At long last, Super Bowl 50 is upon us! Are you excited? You should be!
Even if you hate Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, you’re going to watch just to see if they lose. Even if you will never get over that time Peyton Manning lit up your favorite team, you’ll watch to see if he goes out on top. Even if you hate how much your boyfriend loves football, you’ll watch because it’s the last game of the season and you want to see Coldplay and Beyonce tear up the stage during the halftime show. Even if you have absolutely no interest in football, you’ll crash your friend’s Super Bowl party just for the free food and to watch the commercials.
The point is, no matter how much you love or hate the sport of football, on Sunday you’ll find yourself on a couch or at a bar with a huge plate of wings in front of you while you watch Super Bowl 50. Listen to the national call for the big game on SiriusXM NFL Radio. For home and away broadcasts, visit the SiriusXM NFL schedule. Click here for your one-stop shop for SiriusXM’s Super Bowl broadcasts.
Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m.
On top of anything else, this should be a very entertaining game. Denver and Carolina have been two of the best teams in the NFL this season. They are two well-balanced teams that should make for a fun match-up.
Let’s start with the Broncos, who will likely be playing with extra
pressure motivation, as all signs point to Manning retiring after the game. The old gunslinger is 39 years old and had probably the worst season of his career after throwing nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions in limited regular-season action (nine starts). Manning played efficiently in two postseason starts with 398 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. This will be his fourth Super Bowl appearance and second in the past three years. He’s 1-2 in his previous three games.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Newton experienced a meteoric rise this season, turning into a nationwide phenomenon. After leading the Panthers to a 15-1 regular season, he is a shoo-in for the league MVP award and is quickly becoming the face of the NFL. In his first attempt at attaining a Super Bowl ring, Newton seems to be having all the fun in the world – even if pundits interpret that fun as arrogance.
But it’s not all about Manning and Newton. Denver had the best defense in the league during the regular season, and the unit continued wreaking havoc in the playoffs, putting 23 hits on New England quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC Championship. The Broncos feature a stout linebacking corps, with DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Marshall, Danny Trevathan and Von Miller, to go along with the “No Fly Zone” cornerback tandem of Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Carolina also boasts a scary defense led by linebacker Luke Kuechly, cornerback Josh Norman and defensive tackle Kawann Short. Both quarterbacks will have their hands full trying to put up points against these defensive squads.
For the Broncos, it’s probably best to simplify the offense and rely on the running game instead of putting the burden solely on Manning’s already-depleted right shoulder. The tandem of Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson combined to rush for 1,583 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. If those two are able to get going on the ground, it will make things much easier for Manning to find receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in the play-action passing game. Tight end Owen Daniels caught two touchdowns in the AFC title game and could also be a weapon, as the Panthers have been exposed by opposing tight ends.
Carolina had the highest-scoring offense this year with an average of 31.3 points per game. With Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers ranked second in rush offense, but will be facing the third-ranked rush defense. In Carolina’s lone loss this season, five players carried the ball, but none of them eclipsed 50 yards on the ground. If Denver is able to stuff the run, Newton will have to win the game with his arm. Tight end Greg Olsen is the most reliable option and will be the focal point of the Panthers passing attack. Carolina’s receivers Ted Ginn, Jr., Corey Brown and Devin Funchess have big-play ability, but they will be facing shut-down corners in Harris and Talib.
This game will come down to which defense breaks first. And it’s really a toss-up because neither unit has even cracked this year. Manning has the benefit of knowing what it’s like to be under the lights of the Super Bowl which gives him a mental-edge, but Newton has never been one to shy away from bright lights. Instead, he seeks them, and does everything in his power to shine brighter.
Newton is without question the future of the NFL. Is Manning the past? Not yet. The Broncos will rally around their Sheriff, and in “Win one for the Gipper”-fashion, they will play their hearts out to ensure that Manning rides off into the sunset clutching the Lombardi Trophy. Super Bowl 50 goes to Denver.
Prediction: Broncos 24, Panthers 20
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