Super Bowl 50 edition: Panthers versus Broncos
Why the Panthers will win
Blue and green confetti fell from above and swarmed the players left on the field in East Rutherford, New Jersey, as Denver players congratulated their opposition before walking off in utter disappointment. Two years later, in the jubilee celebration of the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning and the Broncos will see much of the same following their most recent championship quest.
Denver’s top-ranked defense has carried it through much of this season, making it possible for even Brock Osweiler to look like he knew what he was doing. Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers’ offense, meanwhile, have thrived in big-time showdowns against elite defenses.
Newton passed for 269 yards and a touchdown in a 27-point winning effort in October against the league’s No. 2 defense in Seattle. Newton tossed a pair of scores and scrambled for another in a 24-point winning effort against the Texans’ No. 3 defense in September.
The Panthers also combined for 75 points in two wins over the Buccaneers’ No. 10-ranked defense.
Not to mention, Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart has quietly amassed 329 rushing yards and four touchdowns in four games against top-five defenses this season.
Just look back to Carolina’s last two playoff games. Another promising performance against Seattle and a demolition of the Arizona Cardinals proved the Panthers are, once and for all, the Super Bowl favorite.
The Panthers’ defense, at the same time, has been potent for much of the season. Its front seven are unlikely to surrender much to a weak Broncos rush attack, which will force Manning to air it out.
Panthers defensive back Josh Norman has regularly shut down elite receivers this season, most notably holding DeAndre Hopkins, T.Y. Hilton, Dez Bryant and Julio Jones to 13 receptions and 158 yards. Combined. Almost all of those stats—nine receptions and 113 yards—were accumulated by Jones over two games.
Norman also shut out Odell Beckham Jr. through the first half in a late December matchup and rendered him virtually irrelevant until late in the fourth quarter.
There's no doubt manning poses a legitimate threat to the Panthers this week. But after watching the No.6-ranked defense steamroll MVP candidate Carson Palmer while Newton—the true league MVP—threw for over 300 yards in the NFC Championship, all my bets are on the Panthers to do it again this week.
Denver Broncos 17 Carolina Panters 31
Why the Broncos will win
By Ivan Leonard
This edition of Peyton Manning is coincidentally an inverse of his career.
It is the defense that is the best in the NFL, while Manning struggled with only nine touchdowns to 17 interceptions. So why will Manning still beat the 15-1 Panthers?
Manning’s supporting cast is arguably the best in his entire career. Whether it was Manning or Brock Osweiler under center, Demaryius Thomas still put up 105 catches for 1,304 yards and six touchdowns en route to a Pro-Bowl caliber season.
Emmanuel Sanders complemented him with a 76 catches for 1,135 yards and a six-touchdown season, so the Panthers won’t be able to lock onto either receiver.
As good as Josh Norman is, he has been beaten plenty of times by the likes of Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr., to name a couple.
To combat that, Carolina could attempt to give him safety help, but that would make the rest of the defense vulnerable.
The Panthers are great at generating turnovers. Denver cannot afford to lose the turnover battle because the Panthers also make the most out of every possession. Their run game likely won’t work against a front seven of Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, but they have to stay committed and not let Carolina play too aggressively.
On defense, Carolina has to worry about a multitude of playmakers on every level, starting with edge rushers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller.
With a steady pass rush, it will give Pro-Bowl corners Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib opportunities to generate turnovers.
The Broncos also allow only 3.3 yards per carry, so they should be able to force some down and distance situations that will allow Miller and Ware the chance to get after Newton.
Where the Broncos hold the edge there, they need Pro Bowlers T.J. Ward and Brandon Marshall to slow down Greg Olsen. Olsen might be the best tight end in the NFL that did not attend the UA, so the Denver defense should focus most of its resources on keeping Newton in the pocket and bracketing Olsen.
Carolina has had every bounce go its way this season and that ends Sunday, when the Broncos avenge the beat down they received in their last Super Bowl appearance.
Denver Broncos 24 Carolina Panther 16