Over the last decade and a half, Peyton Manning has continually created magic in the NFL odds as the orchestrator of dependable offense, making a first-round bye a regularity and always putting his teams within reach of the greatness that is the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the 17-year NFL veteran, he has often found himself standing on the wrong side of the playoff games, even in games that he was the better quarterback. In the majority of such games, his defense, special teams or pass-catchers failed him, or played worse than the opposing teams, leaving him with just one Big Game win to show for his stellar career. That may, however, change this year when the Broncos—as 6-point underdogs in all of the online sportsbook odds—clash against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, going by the following reasons.
A Betting Analysis on the Denver Broncos as SB50 Underdog
On the season, Manning has struggled a lot with his game, particularly in the regular season where he threw nine touchdowns against 17 interceptions. In fact, according to FiveThirtyEight, the five-time MVP actually had the worst season ever for a Super Bowl QB. Meanwhile, since 1995, no Super Bowl finalist has struggled in the offense during the regular season as much as this year’s Broncos team.
Despite such struggles, it is worth noting that, although Manning threw at least one interception in every game from Weeks 1 through to Week 10, the Broncos never lost a game until Week 9, largely thanks to their league-best defense. And although Manning did throw two interceptions in that Week 9 game, he also posted two touchdowns and Denver only fell to the Colts in by three points. In Week 10, he started against the Chiefs, throwing four interceptions and no scores against the Chiefs in an eventual 29-13 defeat that saw him get benched and then off the field for six games due to injury.
With Manning out, backup Brock Osweiler took the reigns at QB and led the Broncos to important wins, including the victory over New England on Thanksgiving weekend, a win that eventually helped Denver get the desperately- needed home-field advantage for the AFC Championship game. And even the lowly Miami Dolphins equally helped Manning and the Broncos by winning over the Patriots in week 17 to affirm Denver’s top-seed in the AFC.
Then, upon Manning’s return in relief duty against San Diego in the regular season finale, the QB didn’t throw or run for any TDs, but his running backs and special teams lifted the offensive burden for him, helping the Broncos to secure a crucial come-from-behind win.
Denver Still Underdogs in the Playoffs…
In the postseason games, it has been pretty much the same story, with Manning getting lots of help from nearly everywhere. Against the Steelers, Denver’s defense came through as usual, along with a strong running game, allowing the five-time MVP to lead his team to a victory despite him not throwing any TD. This was of course followed by the big clash against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Unlike in the past where Manning’s fellow players have failed him, the 2015 Broncos had the old man’s back.
Defensive stars Derek Wolfe, Von Miller and gang came up big, utterly destroying New England’s offensive line. Darian Stewart was exceptionally at safety before getting injured. The Orange Army also had Chris Harris, Jr., who despite playing through a shoulder injury, still managed to his receivers and shut off the home-run pass play from New England. Tom Touchdown did show the grit we’ve known him to for, giving a strong 4th quarter performance, along with his top target Rob Gronkowski. That, however, came after Brady and his targets were rattled and condemned to unearthly pressure from Denver’s wicked front seven. Through that, Denver was able to carry an eight-point lead (thanks to Manning’s two early touchdowns) into the game’s dying moments. And even when Brady threw to Gronk that improbable late touchdown; former Patriot, Aqib Talib, showed up by braking up Brady’s potentially game-tying 2-point conversion pass attempt with 12 seconds left.
In the end, it was a win for Manning over Brady, but no doubt with tons of help. Brady — facing a fierce pass rush that was in his face all game long — did throw two picks; Manning, on the other hand, didn’t have any pick. In fact, the protection in Denver’s O-line is so beefed up since The Sheriff returned against San Diego (and Manning has also improved his decision-making), which has seen the Denver signal-caller go for three games without any pick—a huge reason why Denver has gotten away with two close playoff wins already, something that could happen in the Super Bowl 50, as well.
Denver (+6) is Good Value in Super Bowl 50 Odds… With Help
Clearly, early indications have NFL bettors and sharp bettors pounding on the Panthers in the NFL lines, and with good reasons. Even so, there could be value for contrarian bettors looking to go against the tide of public betting. As you all already know by now, Manning hinted at his retirement in the postgame interaction with Bill Belichick, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that the QB had indicated to his friends about the same retirement plans. It probably doesn’t hold up much weight in the NFL odds, but perhaps, Manning could follow in the footsteps of his general manager, John Elway, by retiring after winning a Super Bowl. And with his Denver teammates continuing to play like a team that is hell-bent on winning (even with their imperfect offense), this might just be the year for Manning not to be the best QB, but still getting a lot of help from his friends to win the Super Bowl. It is a big ask, but one that is certainly within the realms of possibility for the venerated QB and his never-say-die Broncos.