WhatIfSports Super Bowl 50 prediction: Panthers edge Broncos for first title

WhatIfSports.com's NFL simulation engine played Carolina vs. Denver 501 times to predict the outcome.


Each Tuesday, WhatIfSports.com’s NFL simulation engine generates predictions and box scores for every NFL game for the coming week. Our highly sophisticated algorithms simulate every play of every game to produce each team’s likelihood to win. Each matchup is simulated 501 times.

To account for injuries and roster moves announced late in the week, we will be re-simulating games on Thursdays through the postseason.

Note: Our predictions use the latest available team and player information, while NFL SimMatchup includes all players that were or will be available at any point during the 2015 season so that theoretical and "what if" scenarios can be simulated.

Track our 2015 performance or view our accuracy last season.

Expect a low-scoring affair when both No. 1 seeds square off in Super Bowl 50 on February 7.

It’s the third consecutive season that the AFC and NFC’s top seeds advanced to the big game. The number one will be a trend in this finale. Super Bowl 50 is the first time that both starting quarterbacks were taken with the first pick in their respective drafts. Cam Newton, who wears the No. 1, is playing in his first Super Bowl. Peyton Manning has played in three, but his two Super Bowl losses have been to first-timers winners, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.

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Enough of the oddities; let’s focus on the recent statistics.

Denver’s defense allowed the fewest yards of offense (4,530) during the 2015 regular season and ranked fourth in points allowed (18.5 points per game). While the Carolina defense allowed over 600 more yards than the Broncos, the scoring was about the same. The Panthers’ opponents averaged 19.3 points per game, sixth-fewest in the NFL.

One defensive category that Carolina dominates is the turnover battle. In the regular season, the Panthers pounced on 15 fumbles and picked off 24 passes, both best in the league. On the other side of the ball, Newton’s offense lost possession 19 times (10 interceptions and nine fumbles). Carolina claimed a +20 turnover margin in 2015, compared to Denver’s -4 differential.

In the playoffs, the Broncos have improved when it comes to holding on to the football. Denver turned the ball over just once in the past two games, while its defense has generated three turnovers thus far.

Thanks to Arizona’s seven turnovers in the NFC Championship game, Carolina has a 9:1 turnover ratio in its two playoff games. Linebacker Luke Kuechly recorded a pick-six in both contests.

WhatIfSports.com used its NFL simulation engine to play the Super Bowl 501 times. Carolina captured the Lombardi Trophy 61.4 percent of the time, with the simulations producing an average score of 20-16. Denver successfully covered the 5.5-point spread in 53.3 percent of simulations. Check out the box score below for team and player projections or run your own Super Bowl 50 simulation:

Super Bowl 50 Prediction
Matchup Win % Avg. Score
Carolina Panthers 61.4 20 Box Score
vs. Denver Broncos 38.6 16 Simulate Game

For more Super Bowl 50 content, view our prop bet predictions.