The time has come, it is officially Super Bowl week and this year, North America’s greatest and most glorified sporting spectacle celebrates its golden anniversary. Super Bowl 50 will feature a fantastic matchup between the best teams from their respective conferences, The Carolina Panthers and The Denver Broncos. Super Bowl 50 will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. This marks the second time in history that the Super Bowl is being played in the Bay area, the first game having been played in 1985 for Super Bowl XIX, which saw the home team San Francisco 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins by a score of 38-16. Let’s fast forward a little bit and get back to this year’s magnificent match up. The Denver Broncos are looking for their third Super Bowl title in franchise history, having won their first two in back to back situations during the late 90’s. On the other side, the Carolina Panthers are still looking for their first Super Bowl title since their inception in 1993. As previously mentioned, both of these teams enter this game as the best team in their respective conference. However, both of them took different paths to get to the biggest game of the year.
Path to Super Bowl 50
The AFC leading Denver Broncos finished off the 2015 campaign with an impressive 12-4 season, which earned them a first round bye in this year’s post season. It was an interesting year for the Orange Crush as they started off a little shaky with QB Peyton Manning under centre. It was evident that the aging quarterback was having trouble executing the basics of the positon in the early part of the season, and the offensive line didn’t help out either. Manning was eventually sidelined with a few injuries and ailments in the middle of the season, which meant it was time for backup QB, Brock Osweiler to shine. Brock started seven games for the Broncos and managed to win some important ones in order to help keep the Broncos on track. The most interesting thing about the Broncos is that it’s been their defense that has carried them through games this season, not their normally potent offense. The Broncos have boasted a stern defensive unit; in fact, it is the league’s top scoring defense.
In the playoffs, the Broncos encountered a seriously depleted Pittsburgh Steelers squad that had to travel to Mile High for the divisional round. The Broncos were able to outlast Big Ben and the Steelers by holding on to a 23-16 win. They then advanced to the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots, which meant yet another duel between Tom Brady and Payton Manning. The Championship game was a tight, hard-hitting, low scoring affair which saw the Broncos edge out the Pats, all thanks to a missed PAT by Pats kicker, Stephen Gostkowski. In both of their playoff games, the Broncos were really able to prove how stout their defense is and how they have the ability to close out games.
The Carolina Panthers were clearly the best team in the NFL this season as they finished the 2015 campaign with a near-perfect record of 15-1. Their only loss of the season came in a week 16 tilt against their divisional rivals, the Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers were arguably the most balanced team in football as they proved that they can be effective in all facets of the game. Whether it was their rushing or passing game on the offense or their run and pass defense, the Panthers always had an answer. QB Cam Newton had an extremely productive 2015 season and with that, his name has been in the mix regarding any kind of MVP talk. He has helped the Panthers achieve the title of league’s high scoring offense; of course I must mention that star wide receiver from 2014, Kelvin Benjamin, has played a down of football this season due to a season-ending knee injury. The Panthers defense also deserves a shout out as they had a great season and ranked 6th in the league this season in terms of overall defense.
The Panthers held the best record in the NFL this season which earned them a bye week through to the second round of the playoffs. In their NFC divisional round, the Panthers played host to the feisty Seattle Seahawks in a game where the Panthers got up big on the ‘Hawks very early in the game. Needless to say, the Panthers won that game by a score of 31-24, sending the Seahawks back to the west coast and invited another NFC West team, the Arizona Cardinals, into Bank of America Stadium for the Conference Championship game. This game was such a highly anticipated match-up as it featured two of the league’s best teams in what was supposed to be an epic battle. The Panthers simply outdid the Cardinals in every facet of the game and turned what was supposed to be a tight, closely contested game into a pure blow out. The Panther schooled the Cardinals in the NFC Championship on their way to claiming victory with a score of 49-15. The Panthers are about to make their second Super Bowl appearance and have proven that they are serious favourites to win this game.
5 Things to Know
- If Manning Wins…
If Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos come out victorious in Super Bowl 50, Manning will be the oldest quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl Championship at 39 years old, surpassing his current General Manager and former Denver Bronco great, John Elway. Elway was 38 years when he won his last Championship with the Broncos.
- A Serious Age Gap…
There is an over 13-year age gap between starting quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton. This marks the largest age gap between the two starting QBs in Super Bowl history. Cam Newton was just a 9-year-old boy when Peyton Manning entered into the NFL.
- Battle of the Bests…
The Super Bowl 50 match up between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers marks only the second time in history that the leagues number one scoring offensive team meets the leagues number one scoring defensive team in the big game. The Broncos boast the league’s highest scoring defense and on the flip side, the Panthers boast the league’s top scoring offense. This also marks the third year in a row that the league’s two best teams meet in the Super Bowl.
- Down to the wire…
Four of the last five Super Bowl games have come down to the last play of the game. With this epic match up, there’s serious potential that this trend can repeat itself again in this years match.
- Been Here Before…
The Broncos are tied for the most Super Bowl appearances as they have made it to the big game for the 8th time. There are only three teams that have also accomplished that feat, those teams being the New England Patriots, The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys.
When it comes to selecting the winner of this game, The Carolina Panthers may seem like the clear-cut favourites to win it all. They come into this game as the best team in the league, they own the best record, they score the most points and on the flip side of the ball, they don’t allow many points. They’ve won all but one of their games this season and they are actually playing their best football in the playoffs. The Carolina Panthers are simply peaking at the right time. With all that being said, you could say that at this point, it would be silly to pick against the Panthers. However, let’s not discount the Broncos just yet, after all, they do have a stellar defense and we all know the famous cliché, “defense wins championships”. We can’t argue that it’s not true because if it weren’t for their defense, the Broncos would not be playing in the Super Bowl this year. If the Panthers want to be effective in the game, they will need to continue to be aggressive on offense. Yes, the Broncos have a good defense that can generate pressure on the QB and force him to make quick throws, however, Cam Newton has proven he can be successful against defensive pressure because he is used to getting rid of the ball and moving it down field in a hurry, so Cam should be able to contend with any sort of pressure the Broncos chose to bring. It will be tough for the Panthers to get the ground game going, so I would look for them to try and move the ball through the air. The Panthers offensive success will dictate how they fair in this game.
If the Broncos want to be successful, it all starts with their defense. Can that defense live up to the hype and play that tough, hard-nose style off football in order to keep Cam Newton and CO. off the field, or will they fold under the explosive pressure the Panther offense can produce. If the Broncos defence can hold up and keep their team in the game, it can be a closely contested match. The Broncos will need their offence to be functioning at a high rate if they want to be successful in this game. If the Broncos wide receivers continue to build on this dropped pass trend, they are doomed. Dropped passes and the breakdown of offensive fundamentals have been the Achilles heel for the Broncos this season. Peyton Manning hasn’t helped things either this season as he has a total of 17 interceptions to his name.
These teams match up fairly evenly to me and with that being said, the decision of selecting a winner in this year’s Super Bowl has been extremely difficult. The Broncos own the series when it comes to these two, as they are 3-1 lifetime against the Panthers. However, I think we should dismiss the past record because this is a different Panthers team, a team that has proven they can win the big games. This is a Panthers team that has never played this way before. With regards to this game, I do believe that Carolina Panthers will emerge as the victors in Super Bowl 50. I feel that the Carolina offense is firing on all cylinders right now, and could give this stout Denver Broncos defense some fits. After working out the different scenarios for this weekend’s game, my final prediction is Carolina Panthers 27 – Denver Broncos: 17. If the Panthers can get off to their usual quick start, the Broncos are in deep trouble. I just feel that the Panthers are peaking at the perfect time and they have been playing the most inspiring football in years.
Super Bowl Details:
Kick-off on Sunday, February 7th, 2016 at 6:30 PM from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.