It seriously pisses me off that I’m writing this article. I really thought that the Patriots would repeat this year, so it’s tough writing about two teams that I don’t particularly care for. That’s especially considering that I ‘boldly’ predicted that the Broncos were making a huge mistake starting Peyton Manning- a mistake that would end their playoff run before it started. Luckily, the title of that article included the phrase “Don’t Want To Win Super Bowl”, so I could still be semi-right.
This is a battle of top-notch defenses, which is my kind of football game. On Denver’s side, they have some serious pass rushers, including Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and DeMarcus Ware. They’re complimented by an exceptional secondary, starring cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. However, I think Denver has the tougher task on their hands because of how dynamic the Panthers’ offense is. It will be the best this defense has seen all year long. Literally every single one of the Panthers’ skill position players is a threat to run the ball to some capacity. All of them can stretch the field, and all are good at finding the soft spot in defenses. Newton has done well at avoiding turnovers, and while the Super Bowl is the biggest stage there is, he is no stranger to championship games.
The Carolina defense is known for its linebacking corps, which boasts the best ‘backer in the business (say that three times fast), Luke Kuechly. The Panthers have a quality secondary too, with Josh Norman being the most recognizable name. Carolina has the 4th-best run defense in all of football, which is bad news for Denver. It’s this simple- in games that the Broncos run for 100+ yards, they win. In games that they don’t, they lose. I’m not convinced that they will be able to- the Panthers’ secondary can all make plays at the line of scrimmage. Since they are playing against a quarterback who can’t make them pay if they don’t respect the deep ball, they have the freedom to play closer to the line a step or two. Manning did well against the Patriots in the first quarter of the AFC Championship, but once they started playing tougher against the pass, the Broncos’ offense became extremely one-dimensional; Gary Kubiak didn’t trust Manning to go win him the game. Instead, he relied on #18 to not lose him the game. That exhibits a lack of trust in his quarterback, which isn’t a good omen… especially if they go into halftime losing.
I expect this one to be relatively low-scoring. I think there will be a lot of sacks and turnovers for a Super Bowl game. While the Panthers have the clear advantage at quarterback, I think that the Broncos have better playmakers on their side- I mean, give me Demariyus Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Owen Daniels as an entire group over Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn and Corey Brown. Yet, for some odd reason, these Panthers receivers have played over their heads all season long. The Panthers have more talent top to bottom, but the Broncos have more experience (even though it was an embarrassing, embarrassing blowout in their last appearance in the Super Bowl, it still counts).
I’m a believer in momentum. In this case, the Panthers have been rolling since the regular season kicked off. I think that they have an undeniable sense of swagger to them, and I think that they truly believe that the 50th edition of the Super Bowl is theirs to lose. Their confidence is reminiscent of Seattle’s back in 2014. As long as they play within themselves like they have all year and come out confident, not cocky, I think it’s theirs.
I see the Panthers winning through a score of 31-17. Expect Cam Newton to win the Super Bowl MVP with two total touchdowns (the third offensive touchdown, I think, will come from the bruiser Mike Tolbert), and expect a close ending to be blown up by a pick-six, like in Super Bowl XLIV (Colts vs. Saints). I think the Broncos touchdowns will come from CJ Anderson on the ground and Peyton Manning to Emmanuel Sanders through the air. It should be an entertaining one depending upon the style of football you like. I’m excited for the matchup because I love defensive football.
Cover photo courtesy of nbcbayarea.com.