By Zach Walker
This is the title game that all NFL fans and casual viewers will take in. It’s a part of our culture and is the NFL’s crowned jewel that has the world watching. For the Carolina Panthers this will be their second trip in their 21-season history. 12 years ago the Panthers lost to the Patriots 32-29. In the regular season QB Cam Newton took his game to a much a higher level, producing an NFL-high 45 TDs (35 passing, 10 rushing). He’ll most likely be the MVP for the season. Newton leads the Panthers into the Super Bowl this Sunday as -5 favorites over the Denver Broncos, according to footballbettingcenter.com. It must be duly noted that the Panthers defense created a league-high 39 regular season turnovers and added nine more in two playoff wins.
The Denver Broncos on the other hand are making their eighth Super Bowl appearance. This ties the franchise with the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys for most in NFL history. This game will be the fourth Super Bowl appearance for Broncos QB Peyton Manning. He has one title under his belt, but fell short of winning it all in his last two Super Bowls. Manning has had an injury marred season and rumors are flying that Super Bowl 50 will be his last game. The Broncos come into the game with the #1 NFL defense and this will be their toughest test of the season.
The Big Game’s Tastiest Matchups
Denver’s Defensive Linemen Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson against Carolina’s Offensive Linemen Ryan Kalil and Trai Turner: Tom Brady would attest to the effectiveness of Malik Jackson, teamed with DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. The Broncos dictated how the game was played when Brady dropped back. Derek Wolfe has been one of Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ best ace’s up his shelve. He’s got the motor that’ll give opposing linemen fits all game long. Ryan Kalil has been one of the Panthers’ premiere players for the best part of almost a decade, and once they plopped LSU’s standout Trai Turner next to him, they had the interior portion of Cam’s protection locked down. Jackson had his way with the Patriots, but piercing through Carolina’s tandem is going to be much more clogged, even with Derek Wolfe’s aid. ADVANTAGE: CAROLINA
Denver’s Von Miller versus Carolina’s Michael Oher: Everyone knows the Michael Oher story, so no need to reiterate, but in this game, he’ll be protecting the NFL’s premiere quarterback, Cam Newton, against a player looking to top a killer early career with a Super Bowl cherry, months before he’ll hit the free agent waters. Miller is an assassin and has the speed to absolutely leave the ‘Blind Side’ looking for a license plate number. But does Miller have the ability to get the enormous Cam Newton to the Santa Clara turf? ADVANTAGE: DENVER
Denver’s Owen Daniels versus Carolina’s Luke Kuechly: Peyton Manning is extremely limited in his physical ability, but he’s still Peyton Manning, and pre-snap and as the play unfolds in the first three-to-four seconds, Manning has the upper-hand. However, where Manning needs to push the ball into the grasp of either Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders, his most comfortable target has been Gary Kubiak’s Owen Daniels. The problem is that Daniels is going to be guarded by the best linebacker in the NFL, Luke Kuechly. Kuechly has the age, talent, and physical ability edge over Daniels, but if Manning can anticipate the throws, and throw Daniels open, at least, Daniels can maybe pull a flag out of the refs, from some notoriously tight Kuechly coverage. ADVANTAGE: CAROLINA
Carolina’s Cam Newton versus the Denver field: This really is the game isn’t it? How the Wade Phillips defense handles the X-Factor of the 255-pound, six foot five inch tall quarterback with end zone on his breath. Coverage can be as lock-down as it could be, and Newton could peek a sliver of open field through the pass rush and be on to a first down. The Broncos need to do something to contain the NFL’s most dangerous offensive weapon. Maybe a spy? Maybe an aggressive pass rush? DeMarcus Ware is really going to need to have a grippy game, not allowing Cam’s size to slip through his grasp. T.J. Ward needs to have an eye on Cam, because Ward can really crack some cantaloupes, if Ward puts his shoulder into it. It’ll take a supreme team effort from the Broncos to bottle up Cam. ADVANTAGE: CAROLINA – I’ll believe it when I see it.
How the teams will win
Denver Broncos: If Peyton plays his finest game, the Broncos can sail into their, going to be, very busy offseason, with a Lombardi Trophy taped to the bow. When I say ‘finest’ game, I really mean, playing within his new limitations of his right arm, that weren’t so apparent, even two years ago in Peyton’s last visit to the big dance. If anyone can prepare to throw passes with anticipation, I’ll give it to Manning. If the Broncos can get anything on the ground, through the running game, that’ll be a massive boost. On defense, the Broncos must bottle Cam up, but on the outside, the Broncos have the weaponry. The Broncos corners have the upper hand in all matchups, outside of the red zone. Controlling Greg Olsen is the main game plan for Wade Phillips.
Carolina Panthers: I believe that this is Carolina’s game to lose. They’re younger and stronger pretty much across the roster. If the tastiest way to look at the “Big Game” is by looking at the quarterbacks, this game is the most contrasting in recent memory. Peyton Manning isn’t a flamboyant player and likes to keep his game cerebral. Cam Newton is out there for the viewers, the fans. He’s celebrating first downs, touchdowns, and big defensive plays, and everyone watching is either grinding their teeth in frustration or miming along at home with Newton on the field. Cam is now big time, and now on the biggest of stages, and might have thrown a call to Homer Simpson for an extra special display of his play. The Panthers wide receivers need to play beyond their talent, and Devin Funchess in the red zone is a matchup problem because of his size and catch radius. Man, if the Panthers had Kelvin Benjamin, this would be a whole different narrative.
Who WILL win?
Whoever wants it more. Whoever gives that 110 percent. Whoever leaves it all on the field. (Insert cliché here). Only Sunday knows the answer to who will win, when the game has four zeroes separated in the center with a colon. I predict the Panthers by four points.