Well it's here. The moment every team trains for and hopes for all season, the Super Bowl.
All the dramatic finishes and blowouts don't mean anything anymore. Super Bowl 50 is upon us and it showcases, on paper, what could be a great match up. Cam Newton will lead the Carolina Panthers and one of the best defenses in football against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos who boast an outstanding defense of their own. Before we get to the game let's recap how each team got to the final game of the 2015 season.
The Carolina Panthers strolled through the regular season with a 15-1 record, but they weren't always considered the best team in the league. In fact many writers, media members and fans in general thought the Panthers were the worst undefeated team early in the season. After they lost Kelvin Benjamin for the season, before it even began, many doubted the Panthers had the necessary weapons to make it this far. Boy did they show us. Newton had an MVP season throwing for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns and tacked on 636 more yards rushing while running 10 touchdowns in himself. He took the league by storm. His celebratory style drew incredible amounts of criticism, but his tradition of handing the ball, after a touchdown, to children in the stands brought considerable amounts of praise. The Panthers lost their first game in Week 16 against the Falcons, and if they hadn't this post could be far different. Overall though this Carolina team came together, when no one thought they could, and dismantled the best the NFC had to offer for their opportunity at immortality.
The Denver Broncos had a much more rocky season. Much like the Colorado area, their season had its highs and lows. They started the season 7-0, but it was far from impressive. Manning struggled mightily through that stretch and threw 17 interceptions, but the defense picked up the slack, especially with defensive touchdowns. The Broncos' defense forced 17 turnovers and scored four touchdowns through their first seven games, but then, after losing to the Colts, Manning was benched in Week 10 during a loss to the Chiefs and after the game, it was revealed he had a torn plantar fascia in his left foot. In came Brock Osweiler to try and keep the ship afloat. Osweiler did more than that. He led the Broncos in victories over the Patriots and Bengals that would ultimately give the Broncos the number one seed in the AFC, but he faltered in losses against the Raiders and Steelers, where the offense went ice cold in the second half. he was pulled in Week 17 after falling behind the Chargers. Manning led the Broncos to a win, and then took care of a beat up Steelers squad. The Broncos defense stepped up huge in the AFC Championship against the Patriots. The Patriots had three shots in the redzone down 12-20 in the fourth. The Broncos turned them away on fourth down twice and shut down the two point conversion that could have sent the game to overtime. At the end of the game, it was the Broncos who punched their ticket to Santa Clara for a spot in Super Bowl 50.
Both of these teams overcame adversity to reach this final stage, now it's time to take a look at how they stack up.
Carolina Panthers vs Denver Broncos
Where: Levi's Stadium at Santa Clara, California
When: Sunday, February 7th, 6:30 P.M. EST
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Online streaming: CBS Sports
Halftime show: Coldplay will headline the halftime show; Beyonce will make an appearance.
Panthers Blog: Cat Scratch Reader
Broncos Blog: Mile High Report
Manning vs Newton has all the billing of a possible changing of the guard matchup, but this game will be decided by more than just how the two quarterbacks play. Both teams come in with tremendous defenses. The Broncos allowed the fourth fewest points per game (18.5) this season. Carolina ranked sixth best, allowing only 19.2 points per game, but these defenses go beyond just the number of points allowed. Denver only allowed teams to convert on third down 35% of the time. They also forced 27 turnovers. Not to be outdone, the Panthers only allowed teams to convert on third down 38% of the time and forced 39 turnovers.
One key to this game will be decided by who wins that turnover battle, and that favors the Panthers. During the season the Panthers were +20, best in the league, as far as turnover differential. The Broncos, despite having the seventh most takeaways in the league, finished with a -4 turnover differential. That was mostly because the Denver offense turned the ball over 31 times, third most in the league. The Broncos have managed to turn things around so far in the playoffs though. They have only turned the ball over once, but the Steelers' and Patriots' defenses are a far cry from the Panthers'. Carolina has 44 sacks on the season, and are fresh off dismantling the Seahawks and Cardinals by repeatedly hitting the quarterback. Denver had the most sacks this season with a staggering 52, but Carolina's offensive line and approach can slow down that pass rush.
Carolina has one of the most balanced attacks in the NFL. They average 366.9 yards per game with 224.3 of those yards passing and the other 142.6 yards rushing. Their offensive line has been wearing down defensive fronts by running the ball early and often. Most of the time, the Panthers stay out of situations where the opposing defenses can pin their ears back to rush the passer, and even if they do Newton by no means an easy sack at 245 pounds.
The Broncos have slowly transitioned into a more ground and pound attack. It helps their defense get a breather and limits the mistakes the offense can make. Manning will have to make plays on Sunday though to loosen up a defense that only allows 88.4 yards per game. He did this last week against the Patriots when he threw two touchdowns to Owen Daniels, but he will have to keep that up against a much better defense this week. If the Broncos have any hope this week, Manning will need to have a vintage performance in what could be his final shot at another ring.
Odds: (Via OddsShark)
|Carolina||-3.5 -110||-5.5 -105||-5.5 -110||-5.5 -115||-5.5 -110||-6 -110|
|Denver||+3.5 -110||+5.5 -105||+5.5 -110||+5.5 -105||+5.5 -110||+6 -110|
|o -110||o -105||o -115||o -110||o -115||o -115|
|u -110||u -105||u -105||u -110||u -105||u -105|
Prediction: Carolina 34, Denver 20
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