The sporting events of all sporting events is finally here – Super Bowl 50.
The two best teams from each conference – the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, will, somewhat surprisingly, face off for the biggest crown in American sports.
To reach this stage, Denver topped long-term rivals, New England Patriots, proving that while Peyton Manning is still an NFL player, he will always be a threat.
On the other side of the ledger, Carolina romped the clearly fragile Arizona Cardinals 49-15, showing the doubters that they indeed have what it takes to win the big matches.
However, the Super Bowl is always a toss of the coin. Although The Panthers have looked like the best team all year long, losing only one game, they are new to the favoritism tag.
Meanwhile, their opponents could not be a more different squad – defence is the name of their game and Peyton and friends have been there and done it all before, however, their last trip to The SB – 2013 – resulted in a loss.
So, will it be the fast-paced, fast scoring Cats that land on their feet, or will the experience of the ‘Orange Crush’ Denver Broncos prove to be the pivotal factor?
Let’s chop it up into small, easily digestible bits.
There’s no contest in who the winner is here – The Carolina Panthers have been better than anyone in The League in this category all season long. 31 points per game is the best mark in The League, and Denver’s average of 22 is only just good enough for the top-20.
Cam Newton has weapons all over the field, and his play has been good enough that he is widely expected to be announced as the League’s MVP the night before the big dance.
However, ‘The Sheriff’ last week proved he had enough left in him to outscore old foe Tom Brady and his Patriots. Demariyus Thomas and Ronnie Hillman have both been in great form this year, and when required to step up, have proven they can do so.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t expect Carolina to be outscored by The Broncos on any given day. Give the nod in this category to The Panthers.
This one is a close one – Denver has the fourth ranked defence in The League, while The Cats’ is close behind at 6th.
The Broncos’ defence is championed by linebacker Von Miller, while Carolina have a swag of All-Pro toys to play with – linebackers Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly and cornerback Josh Norman.
While it seems from that list that The Panthers have the more threatening defensive players, Denver’s has been slightly more consistent all year - .7 more points consistent.
Clearly, this is going to be a damn close battle. But whilst The Broncos have been more consistent this year, I am going to give Carolina the nod here. I’m backing their secondary to force Denver into a running game, and nullify Peyton’s experienced arm.
This will certainly be an interesting watch – arguably the best quarterback in the league now vs arguably the greatest of all time.
As mentioned, Manning has done this all before – he won The Super Bowl with Indianapolis in 2006, was the MVP of the game, and went back again for losses in 2009 and 2013.
Meanwhile, this will be the biggest game of Cam Newton’s life. In the previous holder of that title (this year’s conference championship) he came up big, but The Super Bowl has a funny way of reducing even the greatest to mere mortals.
In these big games, experience counts for everything. No matter how good a season Newton has had, none of that matters now, just like it didn’t matter for The Sheriff back in 2013.
Peyton gets the nod here. He proved experience is king last week, and I think he’ll do it again this time around.
While my predictions may not have written any tangible narrative, that’s what makes sport so fantastic – so many eventualities are possible, and no one ever knows what’s going to happen.
The Panthers may have won this on-paper match-up 2-1, but does that mean they’ll take out the SB? In my opinion, yes.
As experienced and focused as The Broncos are, Carolina have been head and shoulders above everyone else all year long.
It’s theirs to lose, and while Denver may put up a good fight, I think The Panthers will be too fast, too strong and too well drilled to lose to a never say die Broncos.
Tip: Carolina Panthers by 13