We near the eve of Super Bowl 50, where our NFC Champion Carolina Panthers (17-1) will do battle with the AFC Champion Denver Broncos (14-4). It’s been over a week and a half since we last saw the Panthers deliver a brutal dissection of the Arizona Cardinals, though the fun of Super Bowl week has brought the excitement back to its frenzied height.
The talk around Super Bowl 50 is the quarterbacks, with the young buck in Cam Newton vs. the old buck in Peyton Manning, who could be playing the final game of his NFL career. On the defense, both teams are strong. The Bronco’s pass rush got to Tom Brady by pressuring him and taking him down in the AFC Championship Game, but Newton will be a challenge for the Broncos’ defense with size and mobility. When the Atlanta Falcons defeated Carolina in Week 16, Newton was sacked two times and averaged 4.7 yards per pass attempts with the Falcons possessing the ball for over 35 minutes. If Denver wants to win, they have to play the same defensive strategy that Atlanta did in Week 16.
Peyton Manning, the NFL’s only five-time MVP, will be the oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl when he leads the Broncos against Newton and the Panthers.In nearly any other scenario, Newton would be the top storyline after leading the surprising Panthers to a 15-1 regular-season record and the top seed in the NFC. The odds-on favorite to win league MVP honors, Newton is attempting to earn Carolina its first Super Bowl title at the expense of Manning, who could be playing in his final game. Manning has had to overcome injuries and a benching to advance to his fourth Super Bowl and will be looking for a better outcome than the 43-8 drubbing administered by Seattle two years ago. “I’ve tried to take it one week at a time all season long,” Manning said. “I’ve tried to stay in the moment and take it one week at a time.” The matchup between the top seed in each conference also features Carolina’s top-ranked offense against Denver’s No. 1 defense.TV: 6:30 p.m. ET
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (17-1):
arolina won its first 14 games behind Newton, who threw 35 touchdown passes and rushed for 10 more scores to spark an offense that rolled up an average of 31.3 points per game and amassed 80 in dispatching Seattle and Arizona in the postseason. Running back Jonathan Stewart returned from a three-game absence to rush for a combined 189 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the two playoff victories while tight end Greg Olsen had six receptions in each of those games after posting team highs of 77 catches and 1,104 yards during the regular season. Despite the high-powered offense, the Panthers ranked sixth in the league with an average of 19.3 points allowed and fourth against the run (88.4 yards per game). Carolina also was fifth in the league with 44 sacks and has a pair of marquee defenders in linebacker Luke Kuechly and cornerback Josh Norman.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (14-4):
Manning has shattered all kinds of offensive marks during his record-setting career, but he has been more of a game manager since reclaiming his starting job, throwing for only 398 yards and two TDs in Denver’s two playoff wins. Manning has elite wideouts in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who each went over 1,000 yards this season, but both of his scoring passes in the postseason were to tight end Owen Daniels. Running back C.J. Anderson had a nondescript regular season, but he rushed for 92 yards in Week 17 and added 72 in each of the two playoff wins. Still, the Broncos’ chances hinge mainly on a defense that permitted a league-low 283.1 yards while topping the NFL with 52 sacks. Linebacker Von Miller, selected one spot behind No. 1 overall pick Newton in the 2011 draft, recorded 11 sacks during the regular season and added 2.5 more in a playoff win over New England