The Carolina Panthers open as 4.5-point favorites over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 odds. The Panthers dismantled the Arizona Cardinals, 49-15, in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. In the AFC Championship Game, stifling defense helped the Broncos dethrone the defending champion New England Patriots, 20-18.
So, New York Giants fans, who will you be rooting for? Do you want to see Peyton Manning, quite possibly playing the final game of his incredible Hall of Fame career, get the storybook ending? Do you want to see Cam Newton and the fun-loving Panthers ascend to the NFL's throne?
While you consider that, here are a few random thoughts after a day spent watching the conference championship games -- or, at least, watching until I couldn't stand to see Carson Palmer embarrass himself any longer.
- Two weeks from now I may feel change my mind but today I think I would like to see Manning leave Levi's Stadium in two weeks having earned one more Lombardi Trophy. He is obviously diminished from the historically great player he once was, but it's hard not to hope he can summon just enough to leave the game as a champion.
- I am a traditionalist and I have never been a fan of the ridiculous histrionics and "me, me, me" celebrations from players interested only in drawing attention to themselves. I'm not exactly a fan of dabbing and choreographed touchdown celebrations, but can you really be anti-Newton? The guy plays quarterback at an incredibly high level, and in a way really no one has ever done it. He has fun doing it and actually lets everyone know he's having fun. It should be fun to be as good Newton and the Panthers are, so I can't get all over him for showing that he is enjoying the ride.
- If anyone deserves the trip to the Super Bowl more than Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis, playing amazing football after suffering three ACL tears to the same knee, I don't know who it is. Unfortunately, Davis broke his arm Sunday and his status for Super Bowl 50 is in doubt.
- Can you play quarterback any worse than Palmer did for Arizona? Four interceptions, mostly on awful throws, two fumbles and a slew of open receivers missed. Even in the divisional round a week ago Palmer looked like a jittery mess. You have to wonder if he has taken the Cardinals as far as he can.
- Bill Belichick will go down as one of the game's legendary coaches, but he is human and he does make mistakes. I thought he made one by going for it on 4th-and-1 from the Denver 16-yard line with more than six minutes to play. A field goal would have made it 20-15 and put New England in a position to win with a touchdown. Kick the field goal, get a stop, get the ball back, score a TD and go to the Super Bowl. Instead, the Pats ended up with their season riding on a two-point conversion.