Once again, just when my gambler's ego had me feeling my oats, the illusory talent and penchant for picking NFL games, especially against the spread, has humbled me in a big way.
It's almost embarrassing to flash my 2-8 record picking against the spread, after losing both Conference Championship games. While the Patriots were in their game in Denver, the Cardinals looked as if they didn't even belong on the same field as the Panthers, who have lost one game all season -- a season that has now lasted 18 games.
A 6-4 record picking winners isn't quite as bad as 2-8, but it's hardly a shining example of how to do this and do it right.
So here we are at season's end, with just the big enchilada remaining -- the 50th one at that.
Picking A Winner
Carolina vs. Denver
*Pick in bold
Picking Against The Spread
Carolina Panthers (17-1) -5.5 Vs. Denver Broncos (14-4)
Honestly, on paper this game may not seem quite as lopsided as the one two years ago -- when Seattle absolutely schooled the undermanned and helpless Denver Broncos. And that was when Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's decline was just beginning to show. I get that Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks to play in the league, but Father Time is undefeated and will remain so Sunday.
I'll go as far as saying that the only chance I give the Broncos is if Panthers quarterback Cam Newton or Manning gets knocked out of the game.
In the case of the Broncos, an early knockout of Newton would turn this game on its head, with ex-Raven Derek Anderson seemingly ill-equipped to best this great Broncos defense. An injury to Manning would allow for a quarterback to come in that has the arm strength to challenge the Panthers' hell-bent defense. The threat of a deep ball seems essential for the Broncos' offense to have any real chance to put up any points before garbage time.
So at the end of the day, I see this game being similar to the Ravens' first Super Bowl win versus the New York Giants in Tampa, Fla. The Panthers are killers on defense and will prey on the aging Manning. The speed of the game will simply be too much for him to handle, as the Panthers should get at least two significant turnovers for either short fields or outright points.
Despite how great the Panthers' defense will be, I think Newton's ability to run will make a huge difference in thwarting this great Broncos defense. I am guessing Newton will run the ball for more than 75 yards, pass for two touchdowns and run for another one. I think the rest of Carolina's points will come by way of three Graham Gano field goals.
Carolina 30, Denver 13