Super Bowl 50 will be an intriguing matchup. Will the seemingly unstoppable Carolina Panthers run away with the title or will Peyton Manning lead his Denver Broncos to victory and finish his career with a second ring? Our contributors weigh in.
The criminally underrated Denver Broncos are a good matchup to beat the Carolina Panthers going into Super Bowl 50. Their defence and discipline are perfect to stop the explosive Panthers.
This year’s Broncos team has managed to change to a defensive-minded identity without losing a step in effectiveness. In just one year, Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips have put together one of the best defences of the decade. The Panthers will face an insurmountable roadblock in the Broncos defence—they will have to contend with conerbacks Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib, and Bradley Roby covering their unspectacular receiving corps.
The Broncos also have the league’s best pass rush, spearheaded by Von Miller and Demarcus Ware. Boasting a league best 199.6 yards per game allowed in passing, the Broncos’ secondary will swallow quarterback Cam Newton and his group of castoff and bargain bin free agent wide receivers. The Broncos also have a very underrated run defence—it is third in the league with 83.6 yards per game, and they should have very little issue slowing down the Jonathan Stewart led rushing attack.
Granted, stats usually mean very little when predicting how Carolina will play, as they dominated the excellent Arizona Cardinals defence in the NFC Conference Championship game, but things will be different at the Super Bowl. Cam will not be able to break the pocket nearly as much as he is used to because of the Broncos’ bountiful talents at the linebacker position—inside linebackers Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan complement each other very well. The grossly overlooked and underrated Marshall is possibly the best coverage linebacker in the NFL, with two passes defended so far this postseason, and he has also amassed more than 100 tackles this season. Trevathan, who is one of the best run stuffers in the league, also recorded over 100 tackles on the year. He is most likely going to be tasked with spying Cam Newton all game to prevent him from breaking the pocket and running.
If the defence is successful, the Denver offence should get a multitude of scoring opportunities. Led by Peyton Manning, this group has seen better days. Gone are the times when Manning would throw for five touchdowns and 400 yards in high-scoring victories. The offence does not even aim to compete with the explosiveness of its past. Fortunately, Denver only needs to be efficient on offence, and so far in the 2016 post-season that has been the case; Manning has not yet thrown an interception in the post-season and has utilized an effective ground game to dominate the clock, negotiating victories against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots. Manning might have become just a game manager, but he is an smart one. His purpose in the twilight of his career is to hand the ball off to running back CJ Anderson, get close enough for Brandon McManus to kick a field goal, and not throw interceptions. If Manning can accomplish those three things, then the Broncos should stop the upstart Carolina Panthers, and emerge victorious next Sunday.
The 17-1 Carolina Panthers have been closer to perfection than any NFL team this season, and their trajectory points towards a very rare 18-1 season. They are complete—balanced yet explosive on offence, ballhawks on defence, and relentlessly energetic in their overall approach.
The team is led by arguably the most unique coach-quarterback tandem in Ron “Riverboat Ron” Rivera and Cam Newton. The two men made it clear throughout this season that they were going to approach the sport with a commitment to playing and coaching their natural games—it has resulted in a beautifully organic product on and off the field. The media have often perceived Rivera and Newton as abrasive—in reality they are just unapologetically confident in their abilities. Rivera has allowed the team to take on the personality and swagger. At the same time, the drive to succeed that emanates from Newton has spread to all of his teammates. Seeing the team “dabbing” and dancing on and off the field, posing for team photos on the sideline, and always having fun with post-game interviews has shown how relaxed and cohesive the team truly is.
Newton’s million-dollar smile is a microcosm of the Panthers’ playing style: Enthusiastic, confident, fun-loving, and passionate. No occasion is too big for them. It is evident when watching them how much fun they are having on the field with their teammates. As the saying goes, winning is contagious. What opposing teams end up encountering is a group who know how good they are, talk about how good they are, but also are very determined to prove it every game day. In that sense, they are reminiscent of the 2013-2014 Seahawks, the difference being that for Seattle that persona was largely just on the defence was more dominant than their offence, whereas Carolina has a game changer on both sides of the ball (Newton and Josh Norman). One cannot discount the injury that linebacker Thomas Davis suffered in the NFC Championship game, but the rumours are that there’s a high chance he’ll return to the field come Super Bowl Sunday to reunite the devastating linebacker tandem he has with Luke Kuechly.
Carolina has averaged 32.2 points so far this season, and, unbelievably, have scored at least 20 points in every game bar their week 15 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Therefore, as powerful as the Denver Broncos defence has been all year, they will be going up against a team that features an elite dual threat quarterback brimming with confidence, a stable offensive line, and a couple of absolute bruisers in the backfield.
Furthermore, the Carolina defence has proven time and time again that they can make huge plays, whether it be interceptions, pick 6’s, strip sacks, or fumble recoveries. Carolina had a regular season turnover differential of +20, comfortably the best in the NFL, which resulted in multiple games where the defence put points up on the board.
Their Super Bowl opponents, Denver, will not have enough firepower to overcome Carolina. Manning has shown an ability this year to work through deteriorated arm power and mobility; He will, however, be facing a defence that capitalizes on almost every mistake made. Broncos pass rushers Miller and Ware will make their presence felt this game, but Cam’s improved composure this year as well as his ever-present elusiveness will give them a strong chance to counter-act the Broncos’ pass rush.
Expect a changing of the guard at this Super Bowl—the legendary Peyton Manning will pass the mantle onto Cam Newton, who sports the number 1 jersey—it’s a fitting number choice as Newton’s team will finish with just one loss for the entire season, and will also finish number one in the NFL, when they hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy high into the air to conclude Super Bowl 50.
Editors' Pick: Carolina Panthers
Carolina’s relentless presence on both sides of the ball will be too much for Denver to handle. All the necessary pieces are in place for Newton to lead his team to victory.