The time has come. Super Bowl 50 will be upon us this Sunday February 7th at 6:30 and boy does this matchup have a lot of intrigue. Cam Newton vs. Peyton Manning, essentially the new vs. the old “Sheriff”. WIll Peyton be able to survive the stifling Carolina defense? Will Cam evolve into the masterful running, athletic QB we have not seen since Michael Vick in his prime? Can Josh Norman shut down Demaryius Thomas? How many interceptions will Luke Kuechly have? Can Cam run over a Broncos defense lead by Von Miller, Demarcus Ware, and Sylvester Williams? There are so many questions that need answering and I am gonna answer them
Cam Newton vs. Peyton Manning?
Old generation vs. New generation. In what very well be Peyton Manning’s last game this game should have some real intrigue. But let’s get into this All-Star QB matchup.
Peyton clearly is not his old same stuff, largely due to injuries. This season he only had 9 TD’s and a whopping 17 interceptions to go along with a 59.8% completion percentage in 10 games. Extremely un-Peyton like. And at times against the Steelers, he looked incredibly uncomfortable against the defense. It was the Broncos defense that really led them as the Broncos were actually down for most of that game. Same with New England. In the 2 playoff games against them, his completion percentage was only 55.1% and boasts a QBR of just 34.5. Not very good. BUT. This is Peyton Manning we are talking about. A guy who has been their (third super bowl) and won a ring to go along with 26 playoff games. The experience is clearly there. He is a clutch QB that when hot, defenses will be begging to get off the field. If he can find the fountain of youth the Broncos will have a chance, but they gotta stop this next guy.
Cam Newton has unquestionably been the NFL’s MVP leading the Panthers to an incredible 15-1 record that was only a TD against the Falcons away from 16-0. This guy is an athletic freak. His QB skills were on point with 35 TD’s and just 14 interceptions this season. But it’s his running ability that makes him the biggest dual-threat in the game. He had 636 yards with an average of 4.8 yards per carry. These are Michael Vick in his prime numbers. And in the playoffs, he’s only gotten better. A QBR of 84.0 and a completion percentage of 70% in two playoff games that included a whooping of the 13-3, #2 seed Cardinals 49-15. He has been beyond impressive especially with the receiver talent he has had to work with. He does not exactly have a Pro Bowl receiver. He’s been able to do a lot with less and that’s why he’s been so special leading the Panthers to a #2 ranking in offensive efficiency. They may not be flashy, but they are efficient and Cam is a huge reason.
Advantage: Cam Newton, Panthers
Denver Offense vs. Carolina Defense
This is the main match-up that can really decide the game. Looking at what Peyton has, his receiver talent exceeds that of the Panthers boasting the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Owen Daniels, and Vernon Davis. His running back play of Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson has been very solid. Neither of them are 1,000 yard rushers, but they get the job done. Peyton too can turn a nobody into a somebody. Peyton personally makes a wide receiver’s career. However, it is not without flaw. The O-line does have injuries most notably Ryan Clady, an all Pro-Bowler that protects Peyton’s blindside he is out. Their overall offensive efficiency was ranked 23rd overall. The Broncos’ offense is one of the NFL’s worst red zone units (47.7 percent conversion rate, 28th overall). Denver’s QBs (Manning and Osweiler) threw just 13 TDs inside the 20 this season, compared with a league-high 26 in 2014. They’ll face a Carolina defense that’s stout in the red zone (52.5 percent, 10th overall) and overall allowed opponents to score on just 26.5 percent of drives, the lowest rate in the NFL. Demaryius Thomas, a guy who had 1,304 yards in the regular season has been nowhere to be found in the playoffs gaining only 52 yards and 0 TD’s in 2 games. He will be facing Josh Norman, who is widely considered as of now the best CB in football. Good luck. But this is the Broncos and this is Peyton Manning. When hot, this offense can be explosive like in 2013 when they scored a record-breaking 606 points in the regular season with Peyton having 55 TD’s (an NFL record) that season. Most of the guys from that team are still there. This is a big-play offense that should not be overlooked. The Broncos may not have been good offensively, but Peyton was injured. Imagine him healthy. But the Broncos will have their hands full.
