In the first 49 Super Bowls...
The NFC Champion has won 26 times, the AFC Champion 23. Not a huge difference there.
But if you count teams that started in the old, pre-1970 merger NFL, including the Steelers and Colts, then it becomes 33-15 NFC. You really shouldn't count the Ravens, even though they began as the Browns (who began in the AAFC before becoming an NFL team anyway); but if you do, then it's 35-13 NFC. The Denver Broncos started out in the AFL, while the Carolina Panthers are a 1995 NFL expansion team. Based on this... Advantage: Carolina.
The team wearing the white jerseys has won 31, including the last 4, and 9 of the last 10. The Panthers will be wearing white. Advantage: Carolina.
UPDATE: I was wrong: The Broncos wore white, and the Panthers blue.
Teams whose primary (dark) uniform color is blue have won the most Super Bowls, 17 -- but have also lost the most, 18. Red has the best winning percentage, at 10-6; Black is 11-8, Green is 7-7, Purple is 4-4, and Orange is 0-5. The Panthers' primary color is a very dark blue. Advantage: Carolina.
The older of the two teams has won 32 times -- and if you accept the old Browns/Ravens as an "old" team, it becomes 33 times. Advantage: Denver.
The Jets are the only team to reach the Super Bowl with a mascot that is an inanimate object. (No, I'm not talking about Fireman Ed.) The only other such team in the league could be the Browns, depending on what you think a "Brown" is. Advantage: Neither.
Teams with human mascots are 37-22 in Super Bowls. Teams with animal mascots are only 11-27. Miles the Bronco and Sir Purr the Panther are both animals. Advantage: Neither.
Teams with horse mascots, the Broncos and the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts, are 4-7. Teams with cat mascots are 0-3: The Panthers have lost their only appearance before tonight, the Cincinnati Bengals are 0-2, the Jacksonville Jaguars have never made it, and the Detroit Lions haven't made an NFL Championship Game, under any name, since 1957. Since horse have won, and cats haven't... Advantage: Denver.
Teams playing their home games on natural grass are 24-23; on artificial turf, 24-26. Both teams play on real grass. The game is being played at Levi's Stadium, which also uses real grass. Turf teams having to switch to grass for the Super Bowl are 13-10, but since that doesn't apply to either team, no advantage. Grass teams having to switch to turf for the Super Bowl are 9-8, while teams playing on turf and staying on turf are 11-12. Not a whole lot of help there.
The team with the more experienced quarterback doesn't help much: It's almost an even split, 25-24. Peyton Manning is considerably more experienced than Cam Newton, but is that really an advantage for Denver? After all, "more experienced" could mean "old," while "less experienced" could mean "just entering his prime."
Having the more experienced head coach doesn't help much: Teams with the less experienced coach are 26-23. The Broncos' Gary Kubiak has been a coach since 1992, an NFL coach since 1994, and an NFL head coach since 2006. The Panthers' Ron River has been a coach, and an NFL coach, since 1997, and a head coach since 2011. So while this particular advantage leans toward Denver, it may be utterly meaningless. Rivera does, however, have a Super Bowl ring, with the 1985 Chicago Bears.
The team that is closer in distance to the site of the Super Bowl is 27-22. And Denver, Colorado is a lot closer to Santa Clara, California than Charlotte, North Carolina is. But in the era of every team flying their own private planes, and with nearly a week to acclimate to the location of the game, is that really an issue?
Finally, teams from States that were Red States -- won by the Republican nominee for President in the most recent election -- are 25-21 in Super Bowls. Teams from Blue States -- won by the Democratic nominee in the last election -- are 24-28. North Carolina has gone Republican in every election but 1 since 1980, while Colorado has gone Democratic in the last 2 elections.
Does this mean... Advantage, Denver? Not necessarily: The last 5 Super Bowl winners have been from Blue States -- but so have the last 6 Super Bowl losers. The last Red State team to win was the New Orleans Saints, 6 years ago. The last team from a conservative city to win was the Indianapolis Colts, 9 years ago. Now that suggests... Advantage, Denver.
At the moment, the point spread is Panthers by 5.
The 1968-69 Jets, the 1969-70 Chiefs, the 1980-81 and 1983-84 Raiders, the 1982-83 and 1987-88 Redskins; the 1990-91, 2007-08 and 2011-12 Giants; the 1997-98 Broncos, the 2001-02 Patriots, the 2002-03 Bucs, the 2009-10 Saints, the 2012-13 Ravens and the 2013-14 Seahawks -- 15 of the 49 winners -- won the Super Bowl despite being the underdog.
The 1975-76 Cowboys, the 1988-89 Bengals, the 1995-96 Steelers, the 2003-04 Panthers, the 2004-05 Eagles and the 2008-09 Cardinals -- 6 teams -- beat the spread, but did not win the game. The 1996-97 Packers were 14-point favorites to beat the Patriots, and beat them by exactly that, 14 points. The 1999-2000 Rams were 7-point favorites to beat the Titans, and did so. On those 2 occasions, the Super Bowl point spread was right on.
My recommendations? I have two:
1. Don't bet on the game. You need the money more than your friends do, and especially more than any bookmaker does.
2. Enjoy yourself, but don't eat too much.
You could go for the team wearing the less ugly uniforms. Since the Broncos will be wearing their bright orange jerseys with purple trim, and the Panthers their road whites, that would mean the Panthers.
There is sentiment behind Peyton Manning. But he pals around with employee-hating Papa John Schnatter, so to hell with him: Let's go, Panthers!
If you must bet, consider what I've said here, take it with a pinch of salt, and use your head.
Let's hope, first and foremost, for a good game, with no major injuries, and no moments like Peyton's over-the-shoulder snap on last year's first play from scrimmage. No "Leon Lett Play." Nothing that would make an announcer say, as Verne Lundquist said after a wide-open Jackie Smith of the Cowboys dropped a sure touchdown pass in Super Bowl XIII, which ended up making the difference, "Aw, bless his heart, he's got to be the sickest man in America!
Nobody deserves to have that happen to him.
Well, maybe the Patriots do. But they're not in it this time, are they? They couldn't cheat their way in again.
Broncos or Panthers? We shall see.