After spending the past five months wondering whether the Broncos were contenders or pretenders, we have our answer. Despite being dominant in only one aspect of the game and middling everywhere else, this year that was just good enough to get the team to Super Bowl 50. As the NFL hype machine roars to life, here are some numbers to keep in mind.
1: Rank of the Broncos’ defense overall, in passing yards allowed, in sacks, and in DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average), a wonky analytics figure that describes how efficient the unit is. It’s too esoteric to get into here, but it says the Broncos have been way better than the rest of the league this season. This matters, because the Carolina D ranks second in many of these categories.
2: Number of Super Bowl wins Peyton Manning will have (against two losses) if he gets to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this time.
2.5: Number of sacks Von Miller had in the AFC Championship game, along with an interception and numerous other impact plays. The outcome of this one will very likely come down to how well the Panthers can control Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and the Broncos’ dominant front seven.
3: As in field goals. Led by likely league MVP Cam Newton, the Panthers’ offense is balanced and very potent, so the more the Broncos can make them settle for kicks instead of punching it into the end zone, the better chance for a win. If the score rolls into the 30s, the Broncos could be in trouble.
4: The opening point spread, with the Panthers favored. This means the Broncos would be slight underdogs even if the game were being played in Denver—home field advantage is typically worth three points—but at least Carolina isn’t quite as scary as the Seahawks were in 2013. (Right?)
8: Number of Super Bowl appearances for the Broncos’ franchise, tied for the most of all time. As Coloradans are bitterly aware, the team’s only won two of those, but our first bit of good news came this week, when they decided to wear white jerseys instead of orange. (The team has suffered four Super Bowl blowouts in its signature color.) Officially, we’re not superstitious, but this move can’t hurt.
13: Number of NFL franchises that have yet to win a Super Bowl, which includes Carolina. Just sayin’.
17: Brock Osweiler’s jersey number. Chances are the Broncos will live or die with Manning (barring injury), but if he struggles early it will be fascinating to see whether coach Gary Kubiak will turn to the now somewhat seasoned backup. Either way, this game figures to be the last time these two QBs are wearing the same uniform.
39: Manning’s age, making him the oldest QB to start the big game.
Plus-59: The Broncos’ scoring differential for the entire year, worse than eight other playoff teams and two teams that didn’t make the postseason. The Broncos were 12–3 in games decided by seven points or fewer, which means two things: The longer this game stays close, the better their chances; and this year’s champion could end up being a team that was about seven or eight well-timed (or poorly timed) TDs from finishing with a top-5 draft slot
146: Percent more likely that Denver fans are to travel to Santa Clara, California for the game than Carolina fans, according to data from Orbitz.com. This could be due to our relative proximity, or to the fact that our fan base is more loyal and entrenched than one that’s existed for less time than Justin Bieber.
200: If Manning prevails, he’ll break a tie with Brett Favre for most all-time regular and postseason wins.
$5,100: Average resale price for a SB50 ticket as of this writing, which would be a record. The average resale price for last year’s game was just under $4,300.
5.356 million: Population of Colorado, many of whom will be either gleefully or bitterly hungover come Monday, February 8th. If Manning can ride into the sunset rather than limp into it, the statewide headaches will be worth the pain.
Editor’s Note 1/27/2016: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Brock Osweiler’s jersey number was 15. It is number 17. We regret the error.