I really do not like to hype up major sporting events, but when I do, there is usually a good reason. I understand it’s only the day after Christmas, but it’s not too early to start looking at Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. And if everything goes as planned in the AFC and NFC playoffs in January and the best teams in the NFL “hold serve”, the biggest sporting event in America will pit the undefeated Carolina Panthers against the defending champions, New England Patriots.
The storylines would be innumerable. On what will be the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, you would have the NFL’s biggest surprise (and quite likely undefeated) in the Carolina Panthers against the team who has owned the NFL for the last 15 years in the New England Patriots. You would have the League’s two best quarterbacks and front-runners to win the MVP in Cam Newton and Tom Brady. The cocky “Dabbin’ Superman” versus the humble “Golden Boy.” You would have a rematch of Super Bowl 38, in which the Patriots narrowly won 32-29. You would have the northeast part of the country rooting for the Patriots to win their 5th super bowl in 15 years, while just about everyone else (including Roger Goodell and the NFL) rooting for the Panthers, who have not won a Super Bowl in their twenty seasons as an NFL franchise.
Of course, many people will say “it’s way to early to predict a Panthers and Patriots Super Bowl.” First, you have the Pittsburgh Steelers who are coming off impressive wins over both the Bengals and the Broncos. The red hot Steelers will likely get their chance at a rematch of their season opener against the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round. In the NFC, the Seahawks currently look better than when they won the NFC the last two years. If the Panthers manage to get past them in the NFC Divisional Round, they’ll likely have a very good Arizona Cardinals team in the NFC Conference Championship. Moreover the Panthers have been miraculously holding on in games against the Packers, Saints and most recently the Giants, which suggest an eventual fourth quarter collapse is inevitable. The Patriots, meanwhile, have been devastated by injuries to Danny Amendola, Patrick Chung, Dion Lewis, Rob Gronkowski and Dont’a Hightower, not to mention Julian Edelman. A major question mark remains whether or not this team will be healthy in the playoffs.
Having said all that, Vegas still favors the Patriots and the Panthers to win Super Bowl 50, with the Patriots at +333 odds of winning it all and the Panthers at +400. The next most likely team to win the whole thing is the Arizona Cardinals with odds of +650. At least at the moment, all signs point to a showdown in Santa Clara, CA (where Tom Brady grew up) between the perfect Panthers and the despised Pats.
The NFL season started with Brady and Goodell butting heads in “Deflategate” and it could very well end with Goodell handing Brady and the Patriots the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Brady’s hometown. Needless to say, the very confident Cam Newton will undoubtedly have something to say about that. It is only December, but all signs point to Super Bowl 50 being one of the best ever.