The big day has finally arrived.
Super Bowl 50 is upon us, and the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are ready to clash in what is deemed to be the biggest Super Bowl yet. It’s another match-up of the top-ranked defense (Broncos) squaring up against the top-ranked offense (Panthers).
But despite not finishing with the top-ranked defense, the Panthers have themselves one of the best defenses in the league as well, led by veterans Luke Kuechly and Jared Allen, and also with one of the league’s top corners in Josh Norman.
They ranked sixth in points allowed per game (19.2), sixth in total yards allowed (322.9), 11th in passing yards allowed (234.5), and fourth in rushing yards allowed per game (88.4). They also finished sixth in sacks (44.0), while the Broncos finished first (52.0), the only team in the NFL to have over 50 sacks.
Carolina, however, is truly led by the 2015 NFL MVP… quarterback Cam Newton. The 26-year old finished the regular season passing for 35 touchdowns and throwing only 10 interceptions to go along with 3,837 yards and a passer rating of 99.4. He also rushed for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns with a 4.8 yards per carry average.
Without a doubt, the biggest key for the Denver Broncos is to shut down Newton. There is an extensive slew of defensive players that the Broncos have in order to accomplish this. Linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware have to force to Newton to make throws he is uncomfortable making. Most NFL quarterbacks struggle with edge rushes, but those do not phase the young quarterback. It’s the rush up the middle that mostly affects Newton.
As for the Broncos secondary, they out-rank the Panthers’ receiving corps, but the biggest target Newton has is tight end Greg Olsen, who had over 1,000 receiving yards during the regular season. Bringing a safety such as Bradley Roby up the middle or adding an extra defensive back will be big to cut off the number one target for Carolina.
If Denver can do this, there’s still one task at hand: dealing with Carolina’s defense.
The Panthers’ best chance at winning on defense is to take advantage of the physical condition of a future Hall of Famer… Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. This season featured something that has never happened in Manning’s 18-year career: he was benched during the season. A lingering foot injury sent Manning to the bench, and it wasn’t until the end of the season that he returned to the starting spot, and helped guide Denver through the postseason.
Manning is the first quarterback who will start a Super Bowl after having a season with more interceptions than TD since Phil Simms during the 1986 season.
If Carolina can cut off the receiving routes of Manning’s top targets, and play at the high level their top-ten ranked run defense has all season, it will be a long evening for the AFC Champions. With a win, Panthers would become 4th team in NFL history to win 18 games in a single season (1984 49ers, 1985 Bears, 2007 Patriots). And to top things off: the Broncos have lost a record 5 Super Bowls and have been outscored in the five defeats by 29.6 points per game (206-58).
The bottom-line is this: both team are highly talented in multiple ways. One quarterback is in the prime of his career, while another might walk into the sunset following tonight’s game. A blend of young future stars, and longtime veterans will square off in the 50th anniversary of one of the biggest events of the year.
It has the looks of being an intense game.