Super Bowl 50 Tale: Panthers Have Edge Over Broncos

Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Peyton Manning (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
  • Quarterback
    It will be a shock if Cam Newton is not handed the NFL’s MVP award the night before the Super Bowl. He is a game-changing superstar who is still ascending. Newton had a remarkable season with 35 TD passes and 10 more scores on the ground. However, it’s not just the numbers. He is a supremely confident athlete who makes the big play at the key moment in nearly every game.
    Peyton Manning has not turned back the hands of time. He has gotten to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years with the Broncos because head coach Gary Kubiak has changed the gameplan. Manning is managing the game at this point, and after throwing nine TD passes and 17 interceptions during the regular season, he has two TDs and he has not been picked off in the postseason.
  • Offense
    Jonathan Stewart is looked at as a role player in the Carolina offense, but he is a nasty runner who gained 989 yards and he punishes opposing tacklers. Tight end Greg Olsen is probably the second best at his position behind Rob Gronkowski. Olsen runs excellent patterns and he will not drop the ball. Ted Ginn Jr. and Philly Brown have the explosive speed to torment the Denver secondary.
    If the Broncos are going to have a chance when the game gets to the late stages of the fourth quarter, the running attack of C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman have to be successful. Anderson is the faster and more explosive back, and he is capable of hitting a big play. Emmanuel Sanders has the speed to gain yards after the catch while DeMaryius Thomas is a beast to bring down.
  • Defense
    The Panthers are tough, nasty and effective on defense, ranking sixth overall in yards allowed. There has been some vulnerability against the pass, particularly in the second half of games. LB Luke Kuechly has had interceptions for touchdowns in both postseason games, but Thomas Davis has a broken arm. He may be limited or unable to play. Kawann Short (11.0 sacks) is a game-changing player.
    The Denver defense has been the best in the league from start to finish this season, and Wade Phillips’ unit may have to play its best game to have a chance in the Super Bowl. Von Miller (2.5 sacks, interception vs. New England) and DeMarcus Ware are a pair of devastating pass rushers, while defensive end Derek Wolfe (10 tackles, 2.0 sacks in the postseason) is an unsung hero.
  • Special Teams
    The Panthers have had issues with their special teams from time to time during the regular season, and if this game is tight, it could have an impact. Ginn has game-changing speed and could break a big return. Graham Gano made 30-of-36 FGs this season, and he is 3-of-3 in the postseason.
    The Broncos have performed well on special teams all season, and they do a good job of keeping their opponents from making big plays in the return game. PK Brandon McManus has been excellent in the postseason, making all seven of his FG attempts, including 2-of-2 from 50-plus yards.
The Panthers have big edges at quarterback and on offense, while Denver’s advantage on defense is much smaller. If the Broncos’ defense can’t keep Newton from making big plays, they won’t win this game. If Newton gets started early, this game will turn into a Carolina runaway. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports