Super Bowl 50 Preview

Super Bowl 50 is a tale of two teams at opposite ends of NFL history. The Denver Broncos are perennial playoff contenders who will be making their record-tying eighth Super Bowl appearance. The Panthers are one of the league’s youngest franchises, who have appeared in less Super Bowls (one) than the Broncos have won (two in the late ‘90s). To put it in perspective, the Broncos’ quarterback, Peyton Manning, was tearing up the SEC as a sophomore at the University of Tennessee when the expansion Panthers played their first regular season game in 1995. This old versus young storyline has expanded to the here and now as the veteran-laden Broncos are led by an all-time great on his last ride, while the up-and-coming Panthers’ face of the franchise is a dynamic “look at me” playmaker whose time is now. This is a classic battle between old versus young. Who will win? Let’s find out.

Why the Broncos Will Win
Could you script a better ending for Peyton Manning to ride off into the Santa Clara sunset with his second Super Bowl ring? The stage is set, but can the five-time MVP, bury his big-game demons which have tarnished a record-setting career? Wouldn’t it be ironic if Manning played his best game in his worst season as a pro? Even if he doesn’t play at an elite level, the (14-4) Broncos can still win behind a top-ranked defense that battered Tom Brady in last week’s AFC championship game. Manning made the most of his early opportunities, running coach Gary Kubiak’s ball control gameplan to perfection in the Broncos thrilling 20-18 victory. If they can contain Cam Newton (good luck) in the pocket and force him to force plays, then their ball-hawking secondary is good enough to make momentum-swinging plays that their limited offense cannot.

Why the Broncos Will Lose
Manning’s career stats could easily warrant him to not only being the best quarterback of a golden era of QB’s (Brady, Favre, Ryan Leaf — kidding), but the BEST EVER. However, Manning’s post season failures are just as legendary.The 39-year-old veteran is still one of the best at reading defenses and blowing smoke up the defense’s ass BEFORE the snap, but it’s what happens AFTER yelling “Omaha” that has been almost as hard to watch as Kobe Bryant’s final season. With Manning piloting the offense, the Broncos have crashed and burned — turning the ball over 18 times. That's a bad omen against a Panthers D that forced a league-high 39 turnovers in the regular season before adding nine more in their two playoff victories. Every time Manning tries to throw a deep ball, it brings to mind those sad sack Cialis commercials (think limp and flaccid). The Broncos D is number one, but the only thing that stopped the impressive Patriots comeback seemed to be the time clock. If the Panthers score early and often, the Broncos will have to put the ball in the air more and that could lead to lots of Michael Jordan-crying memes being photoshopped onto Peyton’s face.

Why the Panthers Will Win
Carolina (17-1) got their dab on in last week’s 49-15 stomping over the Arizona Cardinals. The NFC champions have been rolling all year behind consensus MVP Cam Newton and a ball-hawking defense led by All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly. The Panthers are strong on both side of the ball with a league-high 10 Pro Bowlers. What their top-ranked offense lacks in playmakers it makes up for with perhaps the best playmaker of them all in Newton, who can run, pass and dance like nobody’s business. Cam is like an NFL-version of LeBron James, who dominates you physically and has a natural born instinct for the game. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime talent who could become the first quarterback ever to have won a national championship in college, the Heisman Trophy and a Super Bowl — oh yeah, he also won a junior college national title at Blinn College. If Newton can lead the Panthers to a couple early scores, their bruising defense should do the rest and this game could be over by the time Coldplay (really?) takes the stage at halftime.

Why the Panthers Will Lose
Whereas the Broncos go into the last game of the 2015 season relatively unscathed, the Panthers are hurting. DE Jared Allen, CBs Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere all were injured late in the season and will not play. You can add S Roman Harper and All-Pro LB Thomas Davis (broken arm) to the list of Carolina’s walking wounded. All of them are on the defensive side of the ball, where Cam can’t help them. If the Broncos D can create a short field for their offense, Manning could get hot or someone such as WR Demaryius Thomas could break a long one for a game-changing play. You also can’t underestimate the Super Bowl spotlight that has dimmed many a star before. Cam, for all of his success has never played in a game this big. If he’s rattled early and often, will he respond, seek cover or try to do too much?

Prediction
You always hear that defense wins championships. Well, both teams can proclaim that cliched credo since the Broncos and Panthers are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 Although the money is on Carolina, who opened as a 3.5 point favorite and is currently up to a six-point spread, we sense a low-scoring game if the Broncos have any kind of chance. Although we would put our money on the Panthers, we could totally see a closer game than everyone is thinking. After all, four of the last five Super Bowls have come down to the last play. Incidentally, the last blowout was in Super Bowl XLVIII, when the Seattle Seahawks overwhelmed the overmatched Broncos 43-8, the starting QB that game was of course none other than Peyton Manning.

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