From the Sportsbook kick of the 2015 regular season through a 49-15 beatdown of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game, the Carolina Panthers have been the best team in the National Football League.
Here are five reasons why the Panthers, who are currently 6-point faves at online shop Sportsbook, will come out on top both straight up and against the spread when they face the Denver Broncos at Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara.
All They Do is Win
At 15-1 SU, the Panthers posted the best regular season record and seemed to be headed to an unblemished record until they laid an egg in Week 16, losing 20-13 at the Atlanta Falcons.
The strong SU performance was transferrable to the betting window during the regular season as the Panthers went 11-5 ATS. Carolina finished as the third-best wager at the sportsook this season, only behind the Minnesota Vikings (13-3 ATS) and Cincinnati Bengals (12-3-1 ATS).
Obviously taking the postseason into account, the Panthers' numbers get more impressive; 17-1 SU and 13-5 ATS. Why stop now?
Dabbing On Your Defense
While the Broncos were incredibly impressive on the defensive side of the ball when they beat the New England Patriots 20-18 in the AFC Championship game, the Panthers just don’t seem to care. Cam Newton and Co. have faced some of the top defenses in the league and have rolled them all. The Panthers have played six games versus teams that finished in the top 10 in the NFL by total defense and have gone 6-0 SU and ATS in those games.
Denver heads into the Super Bowl with the top rated defense in the league and their performance against the Pats might have been their best display of the season. But the way potential-MVP Newton has played in some of those big spots, including against the No. 5-ranked Cardinals in the aforementioned NFC Championship, keeping the Denver D in check doesn’t feel like it will be much of a challenge.
The Panthers bounced back from that aforementioned Week 16 letdown against the hapless Falcons with a 38-10 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (another top 10 defensive team they handled with ease), easily covering the 10-point spread. That momentum has carried into the postseason, culminating with the 34-point win against the Cardinals.
While the Divisional Round win against the Seahawks was slightly different, the Panthers' brand of dominance was still on full display. The first half was absolutely all Panthers as they jumped out to a 31-0 lead at halftime. The game was well in hand at that point and while the Seahawks mounted a valiant comeback attempt, they still lost by seven points and Carolina covered the -2.5.
If you’re a believer in momentum heading into the Super Bowl, then look no further than these Panthers.
Winning the Turnover Battle
Perhaps no stat, one that is so simple and taught when you take your first step onto the football field, distinguishes the Sportsbook from the loser moreso than turnovers. And when you look at the Panthers’ numbers in the takeaway/giveaway department, their fantastic 15-1 SU record begins to make a lot more sense.
The Panthers dominated, DOMINATED, the takeaway department this season, leading the league in both interceptions (24) and fumbles recovered (15 - tied with Washington). But they did a fantastiac job of protecting the rock when they had it on the offensive side. The team threw just 10 interceptions (8th lowest) and fumbled the ball just nine times (15th lowest), giving them a turnover differential of +20; easily leading the league (Kansas City was next at +14).
The Broncos, who lead the league in interceptions thrown (23), were a horrific -4 in the differential column. Credit where it’s due though: Peyton has yet to toss a pick in the postseason and the Broncos have just one turnover in two playoff games (Manning fumble versus Patriots).
Finally, there is the whole “fade Manning” angle.
Sure, Manning covered the spread against the Patriots and yes the game against the Steelers in the Divisional Round resulted in a push, but Manning-led teams are just 2-6-1 ATS in his previous nine postseason games.
Furthermore, in three Super Bowl appearances, Manning has gone 1-2 SU and ATS, winning his first atttempt (Super Bowl XLI) and failing to win SU and ATS in his next two (XLIV, XLVIII).
Manning’s career playoff numbers shape up like this: 13-13 SU, 11-14-1 ATRS, 8-18 O/U.
While there is much to celebrate about Manning’s Hall of Fame career, perhaps a most fitting conclusion to his career, should he decide to hang 'em up following Super Bowl 50, is that he fades into the sunset as a fade option at the betting window.