The 50th anniversary. The big five zero. The golden bowl. The Roman numeral that is L but the question is, which team will receive an L? The Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos face off in the final game of the 2015 NFL season to avoid receiving an L. Super Bowl 50 looks to be an intriguing one with a lot of storylines involved, key matchups, and the fact that the game is being played for the 50th time.
Before I get started on this preview, there was something I wanted to share. I read an interesting post on Bleacher Report comparing Super Bowl V to this one where The Baltimore Colts took on the Dallas Cowboys and when they described circumstances of the game it sounded like a de JA vu. Johnny Unitas at the time was washed yet he was anchored by a very solid defense. The Dallas Cowboys were an upstart team with swagger and would eventually go on a run for over a decade. The game wasn’t entertaining and was pretty much dominated by the defenses. The Colts won that game but Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley won MVP. Now that’s not to say Peyton Manning is going to win out like Unitas did or the game will be terribly (It might though) or that the Panthers are about to embark on a dynasty but the parallels are there. Anyway, let’s get on with the preview!
Carolina Panthers (15-1; NFC Champion) vs. Denver Broncos (12-4; AFC Champon)
The Panthers dismantled the Cardinals and the Broncos outlasted the Patriots. That’s how each team got here. Most people has their doubts about both teams headed into the playoffs but as number one seeds they proved the doubters (including myself) wrong. The Panthers seeking their first Super Bowl title are a dynamic team in which they do things in the “old school” way. Playing good defense and running the ball. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers;
Overall Rushing Overall Passing Sacks Allowed Giveaways (least)
2nd 24th 15th 8th
Overall Rank Run Defense Interceptions Fumble Recoveries
6th 4th 1st 2nd
The Panthers are in the middle of the pack in terms of allowing sacks but this offensive line has improved over the course of the year and I dare say that this group of lineman tasked to protect Cam Newton and open up holes for the running game is darn near underrated. They can give Newton time to sling it if need be and if all else fails, he can run. The weak spot here would be the receiving corps. They don’t really scare anybody especially the Denver secondary so I would guess Carolina will be running the ball more with Newton and the playoff leading rusher Jonathan Stewart. Their opportunistic defense can and will come with points and decent field positioning as they led the league this year in takeaways. Even if Jared Allen and Thomas Davis are hobbled with injuries, Josh Norman, Luke Kuechley, and Kurt Colman can find ways to get/create turnovers. Keep an eye out though, this defense tends to give up leads often.
On the other side of the turf we have the Denver Broncos. Their second Super Bowl appearance in 3 years, are headlined by a stout defense with stars all over the place. Von Miller and company do a lot of the heavy lifting with this team while the offense just does enough. Let’s take a look at their numbers;
Overall Rushing Overall Passing Sacks Allowed Giveaways (more)
17th 14th 20th 3rd
Overall Rank Run Defense Pass Defense Points Allowed
1st 3rd 1st 7th
The Defense is pretty darn good. They have the number one ranked defense in pro football and with the amount of talent they have on their team, it’s expected. Take a look at who they have. Aside from their best defensive player in Von Miller, this defense features DeMarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr, Bradley Roby, TJ Ward, Shane Ray, and Darian Stewart. That is a pretty good core and they should be respected as such. A matter a fact, they bail out the offense majority of the time. The Broncos offense leaves much to be desired. They’re committed to running the football but they do it in uninspiring fashion. Their passing game may be slightly below average. Peyton Manning is not what he used to be. The 39 year old signal caller has now been reduced to a game manager and his mediocre offensive line does not help matters. His receiving core consisting of Emmanuel Sanders, Owen Daniels, and Demaryius Thomas among others who often bail Peyton out. I call this team’s offense, a slightly glorified Kansas City Chiefs team because they might struggle more to score points yet they have possibly more talent than they do.
On paper, the defenses on both teams seem even. So I expect this game to be determined on who plays better on defense. Talib and Harris are shutdown corners and will have to problem taking care of a receiving core lead by Ted Ginn Jr. They’ll have to lean more on running the ball but that too won’t be easy. The Broncos would like to run more with the tandem of C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman but that matchup against the Panthers front seven looks like trouble. So it’s probably advised they throw the ball. Problem is, Peyton is the one doing so with his diminished arm strength. He was 2nd in the league with 17 interceptions and while he has been careful with the ball more lately, the Panthers defense is thirsty for turnovers.
Let’s look at the head to head match-up advantages between both squads;
Quarterback Advantage; Panthers
“But what about the Super Bowl experience!?!” Well Russell Wilson had less experience than Peyton Manning did and see how that turned out? Cam Newton is more talented at this point.
Head Coaching Advantage; Panthers
Ron Rivera is a Mike Ditka product and has done a great job of turning this team around through the years. Gary Kubiak isn’t bad but in the Conference Championship games, he was easily the 4th best coach remaining.
Running Back Advantage; Panthers
Remember what I said about the Broncos rushing attack?
Wide Receiver Advantage; Broncos
The Bronocs WR’s could go Super Saiyan if need be. Ted Ginn and Corey Brown on the other hand are Krillin and Tien.
Tight End advantage; Panthers
Greg Olsen is great. Owen Daniels is cool. Whatever happened to Vernon Davis?
Offensive line advantage; Panthers
Top interior offensive line in the league right now
Defensive line advantage; Panthers
Linebacker advantage; Broncos
Slight edge in this one
Conerbacks advantage; Broncos
Josh Norman is elite but Denver has two elite corners
Safety advantage; Broncos
Just to be on the safe side!
Special Teams advantage; Panthers
Both Gano and McManus are good kickers but Ted Ginn is the difference here with returns.
Panthers X-Factor: TE Greg Olsen
Broncos X-Factor: WR Emmanuel Sanders
As far as rooting interest goes, I’m conflicted in a way. I want to see Cam Newton succeed even if it means we’ll hear a lot from Josh Norman afterwards. I’d like to see any African American QB succeed especially with the unnecessary criticism he has been a part of this year from analyst and fans alike. It annoys me and I hope he dabs some more, smile a whole lot, give more football to kids, and compare anything and everything to collard greens because it’s great. A fun/talented guy like him is good for football and as a Colts fan, I’m gonna need Andrew Luck to step up.
Speaking of Colts…that’s the thing…Peyton Manning is my favorite NFL player ever. He’s one of the reasons I got into football. He’s had his ups and downs but in the end, he’s one of the best signal callers ever. This is more than likely his last game (he can be coy about it but we all know it’s time). Him riding off into the sunset winning ring number two would mean something. It would be a storybook ending to one of the best players ever.
Again though, Peyton isn’t himself anymore and Cam Newton is hot. Both defenses will impose their will but at the end of the day, Cam will find a way to make plays when it matters most. Peyton will want to but his body will say “I can’t”. Besides when have you ever heard of good guys having good endings? (There are probably plenty). The Broncos on paper just seem outmatched and if they aren’t careful, the Panthers might get them out of here in a hurry. Regardless of what happens, let’s just end this awful season with a slightly less awful game, please?
Panthers def. Broncos 24-13
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