SUPER BOWL 50: Our official picks for who will win Sunday's big game

One game more!

The Broncos and Panthers face off on Sunday in what is already a historic Super Bowl, the first one ever without — you guessed it — Roman numerals. Crazy! Here’s hoping the football lives up to the momentous occasion.

Before we get to our picks, first let’s break down a couple of things:

  • Peyton Manning has struggled in the Super Bowl. Putting aside for a moment the ongoing speculation about whether or not Manning will retire after Sunday’s game (he’s going to), let’s instead talk about the Sheriff’s performances in past Super Bowls. He’s made three appearances, most recently in 2013 against the Seahawks, perhaps the most lopsided Super Bowl in recent memory. In all, Manning is 1-2 in Super Bowls, has thrown more interceptions (four) than touchdowns (three), and boasts an underwhelming quarterback rating is 81.0. Will he be better on Sunday?
  • Cam Newton is the least divisive “divisive” athlete on the planet. Does anyone actually dislike Cam Newton? For all the talk about how Newton, with his dancing and fashion and overall flashiness, rubs some people the wrong way, as far as I can tell the chorus of people defending Newton is exponentially larger than the mob of people that supposedly hate him. Newton is the MVP of the league and a ridiculously fun player. The only people who don’t like him are Alabama fans.
  • The Broncos have an amazing defence, but Carolina’s isn’t half-bad, either. Much will be made of Denver’s defence, and it’s deserving of all the praise it receives. Make no mistake: the Broncos are in the Super Bowl because of their defence. But don’t forget about Carolina’s defence, either. According to Football Outsiders, the Broncos rank first in defensive DVOA and 24th in offensive DVOA. The Panthers? Second defensively, and fifth offensively. Both QBs could be in for long nights.
  • Coldplay … and Beyonce are performing the halftime show. How is this going to work? Is Beyonce just going to stand around awkwardly during Coldplay songs, and vise versa? Is Jay-Z going to make a cameo? Will he do “Lost+” with Coldplay? Does anyone besides me remember that song? Super Bowl halftime shows are increasingly safe, which is a real missed opportunity by the NFL but not much of a surprise. Oh well, “Fix You” is still a jam.

Now, to the picks! In honour of the Super Bowl, we brought the whole gang out to make their official predictions. Enjoy the game, everyone!

TONY MANFRED: Panthers -5.5

I think the Panthers win in a blowout. The one reason to have hope from the Broncos is that they have the No. 1-ranked defence in the league. But it’s not like Carolina hasn’t come up against a good defence before. They dropped 80 points on the 3rd and 4th-best defences in the NFL over the last two weeks. I just don’t see Denver being able to keep them below the ~20 points it’d take to win a defensive struggle, and I don’t see Peyton Manning being able to score the 30+ points it’d take to win assuming Carolina has a typical offensive performance.

Final Score: Panthers 48, Broncos 13

LEAH GOLDMAN: Panthers -5.5

The Panthers are going to win, and they are going to win easily. Cam Newton is on the upswing, and Peyton Manning is basically retired. Cam has the third most rushing touchdowns in the NFL this year, with only running backs ahead of him, and he can throw the ball too. As Troy Aikman said Cam “can hit any spot on the field, from any launch point.” Peyton, on the other hand, can’t even take off his own shoes. It’s Cam Newton’s world, and everyone else is just living in it.

Final Score: Panthers 42, Broncos 17

JAY YAROW: Panthers -5.5
I don’t have much to say…
I love Carolina. I don’t see how they don’t crush the Broncos. The Panthers are going to be seen as a historically great team, but nobody who watched them this year will have appreciated how great they are.
Final Score: Panthers 35, Broncos 24

CORK GAINES: Broncos +5.5

The Panthers are rolling. They have put up 80 points in two playoff games. Now they get to face the top-ranked defence in the Broncos. While the first two playoff games suggest the Panthers can score at will against a good defence — the Seahawks (4th) and Cardinals (3rd) are both top-ten defences, according to Football Outsiders — things will be different on Sunday. On the one hand, it feels like too much to ask the Panthers to continue to dominate good defences. Cam Newton is good enough, but the makeshift cast of characters around him are not. But more importantly, it is the Super Bowl. Teams appearing in the Super Bowl for the first time often get the first-quarter jitters, meaning the Panthers won’t jump out to the early lead they have been getting.

On the other side, Manning hasn’t been as bad as most think. If you take out the meltdown against the Chiefs, Manning has been OK. Not good, but not terrible either. And now he has the added benefit of being two weeks further away from his numerous injuries.

Final Score: Broncos 26, Panthers 17

SCOTT DAVIS: Panthers -5.5

It’s hard to feel inspired by either of the Broncos two playoff wins. Despite a dominant defensive showing against Tom Brady in the AFC Championship, the Broncos’ offence completely stalled out in the second half, and the Patriots still had a chance to send the game to overtime in the final seconds. The Steelers’ game was another low-scoring affair in which the offence barely did enough to get by while the defence smothered another team with a battered cast on offence.

Cam Newton and the Panthers present an entirely different challenge to the Broncos defence, with two viable running threats and a competent cast of receivers that Cam Newton has elevated. I don’t think it will be a blowout because the Broncos defence is that good, and I am wary of Cam and company’s ability to stay rolling after a two-week break on the NFL’s biggest stage. I just don’t think Denver has enough.

Final score: Panthers 30, Broncos 17


The most obvious way to think about this game (to think about any football game) is to think about the quarterbacks. Cam Newton is the MVP of the league, and Peyton Manning — who struggles in the Super Bowl — is a shell of the player he once was. By that reasoning, the Panthers will win, and win easily. But by that same reasoning, Tom Brady and the Patriots should be in the Super Bowl. We value quarterbacks so much when talking about the NFL, and most of the time we do so rightfully. This game, I think, is the rare exception.

Because there’s just something about this Broncos defence that makes me think they really will stop Newton, as mobile and all-around excellent as he is. Did you see Von Miller against the Patriots? He’s as terrifying defensively as Newton is offensively, and perhaps the only player good enough to stop him. Newton is the quarterback of the future, yes. But Manning wins on Sunday.

Final Score: Broncos 23, Panthers 20

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