The Biggest of Stages: Super Bowl 50
By: Ben B.
Sunday night, February 7th, won’t just be average gateway for the regular week, it is the night of the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest days in America and can be safely described as an unofficial holiday. For those who really don’t know, the Super Bowl is the game that crowns the champion of the National Football League. Over the last half century, the Super Bowl has separated the good and the greats, the better and the best, the boys and the men.
The Super Bowl can be the perfect way for players with something to prove leave their mark, and last year was no different. Super Bowl 49 was nothing short of a modern classic, and it all came down to an undrafted rookie to secure a fourth championship for the Patriots. A goal line interception by Malcolm Butler was the game saving play, a Patriot victory was secured, and nothing was the same. However, this year another chapter looks to get written as The Denver Broncos face off against The Carolina Panthers.
The Bronco Offense:
The Denver Broncos are the AFC Champions, and they definitely have their work cut out for them. The Broncos are considered longshots at best to win the title as by many they weren’t even considered a top 5 team, despite boasting the number 1 seed in the conference. The season held a fair amount of turbulence for the Broncos, and especially in the quarterback position. The 2015-16 NFL season officially saw an end to the Peyton Manning we knew, and the beginning to the Peyton Manning we hoped to never see. Peyton declined this season in every sense of the word. He threw for 9 touchdowns and 17 interceptions over 10 games. This was the first time since Manning’s rookie season that he had more interceptions than td’s but his troubles doesn’t stop there. Manning’s QBR was a 45.1, and had an overall passer rating of 67.1, both of these stats were the lowest they have ever been in his career. And on top of these troubles heading into the big game, Manning has a history of struggling in the Super Bowl, and these are all indications of trouble for Denver.
The Bronco Defense:
While the offense has struggled this year, the Bronco defense has flourished. The Denver defense has been incredible, and had a historic season. Statistically speaking, the Broncos were the league’s best defense by a longshot. They only gave up 199 passing yards a game, and they are the only team to give up less than 200 yards. The team also gave up the third fewest rushing yards in football, with 83 yards per game. And along with all that, they ranked in the top 5 of the fewest points allowed per game. The team saw four defensive players selected to the Pro Bowl, with two more selected to be alternates. Now to be fair, the Pro Bowl does not really matter, but when 6 out of 11 defenders are recognized as being the best at what they do, it should be taken notice. If the team has any chance of beating Carolina, their defense has to be just as good, if not better, than it was against New England in the AFC Championship game.
The Carolina Offense:
Representing the other side of the league is the Carolina Panthers, who came out as NFC Champions. This season has been nothing but a dream for the team, as they coasted along with a 15-1 regular season record. Here are the knocks on the Panthers. They come from by far the weakest division in football, the NFC South, and their receiver game is limited at best. But so far they have done anything in their power to prove that neither of those things matter. Besides Greg Olsen, the other Carolina “weapons” are Ted Ginn, Jerricho Cotchery, and Devin Funchess. But while none of those names particularly jump off the page, Cam Newton utilized them thoroughly, and threw for over 3,800 yards, 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Newton had a QBR of 66.1, and a passer rating of 99.1. And these numbers have only gotten better in the postseason as Newton has posted a QBR of 84.0 and a passer rating of 113.3. These stats are phenomenal.
Another factor of this insanely dynamic Carolina offense is their rushing attack. At any given moment the Panthers can unleash their premier back Jonathan Stewart, their ground and pound fullback Mike Tolbert (who by the way is the closest thing to a human bowling ball I have ever seen) and they can even unleash their quarterback Cam Newton. This three ring circus of a run game combined for over 1,800 yards and 17 touchdowns. The additional bonus of the mobility of Cam Newton’s game comes through his ability to extend drives, avoid blitzes, and the ability to scramble. When your quarterback is built the exact same way as Lebron James, there shouldn’t be much to fear, and Cam will look to raise hell on sunday.
The Carolina Defense:
On the other side of the ball, the Carolina Panthers are just as frightening. Defensively the Panthers ranked 6th overall, which is a strong showing. They gave up an average of 234 yards per game, and 19 points. While they may not appear to be as dominate as the well-oiled machine that is the Broncos, they do have some gems. Josh Norman is a very strong cornerback, and he happens to be a part of a very strong secondary featuring Kurt Coleman, Roman Harper and Charles Tillman. Luke Kuechly is a top 5 defensive player in the league. Kuechly can rush the quarterback, has airtight pass coverage, and is a pick-six menace. One thing that could hurt the Panthers, is Thomas Davis. Davis is an all pro linebacker who broke his arm in the NFC Championship game. While he insists he will play, the status of his arm is a red flag and a setback to his game.
As for the outcome of the actual game, I think that all signs point towards a Panther victory. The team is much too strong, too fast, and the offense is extremely dynamic. Yes, the Denver defense was historically great against the Patriots. However the Panthers are a whole different breed of offense. The Patriots are a pass attack offense with little to no running game, and that works great for them because Brady is the greatest to ever do it… However it is not nearly as dynamic as the Panthers, and that will hurt the Broncos. Not to mention that the Panthers also ran through the NFC easily, and the NFC is much tougher than the AFC. The Broncos are not helped by Peyton, as he could only once finish the job in a Super Bowl, and he looks to be running on fumes. It is foreseeable that this game turns into a massacre similar to that of two years ago, when the Seahawks beat the living pulp out of the Broncos. I do predict a Panther victory, though I do not expect a beat down. I think the final score will be something along the lines of 28 to 20. I could be wrong, but we’ll have to wait until sunday night to find out…