We have arrived at the golden wedding anniversary of the NFL’s most dignified game. Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco will showcase the dynamic Cam Newton against the cerebral Peyton Manning with a multitude of tremendous defensive players mixed in.
The night will begin with pomp and circumstance as the NFL honors Tom Brady and the other Super Bowl MVP’s on the field. Lady Gaga will sing the National Anthem (hopefully without any fuss), head referee Clete Blakeman will see if he can flip a coin properly, and then either Graham Gano or Brandon McManus will tee the ball up to start the game at Levi’s Stadium. And that’s where the fun starts.
The first quarter of the Super Bowl is typically a feeling out process as players are jumping with all kinds of nerves after two weeks of relentless media interviews, practices, and other off-field issues. We saw it with Tom Brady’s safety in Super Bowl XLVI and Mannings botched snap and subsequent safety in Super Bowl XLVIII. The last time a team led by two scores after the first quarter was in Super Bowl XLV when the Packers got out to a 14-0 lead over the Steelers.
Broncos Offense vs. Carolina Defense
Manning has taken a loss in his last two Super Bowl appearances including the 43-8 beat down against the Seahawks in February of 2014. He has made it clear that this could be his last chance at a Super Bowl ring before finally hanging up the shoulder pads and going into commercial acting for good.
In their past two playoff games this season, Carolina has all but won the game in the early minutes as their defense forced Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer into making some ugly and uncharacteristic mistakes. It will be crucial for Manning to keep a level head in the first few offensive drives for the Broncos and not make any early miscues. Needless to say, the only way that the Broncos can stay in this game is if Manning does not fall into his early season funk where he had 17 interceptions in less then 10 games.
The two Owen Daniels touchdowns in the AFC Championship game showed me that Manning still has what it takes to read defenses and find open receivers. He hasn’t fully deteriorated just yet. Josh Norman is a great coverage corner that can keep Demaryius Thomas entertained, but the Panthers can’t let the middle of the field get open with the Broncos tight ends and Emmanuel Sanders.
Carolina Offense vs. Broncos Defense
On the other side of the ball, the Denver defense will not succeed if they only rush four as they did against the Patriots in the AFC Championship. Jonathan Stewart and Newton will find and exploit the hole between the tackle and the guard if Demarcus Ware rushes too far upfield.
I’ve asked it for two weeks now, when are the Panthers receivers going to show their true colors? Ted Ginn Jr. is not an elite receiver and Corey Brown had pedestrian statistics throughout the regular season before his explosion for 113 yards and a touchdown in the NFC Championship. Last week the Carolina receiving corps burnt a good Arizona secondary and now they get Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, and the Broncos defensive backs. Tight end and Barstool Sports groupie Greg Olson will be a key target and will have to play the role Rob Gronkowski did in the AFC Championship, but I expect bigger things from the Carolina running game than I do from their passing game.
I’ll have my Super Bowl 50 marketed Doritos and my Super Bowl 50 marketed Bud Lights ready to go for 6:30pm on Sunday as my apartment is filled with the lush sound of Phil Simms’ voice because, folks, we are going to get a damn good football game.
Back on January 24th, I tweeted out that we were going to get Super Bowl XLVIII all over again, but I was just in a state of delusion after the Patriots loss to Denver. Oh, what the heck, I’ll go full out bitter Patriots fan. The Denver Broncos learned a lot about their team in the AFC Championship game, especially offensively. Beating the Patriots and giving New England the game they did also proved a lot to me about a Denver team I had no faith in. The Broncos have a chance against the Panthers because of the Patriots.
Here comes the post painful paragraph I have ever written on this blog:
The Denver Broncos will defeat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 and Peyton Manning will win Super Bowl MVP. Denver 27 Carolina 21.