Feb. 7 marks the 50th Super Bowl. The AFC champion Denver Broncos (14-4) will square off against the NFC champion Carolina Panthers (17-1) at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco, with kickoff scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The Broncos are coming off of a stellar defensive performance against defending Super Bowl champions New England Patriots, winning the AFC Championship 20-18, while the Panthers are coming off of two dominant performances over the Seattle Seahawks 31-24 and the Arizona Cardinals 49-15. With Cam Newton leading the way for Carolina against the relentless Denver defense, it is sure to be a Super Bowl for the ages.
The Panthers are in the midst of their most successful season in franchise history with a nearly perfect record. They won 14 straight games before falling to the Atlanta Falcons, 13-20. Since then they have won three games in electrifying fashion. Quarterback Cam Newton is considered by most to be the best player in football today, and is the favorite to win the MVP. He has thrown for 3,837 yards, 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while also rushing for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns. Newton’s top target is tight end Greg Olsen who has 1,104 receiving yards and seven touchdowns; he also has speedy receiver Ted Ginn with 739 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns this year. Carolina’s offensive attack also includes their workhorse running back Jonathan Stewart who has rushed for 989 yards and six touchdowns this season.
The Broncos have had, yet again, another successful season full of big wins. However their leader and quarterback Peyton Manning has had perhaps his worst statistical season in his career. Granted he only played in 10 games, he passed for 2249 yards, nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions. This past season has not resembled the Peyton Manning of previous years, but he has been able to get the job done so far with the help of his defense. Denver’s defense is considered by most the best in the league, holding opponents to just 18.5 points per game. Their defense features outside linebacker Von Miller who has 11 sacks, along with inside linebackers Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan who both have recorded over 100 tackles, and cornerback Aqib Talib with three interceptions this season.
These teams match up very interestingly, considering they have opposite strengths. The Panthers average 31.2 points a game while the Broncos only allow 18.5. Where the Panthers have been underrated is their defensive production, they still only allow 19.2 points per game to their opponents. The Broncos only score about 22.2 points a game, and this is where they look weaker as an overall team. In order for Denver to win, Manning must put up points one way or another to keep up with Newton. I think Denver can trust their defense to limit Newton and the Panthers to under 30 points. In order for the Panthers to prevail, they must protect Newton and mix up their offensive plays to keep Denver guessing. The Broncos defense needs to do everything they can to frustrate Newton, which means sacks and interceptions.
My Prediction: Panthers 27, Broncos 17
The game will come down to strategy and execution. Who will show up to win? We’ll find out Sunday, Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m.