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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, January 29, 2016 at 10:07 AM


Are we gonna be headed to a Super Bowl 50 "classic" come Sunday, February 7th?

After all, we have the numero uno seeds in both the NFC (Carolina Panthers) and the AFC (Denver Broncos) squaring off here in Santa Clara for all the marbles and you can't beat the storylines as MVP-to-be QB Cam Newton stars for the now-5.5-point favored Panthers while word continues to swirl that this indeed will be the "last rodeo" for Broncos' QB Peyton Manning.

Hey, last year during the "down time" two-week period between the conference championship games and SB 49 there was way too much talk of deflated footballs and PSI (pounds per square inch) and so even though Newton's unnecessarily jazzed things up with talk of race - really, Cam? - for the most part the story is one of a quarterback who is some 14 years younger than the "old hand" who's trying to go out with one last bang.

In today's edition of Jim Sez, we'll officially start pointing in the direction of Super Bowl 50 with a favorite feature that we've brought you over the years - we'll examine what to watch when the Carolina Panthers have the football and in tomorrow's Jim Sez we'll analyze our thoughts on what to watch when the Broncos have the ball.

Jim Hurley - America's #1 Handicapper -- will have the Sides & Totals Winners of Super Bowl 50 when you check with us on game-day morning plus go ahead and continue to pile up the profits all this week with loads of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - go ahead and pound the books today!

SUPER BOWL 50 - Sunday, Feb. 7 At Levi's Stadium - Santa Clara (CA)


Let's start with the important numbers ... the Panthers ranked first in the NFL in scoring this past regular season with 500 total points (or 31.25 points per game) and they've been even more prolific this post-season while registering 80 total points in playoff wins against Seattle and Arizona.

Suffice to say, the Carolina attack has been leaps-and-bounds better than anyone could have forecast at the start of the 2015 season especially when you consider the NFC South squad lost star WR Kelvin Benjamin for the year before he played a single down this season. Nope, he really has not been missed!

Naturally, the whole machinery revolves around QB Newton who - among other things - is 35-of-50 passing for 496 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT this post-season plus don't forget he's rushed for another 50 yards and two scores while dazzling his way to those wins against the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks and those on-the-come Cardinals.

No doubt the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Newton is on top of his prodigious game right here/right now and he's playing with a slew of confidence (some opponents might say he's playing with a degree of arrogance) and we expect a major part of the Carolina game plan here to include some designed quarterback draws in an effort to "suck in" LBs Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware (among others) into the backfield. Hey, Newton will be flinging it too - as we predicted a couple of days ago we believe the Panthers' mega-star signal-caller will throw it 30-plus times here - but trust us the runs he makes could be diff-makers or momentum-swayers depending on whether or not the sharp Denver defense catches on.

In so many ways, this matchup of the Carolina offense against the Denver defense will come down to the adjustments made by Broncos' ace defensive coordinator Bum Phillips - yes, he's one of the truly elite coordinators in the league and the major domo behind that recent 20-18 AFC Championship Game win against 3-point favorite New England - but consider that was against QB Tom Brady who's not much on escaping the pocket while Newton's dual-threat ways could confound Mr. Phillips and friends here.

Meantime, a truly underrated part of this Super Bowl 50 will be how this stout offensive line plays for the Panthers - heck, this unit was spectacular in the recent 49-15 NFC Championship Game win against 3-point underdog Arizona and no doubt by game time this O-line will have heard enough about Miller, Ware, CB Aqib Talib and others ... if Carolina's blocking wall plays large than RB Jonathan Stewart (38 carries for 189 rushing yards, a 5.0 ypc average with 2 TDs) might be a good choice for game MVP and we'll say anything more than a buck-twenty in terms of rushing yards gained by Carolina will be a key figure here.

Finally, Newton has targeted TE Greg Olsen and WR Corey Brown in 26-of-50 pass plays this post-season - Olsen (12 receptions) and Brown (6 grabs including the back-breaking 86-yard catch-and-run play against Arizona) will be keys here but our X-factor has to be speedy veteran Ted Ginn Jr. who has been prone to the "dropsies" this year and throughout his well-travelled career but if he can burn either Talib or CB Chris Harris on a "go route" here, it could be a game-changer. Stay tuned!

