Late, but not too late.
Defense wins championships. Does anybody ever emit that phrase anymore?
Carolina is a big favorite, and they should be. They are 15-1 and have showed little signs of weakness. They are hands down the best first half team in pro football, but their second half play has been subpar. I’ve been skeptical of them ever since their narrow win over Indianapolis on Monday Night Football a few months back.
Denver has pulled off a bizarre season. Peyton Manning was shut down for the second half of the season. They relied on their run game. As plenty of NFL analysts have said, this team is much like the 2011 version of the Broncos: a strong running game and a big time defense. And this defense is genuinely big time. In the AFC title game, for the most part they made Tom Brady look anemic.
If (and that’s a big if) Denver’s defense can replicate that performance against Cam Newton, I like their odds, regardless of what the betting lines say. However, the difference is, Newton is the NFL MVP, he’s young, he’s big and he’s mobile. Denver’s offense doesn’t have much firepower at all. They’ve played in close games all year with a grind it out style of football, a huge departure from their 2013 campaign.
The biggest wildcard in this game is Carolina’s ability to rack up first downs. If they produce long drives while Denver’s offense is stalling, it’s going to be a long ass day for that Denver D, and if there’s any veritable truths out there, it is that fatigue makes cowards of us all. It doesn’t matter of how good the Broncos defense is, because if they are chasing Newton and the rest of the Panthers offensive around all day, they are hurt.
I’m mostly interested in whether or not this game is going to be close going into the half. As I’ve noted, Carolina hasn’t been a great second half team all season, so if this game is close at the half, I like Denver’s chanced, but if Carolina has a 10-point lead at halftime, forget that.
These last few days I’ve been leaning on picking Denver. This is because of the media’s reaction to going big on Carolina. I’m still conflicted. This could be a blowout dished out by Carolina, but you never know about these games.
Ah, screw it, I’m going Denver.
Prediction: 20-17 Broncos