Breaking Down Denver’s Offense on Early SB50 Betting Preview
Two years ago, when the Denver Broncos rolled to Super Bowl XLVIII, they scored 606 points in the regular season, an NFL record. They still have Peyton Manning at quarterback, but the past season has shown that Manning does not have the physical skills and abilities that he had two seasons ago. He spent much of the 2015 season healing from a tear in his plantar fascia, but he still has balls sailing on him. He is not throwing interceptions at the clip he was before he went down to injury, but he’s also not leading the offense up and down the field like he once did. For updated odds, you can check our NFL betting lines by clicking here.
Kickoff: 6:30 PM ET
Where: Santa Clara, CA
Stadium: Levi’s Stadium
Spread: Panthers -5
Moneyline: Carolina -220 vs Denver +190
Game Total: 45
Stream: CBS Sports
Listen: Carolina vs Denver
The scheme, of course, is different too. When John Fox led the Broncos to Super Bowl XLVIII, Manning threw almost exclusively from the shotgun. Now that Gary Kubiak is in charge of the offense, there is a blend between Manning under center and in the shotgun. Before the Broncos lost to the Colts on November 8, Manning had been limited in his ability to go under center, in part because the foot injury was already taking a toll. He tore his plantar fascia near his left heel during that loss, and he basically lost his mobility — a big factor in the Chiefs’ November 15 loss against Kansas City, in which Manning threw four picks and was benched in favor of Brock Osweiler.
In Week 17, Manning returned to the field to take 29 snaps, 11 under center. Why is Kubiak so focused on having both under-center and shotgun snaps? The idea is to make the opposing defense respect both the pass and the run. The Broncos can’t be pass-heavy like they were, given Manning’s limitations, and a pass-heavy offense (as the Patriots learned in the AFC Championship) is a lot easier to shut down.
Manning led the Broncos to a comeback win in Week 17, and he has been able to go under center in the divisional and AFC Championship games. The Broncos have been able to mix the run and the pass more effectively, and they’ve been able to cobble together drives when they really needed to.
Against Carolina, the Broncos will face a real challenge as one of the most dynamic offenses in the league will be across the field from them. The Broncos are more of a plodding team on offense, which should give them more time of possession if they can keep drives going. The fact that the second half of the AFC Championship saw only one field goal from the Broncos, with the other possessions either ending quickly in punts or in a fumble, meant that the Denver defense had to carry the entire load. That worked against the Patriots, but just barely, as the one-dimensional New England offense was able to find Rob Gronkowski on a deep ball on a 4th-and-10 late in the fourth quarter and again in the end zone. If Pats’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski had not missed an extra point in the first half, the Pats would likely have sent the game to overtime with that comeback bid and come away with a trip to the Super Bowl, given how poorly the Denver offense was playing at that point. The Broncos will need four quarters of offense to beat the Panthers, not just two.