ROUNDBALL DAILY

Who will win Super Bowl 50?

Here at Last

The big game is finally here! Only 60 minutes remain to decide who will be crowned champion. So who will it be? Well, the internet seems pretty certain the Panthers will take this one. That’s not the only site whose pundits favor Carolina. Check out this one and another here.

But nothing is certain, and this is why they play the games. Here we go!

#1 Panthers (-5.5) at #1 Broncos
Levi Stadium, San Francisco. Peyton Manning. Cam Newton. The number one defense against the number one offense.

I have heard a lot of talk in the past couple weeks indicating that this matchup will be decided between Denver’s defense and Carolina’s offense. Let’s look at that matchup! Denver had the best defense in the NFL this past season. Their relentless pass rush is complemented so well by their above-average, if not great, secondary. But will the Bronco’s speed rushers be able to slow the Panther’s bigger O-line (they average a whopping 313lbs a body) and power running game? Denver will have their work cut out for them for sure, but everyone seems to forget that the Broncos allowed a league low 3.3 yards per rushing attempt and only 10 rushing TDs on the season. Their defense also led the NFL with 52 sacks.

That’s not to take away from the tremendous success Carolina has had running the ball. Veteran Jonathan Stewart had a very nice season leading the Panther’s run game with just shy of 1,000 yards on the season. The Panther’s had four different running backs on their roster this year and they all averaged over 4.1 YPC (and no, that’s not counting Cam’s 4.8 avg. either). As a team they totaled 142.6 YDS/G (4.3 YPC) during the regular season and have kept it going with 148.0 YDS/G in the Playoffs.

Interesting to note, though, their YPC in the playoffs is down to 3.8. The lower YPC average in the postseason hasn’t stopped Cam Newton though, and he’s been able to hit on some big plays downfield. Clearly teams are loading up in the box to stuff the run and/or contain Cam, but that method hasn’t proven itself yet. In their first two games in the postseason the Panthers built first-half leads of 31-0 and 24-7. To buck that trend the Broncos will have to slow down the highest scoring offense, the second best rushing attack, and a dual-threat QB who had a combined total of 45 touchdowns on the season.

Now if Denver can do that they only need to put together a decent offensive game-plan to beat the formidable Carolina defense. Sometimes lost behind the Panther’s high-powered offense, Carolina has a multitude of playmakers and ball-hawks on defense. Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Josh Norman, and Kawann Short led a young and powerful defense which led the NFL with 24 interceptions and 39 takeaways, had 44 sacks, and the fourth best rushing defense (88.4 YPG). Denver has won recently by running the football and limiting their turnovers. They’ll need to keep that up in order to win.

This is where things get tricky, this isn’t the same Peyton who once threw for 5,400 yards and 55 touchdowns in a single season. Manning posted some of the lowest numbers since his rookie career (59.8 completion percentage, 6.8 yards per attempt avg.) and had more interceptions than touchdowns. Since taking over midway through the Bronco’s regular season finale, Manning’s numbers haven’t improved much, if at all, but the turnovers that plagued him earlier in the year have disappeared. Over the past three games, Peyton has made 78 pass attempts with no interceptions and only one lost fumble.

Some people want to make the argument that the Broncos are facing a team very similar to the one they played in the Super Bowl only two years ago. The fact is they aren’t. The roster has turned over an incredible amount since then and they’ve gone from an offensive minded team, to one focused on defense.

So here it is… This is where I give you the winner, or at least my attempt at picking a winner (which hasn’t gone all that well so far)!

I struggle to see Manning and the Broncos laying an egg in this one. The Panthers have gotten off to very fast starts this post-season and will try to do so again. If the Panthers succeed in doing so the Broncos won’t be likely to recover. I think this game will be more chess match than shoot-out.

The Denver Broncos will be Super Bowl 50 Champs. 21-19.

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