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Advantage – Under
By Chris David
Finding an ‘under’ winner in the Super Bowl hasn’t been easy lately but things normally balance out and if you look at the history of the first 49 finales, you’ll notice that the ‘over’ barely holds a slight 25-23 edge.
So will the ‘under’ snap the recent ‘over’ run this Sunday?
We’ve dug up some angles below that could have you pointed that way, plus we’re happy to get expert analysis from handicappers Joe Nelson and Paul Bovi.
CD’s Under Betting Angles
— Denver was ranked fourth in the NFL in scoring defense (18.3 points per game) and Carolina wasn’t far behind with 19.3 PPG.
— Carolina averaged 33.6 rushing attempts per game, which was ranked first in the league. The Panthers were second in time of possession (32:10) and those numbers were both consistent on the road and at home.
— It’s hard to knock the Panthers offense but their scoring average was 29.5 PPG on the road compared to 34.4 PPG in games played at Charlotte.
— Denver averaged 22.1 PPG this season, which was ranked 18th in the league.
— The Broncos averaged 1.3 runs red zone scores per game, which was ranked 26th in the league and second worst amongst all playoff teams.
— Denver dominated the NFC this season, going 4-0 in non-conference games while holding those teams to 12, 20, 10 and 15 points. For those who remember, the Vikings put up 20 versus the Broncos and seven of those points came on a long touchdown run by Adrian Peterson.
— The Panthers saw the ‘under’ go 2-1-1 in four games against the AFC this season and the defense only allowed a total of 19 points in two contests played on the road.
— Peyton Manning has produced a 13-13 postseason record over his career. The ‘under’ has gone 18-8 (69%) in those games.
— Carolina has been golden for bettors this postseason, covering and going ‘over’ in its first two games. Will we see another wire-to-wire Panthers-Over combo this Sunday? The odds are against them and the last team to go 3-0 SU/ATS/O-U in the playoffs was the 1994 San Francisco 49ers, who outscored opponents 131-69 during that stretch.
— In their last 10 trips to California, Denver has gone 10-0 versus the Raiders and Chargers while the ‘under’ has gone 7-3 over this span.
— NFL primetime games have watched the ‘under’ go 30-21 (59%) in the regular season and if you include the playoffs, that number improves to 32-22.
Expert Analysis –Paul Bovi
Denver has struggled with point production all year having only hit the 30-point plateau twice, with one of those being an overtime win (New England) in which they only had seven points at the start of the fourth quarter while the other saw them score two touchdowns in the last 30 seconds of a miracle win over the Chiefs early in the season.
Defensively, they have allowed a team to hit the 30-point plateau just once, which came in a 31-24 loss to the Steelers on the road. Their productivity, or lack thereof, along with their stout defense is reflected in a total that has leveled off at the 44-45 mark and that appears to be the right number. It may very well be that turnovers and/or big plays will decide the fate of this one, but on paper this figures to be a lower scoring slugfest that is marked by Denver’s solid defense along with its rather anemic offense.
Expert Analysis – Joe Nelson
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 ½. 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 seven 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.