Carolina @ Denver
Friday September 9, 10:30am AEST
The Broncos 24-10 victory as 4.5 point dogs in Super Bowl 50 was one of the ugliest in recent memory, although for those of us with the Under and Denver it was a masterpiece.
The final score showed Denver winning by 14 points but Carolina out gained Denver 315-194 yards and 4.2yppl to 3.5yppl. The biggest difference in the game was a -2 in turnover margin for Carolina, including one that was recovered for a touchdown and another that was recovered on the four yard line and turned into a touchdown along with twice as many penalty yards on Carolina.
Fast forward to the 2016 season and what has changed? For Carolina, star cornerback Josh Norman is gone and the Panthers must now find two new starting corners in their secondary. Back from missing all of last year is Kelvin Benjamin at WR to help strengthen the Carolina passing attack.
For Denver the most obvious changes are Brock Osweiler and Peyton Manning are long gone and Trevor Siemian will take only his second snap in a regular season NFL game. They clearly lose the years of experience in Manning but also gain the mobility and arm of a young quarterback who has sat on the bench and learned from the best. And remember this is a Northwestern student who is very good at understanding offences.
Also gone for Denver is Malik Jackson from the defensive line and Danny Trevathan at linebacker. Losing Jackson wasn’t the end of the world because they were replacing him with Vance Walker but he is now out for the year for Denver. The Broncos offensive line has changed as well but may actually be upgraded along with what should be a better passing attack with Siemian.
Carolina was about average on offence last year despite scoring 31 points per game during the regular season as they averaged 5.5yppl against teams allowing 5.6yppl. The pass defence was excellent, allowing just 5.4yps against teams averaging 6.5yps. With Norman now gone we will see how that impacts their pass defence. The front seven for Carolina may be the best in the NFL and we will soon find out how good the secondary is this year. No reason to apologise for who you have to play. You play the games that are dealt to you.
Carolina didn’t face a team on the road last year that was above .500 when they played them. The only teams they played that were above .500 were GB, and Seattle, Arizona and Denver in the playoffs.
They defeated all of them except Denver in the SB. They did defeat Seattle on the road early in the year but Seattle wasn’t playing their best ball at the time and were under .500. While Carolina played four games against teams above .500 Denver faced nine teams, but only had to go on the road for two of those games, where they went 0-2, but were 7-0 in home games and the SB.
Denver’s offence was not good last year but the stats showed they averaged 5.4yppl against teams allowing 5.5yppl so they were actually similar to Carolina. The defence was even better than Carolina, allowing just 3.3ypr against 4.0ypr, 5.1yps against 6.3yps and allowing just 4.4yppl against teams averaging 5.4yppl for a full yard per play better than their opponent. It was one of the five best defences in the NFL since 1985.
Other than playing a relatively easy schedule last year Carolina also used that to lead the league in takeaways with 39 and turn those into great field position or points, which helped Carolina to their 31 points per game during the regular season
The line in the SB last year was Carolina -4.5 on a neutral field. Now, we are playing this game in Denver, where the Broncos were 3-0 SU & ATS last year as home dogs. If that 4.5 line was accurate that should make Carolina only a 1 to 1.5 point favourite on the road in Denver, not a 3 point favourite.
Some may argue Denver is a better team this year, which would make this line even more out of whack. SB losers have not fared well in week one of the following season when having to travel on the road. They are now just 2-14 ATS when going on the road in week one. Meanwhile, SB winners opening at home and laying less than six points (a reasonable line) or a home dog are 7-2 ats.
Denver also qualifies in one of my best week one situations, which wins year after year after year and is now 52-16-1. That situation went 2-0 last year during week one. The situation identifies certain aspects during the preseason which have become very good predictors of success during the first week of the season.
Denver played ten games at home last year and only two of those games totalled more than 43 points. Week one non division games that feature road dogs of three or less points (or favourites) go under the total to a tune of 41-10-1 if the total is 42 or more. This total may get to 42 again. There is a subset of that total that is 23-1-1 that this game just misses out on as well.
Either way this game figures to be a low scoring game and the first half total of 21 lines up to look like an excellent play. Denver figures to play it somewhat conservatively and use field position while they get Siemian’s feet wet. Also, the possessions figure to be at a premium in this game. One drive in this game for a fg means we would still need three touchdowns in the first half to lose. With two good defenses going at it, even a well-designed drive is likely to end in a fg. Short of turnovers, this figures to be a low scoring first half.
Carolina may very well be focused for revenge but Denver also focused because they have been listed as a home dog in this game. Value to the defensive home dog and two great defences should lead to a low scoring Denver victory. Let’s hope for another ugly contest.
Denver by 4
BACK – Denver +3.0 pts
ypr = yards per rush
yps = yards per pass
yppl = yards per play
SU = straight up (ie. won the game)
ATS = At The Spread (ie. covered the line)
fg = Field Goal