The 50th edition of the biggest game in American pro sports is this Sunday night; Will Scott previews the big game.
After another gruelling regular season, and a playoff slate which offered some classic match ups, we’ve been left with the best two teams in the NFL ready to battle it out for the ultimate prize. For the second time in a row we’ve been gifted a Super Bowl match up of the two number one seeds from each conference. Carolina seemingly coasted their way through the season, rather unexpectedly, riding phenomenal quarterback play from former number 1 pick Cam Newton and a defence built around a fearsome front 7 to a 15-1 record. On the other hand the Broncos somewhat stumbled their way to the first seed in the AFC. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning was the worst starter in the league up until he was injured midseason, however he returned to guide the team to the required playoff wins. However the team was built around a phenomenal defence which boasts two of the best mass rushers in the league – Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
The Panthers have been the main storyline of the NFL season, coming almost out of nowhere to power to a 14 game winning streak spanning the majority of the season. They then steamrolled both of their playoff opponents, Seattle and Arizona scoring a staggering total of 80 points over the two games combined. Their offence is lead by the enigmatic Cam Newton who threw 35 touchdown passes and tacked on 10 more with his legs throughout the season. His performance will likely decide the outcome of this match up, as he has the ability to win games on his own through the air and on the ground. He’s been ably supported by a strong rushing attack spearheaded by veteran Jonathan Stewart, in the playoff game against Seattle he became the first person to rush for 100 yards against them in 26 games. The defensive side of the ball is equally impressive with talent across the board. They have All-Pro talent on every level (Kawann Short DT, Kuechly and Davis LB, and Josh Norman at CB) which lead to a defence that lead the lead in forced turnovers and 6th in yards per game. Make no mistake, this is the most complete team in the NFL.
For everything the Panthers have in style and swagger, the Broncos make up for in grit and toughness. This team have got to be one of the least favoured number one seeds in recent memory. Although they’re lead by a quarterback who’s a lock to be in the Hall of Fame, the only reason they’ve made it this far is because of their defence. Peyton Manning has fallen off of a cliff this season, however the defence has allowed him to lead them to victories by becoming a game manager as opposed to a big time passer and playmaker. He’s clearly a shell of his former self, but Manning will have to be sensible with the ball and be sure not to make any turnovers to give the Broncos a shot at winning this game, much like last week. Whilst they have some threats at receiver in the form of Demayrius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, their lack of a great running game could prove to be crippling. The defence terrorised Tom Brady last week and will need to do the same to Cam Newton to have a chance of winning. Lead by All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller the defence has been the best in the NFL, allowing only 283 yards per game. Their 22 hits on Brady two weeks ago were the most of any defence on any QB for the whole season, let alone against the game’s all time greatest player.
Although this is a match up of number one seeds I don’t see it being a close game, and neither do many others (Las Vegas has Carolina as 5.5 point favourites). Whilst the Denver D is strong I could see this one getting out of hand, much like Peyton’s last trip to the Super Bowl and think that the Panthers should come out as comfortable victors 30 – 16.
The Superbowl is being shown on BBC Two, with coverage starting at 22:50 and kick-off scheduled for 23:30.