By Dave “Mythical” Siderski (Under Protest!)
Conference Championship weekend was rough on your humble prognosticator. My beloved Patriots got the snot kicked out of them by the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers utterly embarrassed the Arizona Cardinals. That said, I’m still 6-4 overall for the NFL playoffs entering the Super Bowl. The 17-1 Panthers are prohibitive favorites over the 14-4 Broncos but, as they say, this game will be decided on the field. Here’s how I see the matchup.
Panthers Offense vs Broncos Defense
This is a classic case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. The Panthers offense ranked first in the NFL this season in points scored averaging 31.2 points per game. The Broncos outstanding defense ranked first in the NFL in points allowed and led the league in sacks. The Panthers have decent but not great skill position players. The engine that makes this team go is soon to be MVP and duel threat Cam Newton. Newton accounted for 45 touchdowns on the season, 35 passing and 10 rushing. The Broncos defense must contain Newton if they have any hope of winning. Unlike Tom Brady, he has the speed to negate the Broncos pass rush and make them pay if they get careless. Conversely, the Broncos defense is strong on all three levels and more than capable of shutting down the Panthers receivers and ground attack. The question is can they shut down the most dynamic playmaker in the NFL this season.
Broncos Offense vs Panthers Defense
The Broncos offense isn’t nearly as strong as their defense, ranking in the middle of the pack this year in total offense and averaging less than 300 yards per game in the post season. The legendary Peyton Manning suffered through the worst year of his NFL career, posting a quarterback rating of 67.9, well below the league average of 88.8. Manning has been ok in the playoffs but not great. He missed a number of throws against both Steelers and the Patriots that would have been child’s play for him in the past. The one thing he has done though is take care of the football, committing no turnovers thus far in the post season. He must repeat this in the Super Bowl otherwise the Broncos have no chance. This will be a tall order against a Panthers defense that led the NFL in forced turnovers and ranked 6th in the league in both points and total yards allowed.
I don’t see much to choose from between the two teams here. Both teams have solid kicker and punters, along with solid but not spectacular return games. This matchup is a bit of a wildcard in the game.
Let’s Settle This on the Football Field
What a great story it would be if Peyton Manning leads the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory in what is likely to be his final game in an NFL uniform. Unfortunately, I have a hard time envisioning this happening. In my opinion, the Broncos defense and/or special teams will have to manufacture points as I don’t think the Broncos will be able to score enough offensively to stay with the Panthers. Now, unlike the 2013 version of the Denver Broncos, this team has tremendous toughness so I don’t see another 43-8 blowout as was the case in Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks. The Broncos hang around and keep the game close but they will be fighting an uphill battle the entire day. Finally, late in the fourth quarter Cam Newton will lead the Panthers to a late touchdown to put the game away! Carolina will walk away with its first ever Super Bowl Championship!
The Pick: Carolina Panthers 24 Denver Broncos 14Contact the management team