Written by Austin Wells, Staff Writer
With the calendar turning to February and winter starting to walk out the door, it can only be time for one event: the Super Bowl.
This year is Super Bowl 50, and with it comes two teams that traveled different paths to the greatest game of the year.
The first team is a team that almost no one is surprised to see make it and has not had much trouble all season. The Carolina Panthers have had a dominant season at 17-1 (2-0 in the playoffs). Their only blemish was a week 16 loss to the rival and close-to-home Atlanta Falcons.
The Panthers have been a very good defensive team, with their defense being the sixth best in terms of yards and points allowed.
Despite their great defensive play, it has been the offense that’s stolen the show. Although the Panthers are only 11th in total yards per game, the Panthers are the top-ranked scoring team in the NFL this season, averaging over 31 points per game. This can be partly accredited to the defense, which has been able to create turnovers frequently in games.
The main star of the show is Carolina’s quarterback Cam Newton, who has not only been able to lead the Panthers to their second ever Super Bowl appearance, but is the overwhelming favorite to win league MVP as well. With Newton on offense and a star-studded defense for the Panthers, it is hard not to choose them as the favorites, especially after a 49-15 beat down of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game.
On the other side is a team that has had their fair share of ups and downs. The 14-4 (2-0 in the playoffs) Denver Broncos are heading to their record-tying eighth Super Bowl appearance; and the biggest storyline with them is the guy they have playing quarterback.
After struggling the first part of the season and then ultimately dealing with injury, all-time passing yards and passing touchdowns leader Peyton Manning was benched for a promising prospect in Brock Osweiler, who had spent the past few years backing up for Manning.
When Manning was healthy again, it seemed that Osweiler would keep the starting job. In week 17, after the offense had struggled against the lowly Chargers, Manning was brought out to jumpstart the team, and ultimately led them to victory.
Since then, the best overall defense in the NFL assisted Manning in defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers and then upsetting the favored New England Patriots in the AFC Championship. The Broncos have a chance to finish what has been a roller coaster season in what could be Peyton Manning’s final game.
Who will come out on top? Will the one-loss Panthers continue their dominant ways and prevail, or will the defensively dominant Broncos be able to finish their season (and the possible end of Peyton Manning’s career) with a Super Bowl victory?
PREDICTION FROM THE STAFF FOR SUPER BOWL 50
Austin Wells: It’d be nice to see Cam Newton win his first Super Bowl, but he’s young and I’m sure will have more chances to win it. This is probably Peyton’s last ride, and I feel like he’ll make the most of it and come out on top. Broncos defeat the Panthers in Super Bowl 50, 24-20.
Kyle Dawson: Cam Newton’s versatility at quarterback will be a key component in the Carolina Panther’s attempt to beat the Denver Broncos on Sunday. If he can get on the edge and use his legs as well as the play action pass, the Panthers will score early and often. I think that Luke Keuchly and company will stop the run and make it harder for Peyton Manning to catch up, but he’ll make a valiant effort. Panthers: 34 Broncos: 28.
Gabe Burns: The quarterbacks are grabbing the headlines, but this game comes down to the two best defenses in the league. Von Miller and crew should be able to get to Cam Newton, while Peyton Manning will be a sitting duck against Carolina’s interior rush. As a Tampa Bay fan, I want to pick Denver. As a football fan, it is hard to envision a Panthers loss. Dab on ‘em, Cam. Carolina: 23, Denver: 16.