The Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos will collide at Super Bowl 50 this Sunday to decide which is the best team of the 2015-16 NFL season.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will look to win his first championship against his Broncos counterpart, Peyton Manning.
Carolina finished the season with a 15-1 record, the best in the league. The team then beat the 2014 Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks (10-6) and the NFC West powerhouse Arizona Cardinals (13-3) in the playoffs to clinch its spot on football’s biggest stage.
Denver earned the top seed in the AFC with a 12-4 record during the regular season and beat the resilient Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) as well as the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (12-4) in the postseason.
Super Bowl 50 may come down to a mighty offense opposing one of the league’s top defenses. The Panthers finished the season with the best offense in the NFL, scoring the most points of any team with 500. However, the Broncos allowed the fourth fewest points in the league this season only yielding 296.
The X factor may be that while the Broncos have a mediocre defense, the Panthers’ strong offense is matched by their superb defense. Carolina has allowed the sixth fewest points in the NFL while Denver has the 19th ranked offense.
Carolina should be able to scratch out enough offense against Denver’s top defense while Denver may struggle to put up points against a tough Panthers defense.
If any team can crack the Broncos defensive code, it’s the Panthers. Newton is effective at both passing and running. The Panthers also have several receiving weapons, such as wide receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery as well as premier tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen caught 77 passes for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns.
Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas lead the charge for the Broncos receiving corps with six touchdowns each. Denver will need them to get open and play to the best of their abilities to have a chance of putting up yards against the stingy Panthers defense.
The conflict between the quarterbacks may also add more tension to the game. Young gun and MVP candidate Newton will be taking on a legend in Manning. At this point of their careers, Newton is the better quarterback.
The 26-year-old Newton completed 296 passes during the regular season for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns and only threw 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns. Manning had the worst season of his long career, completing 198 passes for 2,249 yards and nine touchdowns. The nine touchdowns were by far the lowest of his career, and he also threw 17 interceptions. Against a Panthers defense that picked off 24 passes this season, Manning can’t afford to make any mistakes.
The Broncos hold the edge in the run game. Running backs Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson combined for 12 touchdowns and over 1,500 yards for Denver during the regular season. For Carolina, running back Jonathan Stewart and Newton have shouldered the load on the ground. Stewart ran for 989 yards and six touchdowns.
Newton will likely show why he’s the best quarterback in the NFL this season in the biggest game of his life. Manning has lost a step and is not Newton’s caliber anymore. Newton should be able to scrape together enough points against the Broncos defense in order to let Carolina’s defense shut Denver down.
Prediction: Panthers 27, Broncos 16