PREDICTION - Newton's throws have helped the Panthers gain 9.92 yards per pass attempt this post-season so the chunk plays in the aerial game will be essential but we'll maintain that his runs plus the carries by RB Stewart will be monstrous here - again, the Carolina offensive line gets next-to-no national attention but it will largely dictate the way this game goes especially if the NFC folks can get off to its now-usual quicksilver start.

THE POINTSPREAD STAT BOX - The Panthers are an amazing 10-2 versus the vig in games this year against non-division foes and that, of course, includes the home playoff wins/covers against Seattle and Arizona. Overall, Carolina is 49-35-1 ATS in the Ron Rivera Era that started back in the 2011 season.

DID YOU KNOW? - The Panthers scored 31-or-more points on 10 different occasions last year after having done so a total of eight times in the prior two campaigns.



This Monday we'll turn the calendar page to February - always a great, big month in the world of College Basketball even if "March Madness" gets all the attention - and so let's start to look ahead at what under-the-radar teams might be making some noise in the coming weeks:

UCONN (14-5, 4-2 AAC) - Okay, so back in October we had a little fun here at Jim Sez and we predicted a way-down-the-road Final Four that included these UConn Huskies ... and darned if Kevin Ollie's team won't actually make a real run for the money. The Huskies entered last night's home game against Cincinnati riding an albeit modest three-game SU (straight-up) and three-game ATS (against the spread) winning streak with triumphs over Houston, Tulane and Georgetown and things have come together neatly for the Storrs squad which these days stars Seton Hall transfer G Sterling Gibbs, Shonn Miller and the versatile Rodney Purvis. If Ollie can get solid minutes from his bench, then UConn - not in anyone's Top 25 right now - could be a major mover-and-shaker and a true dark horse to win it all.

USC (15-5, 4-3 Pac-12) - The standings heading into Thursday night's jam-packed Pac-12 menu had the USC Trojans sitting there tied for fifth place with Arizona ... no big deal, you say? Well, dig a little closer and you'll see the Men of Troy have a solid #22 RPI ranking right now and three consecutive conference home games here could bolster a USC team that ranks 11th nationally in scoring (83.7 ppg) under energetic head coach Andy Enfield (formerly the boss at Florida Gulf Coast, remember?). Okay, so USC was in the rankings last week at #21 before getting bopped 85-70 last Sunday at 2-point home dog Oregon State but superior three-point shooting (four Trojans have 35-or-more triples this year including Jordan McLaughlin who averages 42.7 percent from beyond the arc) could push Southern Cal back into the spotlight real soon.

Here's a couple of little ditties when it comes to tonight's College B-Ball tilts:

VCU (15-5, 7-0) at DAVIDSON (12-6, 4-3) - 6 p.m. ET, espn2
Major Atlantic-10 clash at "dinner time" here and note the VCU Rams rock-n-rolls into this clash on a 10-game SU winning streak following last weekend's 84-76 non-cover win against 10.5-point pup St. Bonaventure - is there anyone on Davidson that can handle VCU's JeQuan Lewis (26 points and 7 assists versus the Bonnies)?

WRIGHT STATE (13-8, 7-1) at OAKLAND (13-8, 5-3) - 8 p.m. ET
Here's an underrated Horizon League game where visiting Wright State zips into play on a six-game winning streak that just so happens to include "W"s against Valpo and Detroit. One thing about the underrated Wright State Raiders: They rank 19th nationally in scoring defense (allowing just 63.8 ppg) and here they challenge an Oakland team that ranks third nationally in scoring offense (averaging 86.1 ppg). So, what gives ... and will this be a league that gets three or four teams into the NCAA Tournament field after usually getting "shorted" in years past?

NOTE: More Super Bowl 50 goodies plus College Basketball and NBA News/Notes coming the rest of this week right here at Jim Sez ... so don't dare miss out!

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