What a rough year for the Lazy Line! Nearly 6 units down with just one game left to get it back. Fortunately, value raises its razorlike beak for the NFL’s grand finale.

Panthers vs. Broncos
Vegas Line: Panthers -6 points
Lazy Line: Broncos -3 points. Broncos are an 8-unit play.

Analysis: All surface observations favor the Panthers. MVP quarterback. Blowout playoff victories. Best record in the NFL. Comparisons to the 1985 Bears, with a head coach who played for that swarming, smothering defensive squad.

And the popular view of the Broncos adds more fuel to the Panthers’ fire. Peyton Manning burned bettors who LOVED him in the Super Bowl two years ago. The Denver offense struggles to score. The Broncos barely escaped defeat in both AFC playoff contests this year.

Two factors point me toward betting the Broncos, though. Value and defense.

The bookmakers opened the betting with the Panthers favored by 3.5. They figured that nasty little half point above a field goal would stem the heavy flow of bets on the favored Panthers and lure a few bettors to the Broncos side of the ledger. Instead, mania blew out the spread to Panthers by 6. Shouldn’t rational minds lean the other way?

The value clearly lies with the Broncos. Or at least not with the Panthers. A few foundational factors also line up on Denver side.

Of the past 11 top-rated defenses to make it to the Super Bowl, 9 have won. Seattle nearly made it 10 of 11 last year, but infamously blew a first and a foot or two at the goal line as time ran out.

Conversely, teams that scored 500 or more points in the regular season, as the Panthers did this year, own a paltry 4-13 record in the Super Bowl. And the public regularly goes wild over high-scoring teams, resulting in the Super Bowl underdog covering 6 of the past 7 games.

The advantage clearly goes to the best defense in the Super Bowl. And that advantage, clearly, is not well recognized by bettors. Except you and I. So let’s turn this Super opportunity into our grand finale, too.

Roger LeBlanc

Season Totals (assuming $100 units): Corrected: 10 wins, 10 losses. 18 winning units, 24 losing units. Loss of $660.