We are just hours away from the opening kickoff of Super Bowl 50, and I am finally ready to share my prediction with the rest of the world. Do I go with the veteran, and future hall-of-famer Peyton Manning or do I go with Superman, the MVP of the league, Cam Newton? Let's break it down.
When the Panthers have the ball:
Cam Newton is 100% the x-factor in Super Bowl 50. The Panthers offense runs through Newton, and he's going to have to make plays with his arm and legs.
Carolina is the number one ranked offense in the NFL, going up against the number 1 ranked defense in the league.
Can Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton make enough plays on the ground against the Broncos defense that allowed the third fewest rushing yards per game in the league, at just 83.6 yards. Denver has also not allowed an opposing QB to rush for a touchdown all season, but they have not faced a QB like Newton before.
Stewart has rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns in the Panthers two playoff games, while Newton has rushed for 50 yards and two scores. It's hard to imagine anyone besides Stewart and Newton see any touches on the ground for the Panthers, unless they are on the goal line, in which case we might see Mike Tolbert get a carry and try to bully his way through the defensive line. If Carolina finds success on the ground, it could be a very long day for the Denver defense.
Although Newton does not have Kelvin Benjamin and is working with a WR core of Ted Ginn Jr., Jerricho Cotchery, Devin Funchess and Corey Brown, he still manages to put up great numbers. Tight end Greg Olsen is Newton's go to guy and we should see a heavy number of targets for Olsen tonight. Olsen has 12 catches, for 190 yards and a touchdown in the two Panthers playoff games.
Newton will see heavy pressure from the Broncos front four, led by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. Unlike Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady, when the Broncos defense get to Newton, the play won't end there. Newton has ridiculous escapability and will find ways to keep plays alive and pick up first downs. However do not think that Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and the Broncos secondary won't be up for the task. There is a reason why they were the number one passing defense in the NFL and held Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady in check this postseason.
It will be crushing to Denver if they force Carolina into third downs, only to watch Newton pick up the first down, using his legs. Denver's defensive game plan going into Super Bowl 50 has to be keeping Newton in the pocket and trying to stop him from scrambling. Good luck.
- Cam Newton - 280 passing yards, 45 rushing yards, 3 total touchdowns
- Jonathan Stewart - 60 rushing yards
- Ted Ginn - 3 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD
- Greg Olsen - 8 catches, 90 yards, 1 TD
When the Broncos have the ball:
The only reason why the Broncos are where they are today, is because of their defense. There is not much to get excited about when you look at the offensive numbers for Denver, besides the fact Peyton Manning is a hall of famer and this is more than likely his last hurrah.
Peyton Manning has two great weapons in the passing game with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but his ability is dwindling and he'll have to really put everything he has left on the table tonight. Otherwise guys like Josh Norman, Luke Kuechly, and Thomas Davis will be all over his reads and will force turnovers.
In two playoffs games, Peyton has thrown for 398 yards and two touchdowns. Surprisingly he has not thrown an interception in the playoffs, after finishing the regular season with 17 picks, despite missing a handful of games. He will certainly have to play it smart against a very good Carolina defense.
Neither Demaryius Thomas nor Emmanuel Sanders have been impressive, combining for just 16 catches and 199 yards in two games. These two guys will need to step up tonight and make plays.
Denver will also rely heavily on their running backs Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson. Hillman has just 54 rushing yards on 27 carries but Anderson has been impressive with 72 rushing yards in each game and also has scored one touchdown. The Broncos should let Anderson handle the majority of the carries as he is clearly the better back.
- Peyton Manning - 235 passing yards, 2 touchdowns
- C.J. Anderson - 60 rushing yards, 30 receiving yards
- Demaryius Thomas - 80 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
- Emmanuel Sanders - 75 receiving yards