talking about this. However, Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated compiled a list of the things you can expect from CBS’s coverage. I haven’t watched a pregame show in years, but will last for 4 hours. The game itself will feature new CBS graphics and the usual plethora of cameras that provide the best angles of football we see all season. I’m not the biggest fan of CBS’s coverage, but I think they’ll do a fine job with the 50th Super Bowl.