Well, the time has finally come. Super Bowl 50. The Dabbing Celebration Extraordinaire Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers vs. The Sheriff, the No-Fly Zone, and the Denver Broncos. This is going to be one heck of a ball game.
The Panthers have had an amazing season. Cam Newton has accounted for 50 touchdowns this year with a less-than-stellar wide receiving corps that has been without Kelvin Benjamin all season long. The Panthers defense has been one of the best in the NFL this season. 39 takeaways, and a plus 20 differential on turnovers. That’s dominant. On the flip side, we all know how much of a roller coaster ride it’s been for the Broncos. The benching of Peyton Manning, the ride with Osweiler, the insertion of Peyton Manning in Week 17, the up-and-down offense all year long, and of course the No. 1 defense in the NFL getting this team to where they are right now.
The Broncos win this ball game if they play an incredibly smart game on both sides of the ball. You can’t stop Cam Newton, you can only hope to contain him. If you can force Cam Newton to hold on to the ball longer than he should, and be sure to have excellent coverage on a wide receiving corps that hasn’t faced a secondary like this all year long, Cam Newton should run into some coverage sacks. The Broncos need to spy Cam Newton and make sure he doesn’t run for first downs on broken plays. The difference that Cam Newton can make with his feet can turn amazing defense play calls into big time plays for the Panthers offense if you don’t contain what Cam can do. Force Cam Newton to be methodical down the field. I believe that if Cam Newton is forced into small gain plays for a good portion of this ball game, you can force him to get relatively impatient and start to force it a bit to open the game up. Knowing that the Panthers love the big plays, that’s something that I could predict happening.
When Cam starts to force it and challenge the secondary, that’s where the turnovers can start to come. And with those turnovers, Peyton Manning and the offense can thrive. Against the Panthers defense, I think it will be tough for the Broncos offense to go 80 yards and get in the red zone. Is it impossible? No. But the best chance that this Broncos offense has is with short fields, via turnovers because of the defense or special teams, and then turn those short fields into better and shorter opportunities to find the red zone. Peyton Manning has been a great decision maker since his return to the field in Week 17. 17 interceptions when he got benched against the Chiefs, and none since his return. The Broncos need the Peyton Manning of recent weeks to come to play against the turnover-happy Carolina Panthers.
If Peyton Manning attempts to force it against the Panthers and it ends up in the hands of Luke Kuechly, Josh Norman, and company… it could be a long day. Super Bowl 48 kind of long. Just like the Cam Newton and the Panthers, the Broncos offense has to play incredibly smart and methodical to come out on top. As obvious as it may sound, the team who plays the smartest brand of football will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the day.
When it comes down to it, I do believe that the Broncos will be able to force Cam Newton into those mistakes. Assistant Coach of the Year Wade Philips has had two weeks to prepare his unit for the Panthers offense. He has likely seen where his defense needs to contain Cam Newton, how to prevent the big plays, and how to not get burned. For the offense, they understand how the Panthers defense can make things ugly if they offense makes those crucial mistakes that end up in short fields for the Panthers offense. If the Broncos don’t beat themselves, they’re in a dog fight till the end that will hopefully end in John Elway taking the podium saying “This one’s for Mr. B and Peyton,” Peyton Manning riding off into the orange and blue sunset, and the Broncos enjoying their third Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.
PREDICTION: Broncos 23, Panthers 20.