Super Bowl 50 Preview
By Roger SinClair
So many storylines, so little time. The time is almost here! The climax of the 2015 NFL season is upon us, as the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos face off in Super Bowl 50 (or L, if we want to stick with Roman numerals). This game has so much to offer NFL fans, and both of these teams come in with compelling story lines.
The Denver Broncos had a roller coaster of the season, and no player embodies that more than Peyton Manning. Manning was benched in favor of Brock Osweiler after a horrible game against the Kansas City Chiefs, and many people pegged Osweiler to lead this Denver team into the playoffs as the #1 seed in the AFC. However, a horrible turnout from Denver’s offense put Peyton back in the helm. The Broncos beat Pittsburgh and New England to advance to the Super Bowl and with rumors that this will be Peyton’s LAST game, many are comparing this game to John Elway’s last Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons. I won’t lie, seeing Peyton Manning retire on top would be the ultimate homage to the 18-year veteran. Someone who has given so much to the game of football deserves another ring.
However, Peyton Manning isn’t the only Denver Bronco playing this game. Denver’s defense is reminiscent of the old “Orange Crush” days and their performance was a big part of the Broncos 20-18 AFC Championship victory. Two players to watch are Von Miller and Demarcus Ware (another aging star looking for a ring), who will be vital to keep Cam Newton under duress. Denver’s secondary is also home to one of the best cornerback tandems in Chris Harris Jr and Aqib Talib. Harris may be the most underrated player on this Denver team. Not only has he been placed on the majority of #1 receivers this season, but he has also been plagued with nagging injuries. Still, his play hasn’t faltered. For better or worse, Denver’s defense will be the deciding factor in this Super Bowl matchup.
The 15-1 Panthers are out to prove everyone wrong, and nothing would be more of a statement than winning the Super Bowl. Despite only 1 loss this season, many people doubted the Panthers’ capabilities. However, the Panthers dominated the Seahawks in the first half of the divisional playoff round, then forcing seven turnovers against the Cardinals in the NFC Championship game. This team is for real and proved so far in the playoffs that they can not only play the toughest teams, but beat the toughest teams.
Cam Newton has put together possibly the most impressive MVP candidacy of any player in the league, with 50 total touchdowns this season. He has also done this without star wideout Kelvin Benjamin, who tore his ACL in training camp. Ted Ginn Jr and Jerricho Cotchery are the leading receivers for the Panthers, and you’d be hard pressed to call either of those players any more than a #3 wide receiver on any other team. Cam also has 12 rushing touchdowns on the season, and while he has solidified himself as tremendous pocket passer he still demonstrates his big play ability.
The Panthers defense finished the season as the #1 scoring defense and also lead the league with 39 takeaways. Luke Kuechly had an interception returned for a touchdown both against the Seahawks and the Cardinals, and he will no doubt be looking for the trifecta. Josh Norman has put together an incredibly impressive season, Thomas Davis has put together another impressive comeback season (despite a broken arm in the NFC championship game), and Roman Harper and Kurt Coleman have brought stability to both safety positions. These defense is stacked, and while they may not be as efficient as the Broncos they have enormous big play ability.
This game will be a defensive slugfest. I think both offenses will have a tough time adjusting in the beginning of this game, and it will be a relatively low scoring first half. However, I do think that the Panthers have higher quality and higher swagger than the Broncos. This Carolina team brings back memories of the 1985 Bears, which head coach Ron Rivera was a member of. Their “us against the world” mentality has fueled their dominant season and the Super Bowl will be the best way of proving everyone wrong. The Broncos will simply be outmatched. I see the Panthers scoring a defensive touchdown at some point in the second half, and they’ll never let Denver back into the game. While it would be a perfect story, Peyton Manning and Demarcus Ware won’t go out on top. I think Cam Newton and company get the job done.
Prediction: Panthers 35 Broncos 17
MVP: Cam Newton 25-35 287 YDS 1 TD, 93 YDS rushing 1 TD