Special to Outkick The Coverage from OddsShark.com
The Denver Broncos (14-4) are comfortable playing the role of underdogs heading into Super Bowl 50 against the favored Carolina Panthers (17-1) at Levi's Stadium on February 7.
The Broncos have won five of their last six games as underdogs -- going 5-0-1 against the spread -- after upsetting the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots for the second time as home dogs in the AFC Championship Game.
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Denver has won three of the four all-time meetings with Carolina, the last coming three seasons ago in quarterback Peyton Manning's first year with the team. The Panthers were favored in only one of those games though and won 30-10 as seven-point home chalk back in 2008.
This time, Carolina is a consensus 4.5-point favorite and looking to become just the third team in NFL history to finish a championship season at 18-1.
The previous two were both NFC teams in the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and 1985 Chicago Bears. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera played on that Bears team and will reportedly take the same approach as Mike Ditka did back then to prepare his players, encouraging them to enjoy the moment and take advantage of the opportunity.
Rivera did an outstanding job this season, as Carolina also had the third-best record against the spread at 11-5, with the team covering eight of its last 11, including the playoffs, according to the OddsShark NFL Database.
The Panthers are led by dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton, the favorite to win league MVP honors. Newton accounted for 45 touchdowns during the regular season (35 passing and 10 rushing) and has shown great leadership skills in taking them to another level this year.
Many criticize him for being cocky and arrogant, but he has done nothing but back it up on the field, capped by his performance in a 49-15 rout of the Arizona Cardinals as three-point home favorites in the NFC Championship Game. Newton became the first quarterback to ever throw for more than 300 yards (335) and rush for two touchdowns in a postseason game, also adding 47 yards on the ground.
However, the Broncos will be sentimental favorites with Manning possibly playing his last game. The future Hall of Famer could retire after dealing with injuries the past two seasons, but he has been reborn since coming off the bench to lead his team to a win in the regular-season finale.
That victory earned Denver home-field advantage, and the team used it to oust the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots to get here.
Manning has not thrown an interception in the playoffs after throwing 17 in 10 regular-season games. But his defense could be the deciding factor in the big game, ranking No. 1 in the NFL and trying to prevent Newton from winning his first Super Bowl.