Carolina Panthers -4.5 versus the Denver Broncos (O/U 45)
I knew fairly early into the NFC Championship game that I would be on the Denver Broncos to win the first Super Bowl to drop the Roman numerals (“Super Bowl L” doesn’t look right). I got another text from a friend (an American one this time) that said “they can’t make this line high enough” as the Panthers were laying the smackdown on the Cardinals. As a contrarian I don’t really pick the games, the games pick me. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but you get the idea. Unless they made this line Panthers by a touchdown which then would probably get the bet percentage balanced, I knew that I was going to be on Peyton Manning and company. It was a complete performance by Carolina as they went to 17-1 for the season just the 5th team to go into the Super Bowl with 17 wins. Quarterback Cam Newton looks unstoppable with both his arm and legs. The Panthers defense continues to make plays and score touchdowns as well. The Broncos on the other hand had to hold on to win and their 39-year old QB is just a game manager at this point.
The point spread opened up at 4 and is already out to 4.5. Before the game the indication was that the Panthers would be 3-point favorites over Denver, but obviously how they won yesterday changed that. I would hope that it continues to edge out towards 6 where I think bets and money would be more balanced. The early action has 81% of spread bets on the Panthers. The numbers 5 and 5.5 aren’t very important as NFL games land much more often on 4 and 6 (especially with the new overtime rules). So I think this line could get out to 6. Although, just like the AFC Championship game there will be a lot of sentiment with the Broncos and Peyton Manning. The once a year bettors are in play (they certainly haven’t bet yet) and this is the one game they usually like the underdog. They are going to bet on the team they want to win and Cam Newton has been polarizing. Still anyone who watched the games Sunday are going to like the Panthers and would be afraid of backing another team that gets blown out. Unlike both championship games there are injury question marks with both teams that could affect the line. The Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis and safety Roman Harper are both listed as questionable. On the Broncos side starting safeties T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart (who laid the wood on Sunday before going out with knee injury) are both questionable to play in the Big Game.
The moneyline is Panthers -200 (1.50) with the Broncos +170 (2.70) at Sportsbooks in the Americas. Only 61% of the outright win bets have come in on the Panthers which is what you would expect. The average bettor prefers to lay the points with the favorite and take the moneyline with the underdog setting up a sweet spot for the sportsbooks. This occurred in the College Football Playoff game when Clemson scored a TD with 12 seconds to go to cut the deficit to 5-points giving them a win at +7, but still losing outright. 2/3rds of spread bets were on Alabama -7 (lost) and 2/3rds of the moneyline bets were on Clemson (lost). I know you can’t figure out the bookies profit from that as the amount bet is the biggest factor and missing, but it was reported that the 5-point ‘Bama win was a great result for Vegas. We may see a Panthers win, but non-cover in this game, though right now Carolina is getting bet every which way. 79% of parlay and teaser bets are on Carolina as well. With no other football game to pair with any teaser would have to tease the side and the total, generally a terrible strategy and not one that someone who is betting 13 days before the game would make. What you probably have are a lot of Panthers and over parlays that are accounting for this number as they are “only” expected to score 24.75 points. Carolina scored 31 points in the first half in the Divisional round and 49 points yesterday.
That leads right into the total which opened at 45 (the advance line was 43) and is unchanged after flirting with 45.5. 76% of the early bets are on the over. I would think that the total would jump up as the once a year bettors love the overs. The over in Carolina games are 12-5-1 this season and 7 of their last 9 have exceed the total. The one question is the weather conditions. We are still 13 days out so it really is impossible to get a reliable forecast, especially in the Bay Area. Levi’s Stadium is in Santa Clara, California and isn’t that vulnerable to wind, but it is a possibility along with rain. Looking at the 14-day forecast heavy rains are expected the middle of next week and some on the weekend as well. Oddly very high winds are expected on Monday February 8th, the day after Super Bowl, so if they are very accurate there could be flight delays getting out of town, if they are off a day it could make for a wild Super Bowl. There was so much talk of the weather in the last Broncos Super Bowl a couple of years ago in New York/New Jersey and it wasn’t a factor in Denver getting crushed by the Seattle Seahawks. It could be a big factor this time around, I would think that high winds and rain would really hurt Peyton Manning and wouldn’t affect Cam Newton nearly as much. It would definitely have a large bearing on the total and that is why I wouldn’t be all that eager to jump on the over just yet.
When looking back at the two underdogs I picked on Championship Sunday I had a lot of good solid reasons to take the Broncos, but didn’t nearly have same evidence to back up going against the Panthers. I don’t have the all the positive trends the Broncos had at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots a mile-high on grass with Ed Hochuli as referee. Now it feels like you would have to be a mile-high on grass to pick the Broncos. The only clear edge the Broncos have is in experience in this game. Having played in Super Bowl XLVIII (48) just a couple of years ago in MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Denver will not be shocked by the huge stage. They did lose that game 43-8 to the Seattle Seahawks so the experience wasn’t very fun, but many of them have been through it. It is the 4th time around for Peyton Manning who will try to even up his career Super Bowl record at 2-2. The Panthers have virtually no Super Bowl experience, though Cam Newton did win a BCS College Football National Championship game while at Auburn University. Although, I wonder though how someone who so clearly loves the attention will handle the throngs at media day and the entire Super Bowl atmosphere. Looking back at Super Bowl history experience seemed to matter much more in the days of much easy Roman numeral conversion, but recently it hasn’t so much. We will have two weeks to dissect this game every which way. I hoping to find some good reasons to back the Denver Broncos because I would love to see Peyton Manning walk off into the sunset with another Lombardi Trophy just like his General Manager John Elway did after Super Bowl XXXIII.