Super Bowl 50 is approaching and as usual it is a tough call. Here is a case for both totals in the big game as both the ‘over’ and the ‘under’ have a compelling case. Hear the arguments and make your decision on the winning total for Sunday’s big game.
Super Bowl 50 ‘UNDER’ Argument
Last season’s Super Bowl featuring the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots slipped just ‘over’ the total with 52 points scored on a total that closed at 47, falling from earlier numbers closer to 48.5. As we all recall it looked like even more points would be scored as an interception near the end zone effectively ended the game.
In Seattle’s Super Bowl win the previous season, 16 points came outside of offensive scoring plays but last season all the scoring came on offense and while there were three turnovers in the game, every scoring drive travelled at least 50 yards. Super Bowl XLIX had a scoreless first quarter but things escalated in the second quarter with two touchdowns on each side including three of those touchdowns coming in the final three minutes of the half.
While the past three Super Bowls have played ‘over’ the ‘under’ has still hit in six of the last 11 Super Bowls and the totals on the big game are often considered slightly inflated due to the popularity of the game and the common propensity to favor scoring. With that said 10 of the last 11 Super Bowls have closed with a total above 45, with only Green Bay’s win over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV featuring a lower closing total than the current common price on this year’s big game.
The venue seems to favor the ‘under’ as Levi’s Stadium, hosting its first Super Bowl, saw the ‘under’ hit in nine of ten games this season if you count the preseason. San Francisco’s team certainly played a role in that with a limited offense but none of the games in Santa Clara featured more than 45 points this season. The conditions of the field were also often criticized with complaints of soft spots and there is likely some basis for expecting lower scoring in games played in the 49ers home venue.
When looking at the defensive scoring the case for the ‘under’ has validity as Denver has held 15 of 18 opponents to 24 or fewer points this season and Carolina has held 14 of 18 foes to 24 or fewer points. The two playoff games for the Panthers both soared well ‘over’ but Carolina allowed a total of 7 points to Seattle and Arizona combined in two postseason first halves with most of the points allowed by the Panthers coming after a big lead was in hand.
Given Carolina’s league-best 39 turnovers created (plus 9 more in the postseason) the expectation will be a careful calculated offensive approach from the Broncos. While Denver’s defense led the league in fewest rush yards per carry allowed, Carolina was not far behind and it seems reasonable to expect both teams to have trouble breaking big gains on the ground. Carolina’s yardage numbers on defense were not overwhelming this season but they also faced five regular season games vs. teams that finished in the league’s top five in yards per play on offense.
Both sides also have dangerous play-making secondary players and avoiding turnovers will be the top priority, especially in Denver’s case given how poorly the Super Bowl started two years ago and seeing how well Carolina has started in two playoff games. Denver and Carolina were the top two defenses in the league this season in fewest yards per pass attempt allowed as big plays were very tough to come by against these teams.
The ‘under’ went 11/6/1 in Denver games this season and it seems likely that the Broncos will aim to be conservative while sustaining long clock-burning drives as they have in both playoff wins. Denver leaned on its defense to continue to get stops on big plays vs. New England and the Broncos know they can’t take great risks with Peyton Manning’s limitations and turnover issues this season. Winning a shootout with Carolina seems like a tall order as Denver will likely aim to keep this game with as few possessions as possible and lower scoring potential. While Manning is an all-time great and Cam Newton may win the MVP this season this Super Bowl is featuring two quarterbacks that completed fewer than 60 percent of their passes this season as a defense-oriented game should not be a surprise.
Super Bowl 50 ‘OVER’ Argument:
Some may be viewing this year’s Super Bowl as an offense vs. defense matchup given Denver’s great defense and the high scoring of the Panthers. Carolina led the league in scoring this season and the Panthers were also a productive offensive team posting almost 367 yards per game. Denver gained over 355 yards per game as well as the Broncos were capable of moving the ball this season despite not always delivering great scoring numbers. While the Broncos passed for a total of just 360 yards in the two playoff wins combined, in the regular season the Broncos threw for over 248 yards per game despite balancing two quarterbacks, 24 more yards than Carolina’s offense totaled per game on average.
Denver and Carolina both had successful running games and the balance presented by both offenses should be a challenge for both defenses. Carolina faced potent offensive teams in the two playoff wins but they were also both teams that were pass-reliant late in the season and allowed the Panthers to bring serious pressure. The Broncos also faced a one-dimensional New England offense in the AFC Championship while also facing a Steelers team that was beat up without its top running back or wide receiver and with Ben Roethlisberger not playing at 100 percent.
With a total of 45 the recent scoring numbers for the Panthers make the case for the ‘over’ an easy one. Carolina’s NFC South schedule can be fairly criticized but facing elite defenses in the playoffs the Panthers put up 80 points in two games and had they not built up huge first half leads they likely could have scored even more. In eight of the last nine games Carolina has scored 31 or more points by themselves and only once since Week 3 did the Panthers fail to score at least 27 points.
Denver’s defense deserves great credit for getting big stops and holding the Steelers and Patriots to a combined total of just 34 points in two playoff wins but both quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards against Denver’s defense despite its great reputation. The great regular season numbers for the Denver defense also featured no games vs. any of the league’s top seven yards per play offensive teams. Carolina did face a few top offensive teams this season but they also had regular season games vs. four of the six worst yards per play offenses in the league as the case can be made that the numbers on defense are a bit better than they should be on both sides.
The ‘over’ went 12/5/1 in Carolina games this season and after taking heat for nearly blowing a big lead vs. Seattle in the divisional round an aggressive approach was displayed by ‘Riverboat’ Ron Rivera in the NFC Championship. The team seems to feed off that approach and if the Panthers have their way it will likely wind up as another higher scoring game with the defense daring Manning to beat them through the air.
Carolina has also shown the ability to score quickly with defensive and special team plays as well as quick strikes on offense. While Denver got big stops in key plays last week, Cam Newton’s size makes the Panthers devastatingly effective in 3rd down and red zone situations as the Panthers rarely settle for field goals. Denver actually scored six defensive touchdowns in the regular season as well as the likelihood of a defensive score or a big shift in field position due to a turnover is great. With a total of only 45 which is relatively low for this season in the NFL, one defensive score would greatly shift the trajectory of the scoring pace.