This Panthers defense can be argued as the best in the NFL and the hardest the Broncos will face all season. Boasting an overall #2 defensive efficiency ranking this defense is absolutely vicious. Lead by the defensive MVP Luke Kuechly, who you can argue is just as important as Cam, Thomas Davis, Josh Norman, Cortland Finnegan, Kurt Coleman, and the never aging Roman Harper, this defense has made offenses suffer. Just ask the Cardinals who only mustered 15 points and the Panther defense had an incredible 6 takeaways from a team that many considered to be a well-rounded team in the Cardinals. So much for that. Josh Norman has widely been in the news for getting the better of the likes of DeAndre Hopkins,, Dez Bryant, Allen Robinson and who can forget about Odell Beckham…and I’m a Giants fan. Norman has shut his receivers down and has rightfully backed up his talk. With Thomas not producing for the Broncos this playoffs, Norman is sure to shut him down too. I do expect it. Then, there’s Luke Kuechly. This is guys is really good. So good, that as a LB, he already has 2 interceptions, in the playoffs. He is the defensive leader of this team leading in tackles with 118. He is probably the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. These are only 2 of the many Panther names The opponent QBR against them is 32.3, very similar to Peyton’s QBR. Peyton needs a big time and not like his old self if he want to beat this team.
Advantage: Panthers Defense
Carolina Offense vs. Denver Defense
Like I said before, Cam has turned a no name receiving corps outside of TE Greg Olsen, into an incredibly efficient offense, ranking #2 overall in offense. They also boast the #2 rushing offense in terms of yards lead by Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, and yes, the QB Cam Newton with 2,282 yards this season. This is a dual-threat offense where there is balance between pass and run. On pass, be wary of Greg Olsen who had 1,104 yards this season and 190 yards in 2 playoff games. He is the go-to target for Cam Newton. Ted Ginn and Jerricho Cotchery are targets as well. Ginn is much better served in special teams. Cam Newton threw 68 passes of 21 yards or more this season, tied for the third most overall. And Newton torches blitzing defenses. 23.3 percent of Newton’s completions vs. the blitz went for 20 yards or more, compared with just 13.9 percent when defenses didn’t bring heat. And Denver is third overall in QBR allowed when they blitz, but Cam can torch the blitz which is why he is such a threat. His QBR vs. the blitz is 80.4, good for 7th in the league. He can perform under pressure. And the O-line of Oher, Norwell, Kalil, Turner, and Remmers have been spectacular and a huge reason why the run game is so good. Like I said before, the names are not flashy, but they are efficient and a dual-threat, which makes them so lethal.
However, as good as the Panthers are on offense, their was only one team that was above the Panthers in defensive efficiency, and that what the Denver Broncos ranked #1 overall. This is the hardest defense the Panthers will face and for good reason. DC Wade Phillips has done an unbelievable job boasting the best defense in the NFL with the likes of Demarcus Ware, the sack happy Von Miller, Aqib Talib, a CB who can also argue he’s the best, Chris Harris JR. Danny Trevathan, and T.J. Ward to name a few. If you thought the Panthers LBs were good, wait till you see the Broncos of Ware, Miller, Trevathan, and Brandon Marshall (no not the WR). This defense gets the sacks. 52 in the regular season leading the NFL with Von Miller accounting for 11 of them. Oh speaking of Miller his 2.5 sacks in the playoffs are third overall in the playoffs. Cam might be good against the blitz, but Cam has not played a defense that can get to the QB like this. Total Defense, Denver was #1 in the regular season with only 4,530 yards. And in coverage this team is fantastic boasting #1 in overall passing yards and receiving yards in all of the NFL. They also had the most interceptions in the NFL with 23. Lots of #1 overall ranking for this defense As good as the Panthers offense is, they have not faced played a defense as widely touted and physical as this one. They will have their hands full.
Advantage: Denver defense
I fully expect this to be a defensive battle in the end. As good as Cam and Peyton are, the defenses they both have will really decide the game. It can also be dependent on who keeps the defense off the field better. With Cam and that Panthers offense having a dual-threat offense and we do not know what Peyton will bring, as much as anyone would love to see “The Sheriff” win this game that could possibly be his last, the Panthers offense is such a dual-threat and hard to contain along with their defense they should come out on top.
Panthers: 23, Broncos: 14