Super Bowl 50 is finally here! And this year it’s shaping up to be a contest like no other. Sure, you can think about it as the Broncos Vs. the Panthers, but it’s also Manning Vs. Newton, Old Vs. Young, Humble Vs. Flamboyant, the league’s best defence Vs. the league’s best offence. Will this game symbolise a changing of the guard with Cam Newton topping a stellar season with a Super Bowl win. Or will Payton Manning get his swan song in what could be his last ever game.
With so many unknowns, so much to think about, and so much to be excited about, let’s preview Super Bowl 50 and see where the game will be won and lost.
Peyton Vs. Newton
Looking back at this season, these two quarterbacks have been almost complete opposites. On one hand, Newton has been the best player in the NFL and will win the MVP! But don’t take my word for it – the other day I clicked on this NFL.com link that I thought would throw around a little bit of controversy on who the experts thought the season’s best players was. But well, let’s just say that a theme emerges quite quickly (NB: They’ve changed the headline since I clicked on it). Hell, even Peyton Manning thinks Cam Newton will win it!
On the other hand, Peyton Manning’s season has been, well, underwhelming. In fact it’s safe to say this has been the worse of his 17 season career. Manning was benched in Week 10 after throwing four intercepted passes, and missed the next six games with a foot injury. On top of that, there have been questions raised about the quality of his aging arm and his ability to make big plays as a consequence.
But in saying that, Manning proved in the Conference Championship game against the Patriots that he is fit and still a force to be reckoned with. And writing off a quarterback with Manning’s ability to read the opposition defence would be hasty. So expect both quarterbacks to play big parts in this game.
It will come down to Defence
One of the keys for both teams this season has been their defence. The reason the Broncos continued to perform despite Mannings absence was that they have the best defence in the league. Outside line backers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller devastated Tom Brady in the Conference Championship game, combining to hit him 20 times. If they are able to do the same to Newton in the Super Bowl they are almost a certainty to win.
But the Panthers have their own defensive power, and except for the second half of the divisional playoffs, it doesn’t make mistakes. They’re an almost faultless unit that’s very good at stopping the opposition from carrying the ball, regardless of how they try and move it. In the regular season they were the top team for stopping passing yards and the seventh top team for stopping rushing yards. The Panthers are certain to make it very difficult for the Broncos’ offence.
Then maybe it’s about stopping the Defence?
With both teams having excellent defensive units, this may well come down to offensive lines. The offensive line that can offer their quarterback the best pass protection and open the most passages for their running backs may prove to be the key for this game.
On the surface, the Panthers’ offensive line seems to have been pieced together from leftovers and is short of a marquee player. But the reality is that it works. They have offered considerable pass protection to Newton who was only sacked 33 times in the regular season. And they are very good at opening passages for running back Jonathan Stewart (or even Cam Newton) to carry the ball which regularly catches the opposition’s defence off-guard.
On the other hand, the Broncos’ offensive line has been affected by injury all season. But under the circumstance they have performed well. The main problem lies in whether ‘performing well’ is enough for a team to win a Super Bowl. The Panther’s defence will go hard after Manning and you can expect to see them blitz a lot early in the game. With question marks already hanging over Manning’s ability to make big passing plays, the ability of the offensive line to stop the Panther’s defence will go a long way to determining if the Broncos will be able to get enough points on the board.
Who will provide each team’s X-Factor?
As much as I want to make a clever observation about the Carolina Panthers’ roster, and say that one of the less-known players will stand up and be the difference between the two teams, I still can’t go past Cam Newton. Like every great quarterback, Newton is the centre piece of this team, and time and time again this season has made extraordinary plays. He will again stand tall in this game and if the Panthers win, it’s difficult to imagine him as being anything but instrumental in it.
For the Broncos however, this is a more difficult task. They are weak offensively are going to struggle to find a way to score, and Manning is not likely to be able to provide this alone. Likewise, the Panther will do everything they can to null the influence of running back C.J. Anderson. For this reason, the X-factor will be provided by tight end Owen Daniels. If Daniels can read the Panthers blitzes and offer additional support to the offensive line, but also break free and position himself for some pass receives, particularly when the Broncos are in the red zone, then he will make the difference in this game.
Who will win Super Bowl 50 and Why?
The Panthers have been the best team all year, and with the exception of the hic-up in the second half of the Divisional Round, they have shown that they can perform in the post-season. The Panthers are the better balanced team. They will find ways to score regardless of how well the Broncos defense performs, and should have no problem limiting the Broncos.
Panthers to Win
Cam Newton to get 80+ rushing yards and the Super Bowl MVP
Manning to be sacked four times
Panthers won’t score from the red-zone once