The result of Super Bowl 50 will change the way professional football is played for years to come. The cliché analysts and pundits surrounding the NFL like to echo more than any other is that the NFL is a “copycat” league.
This saying is repeated so often because it is indeed true. Every year the Super Bowl champion is dissected and analyzed, as every team wants to find, in the words of DJ Khaled, the key to success.
The predominant trait about that particular team that lead them to raising the coveted Lombardi Trophy.
The Carolina Panthers are the current odds on favorites to beat the Denver Broncos on Super Sunday, with the Las Vegas point spread at 4.5 with the chance of rising.
What makes the 2015-2016 Carolina Panthers special is that they have gone against the grain from a stylistic perspective.
In a league filled with high flying passing offenses demanding quarterbacks to throw the ball more than 40 times a game, coupled with so-called ‘bend but don’t break’ defenses, the Panthers have been the opposite.
The Panthers dabbed their way through the league, earning a dominating 15-1 record, led by phenomenal MVP candidate quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton had 35 touchdowns, 3,837 passing yards, with 636 rushing yards and the lowest interception total of his flourishing career (10 interceptions). “Super Cam” has also proved he can get it done in the playoffs, as this post-season he’s completed 35/50 passes for 496 yards and three touchdowns with only one interception.
But Newton has not had to do it all on his own. Newton has had a solid core of targets to throw to, whom have stepped all season long with pro-bowl tight end Greg Olsen, speedy wide-receiver Ted Ginn, and rookie wide-receiver Devin Funchess among the group.
On the ground, the Panthers have lived up to their motto “Keep Pounding” as they finished the season ranked second in team rushing yards per game (142.6) and have led the post-season in rushing behind their dynamic running back Jonathan Stewart (post-season best 189 rushing yards).
Although many teams around the league have gone away from the running game, the Panthers may remind the world that commitment to running the ball is still crucial as 35 of the last 49 Super Bowl winning teams have finished the season ranked in the top ten in rushing yards per game.
Carolina has also been stout defensively as they finished the regular season fourth in rushing defense (88.4 yards allowed) and have owned the ever so important turnover battle.
Among the top five players in post-season interceptions, three of them are Panthers. Safety Kurt Coleman (2), Safety Tre Boston (1) and all-pro linebacker Luke Kuechly (2). The Panthers are also responsible for four touchdowns in the 2015-2016 playoffs explaining their +8 turnover differential.
Don’t get me wrong, the Denver Broncos have been no slouch on defense.
As a matter of fact, they’ve been better. With a feared pass rushing duo in Von Miller and Demarcus Ware, backed by a pro-bowl tandem of cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, the Broncos finished the regular season ranked number one in total defense.
Also, to combat the Panthers explosive running game, the Broncos have the second ranked post-season run-defense (64.5 yards allowed), just ahead of the panthers third ranked run-defense (69 yards allowed).
So, if this year’s Super Bowl comes to a tightly contested defensive stand-still, the game will come down to the play of both teams’ quarterbacks.
The former Super Bowl champion, multiple time league MVP, future first ballot hall-of-famer and quarterback of the Broncos Peyton Manning will have to play out of his large forehead to take home another Lombardi Trophy.
This post-season, Manning has yet to throw the ball more than 40 times and has also failed to eclipse 300 yards passing.
At the same time Manning had two touchdowns against the Patriots in the AFC championship game and hasn’t thrown an interception in the entire post-season, as Head Coach Gary Kubiak has clearly tried to make the 39-year-old Manning’s job easier with a commitment to running the ball and the short passing game.
But I believe what Peyton Manning and his offense lacks is what will spell doom for the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, and that is big play ability, which the Carolina Panthers have by the truck load.
With the Broncos having played so conservatively on offense this post-season, I feel the Carolina Panthers reign of dominance will only continue.
Having a dual-threat quarterback the caliber of Cam Newton, in addition to a ferocious defense that creates turnovers, the Panthers will over match the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl 50 and deliver the Carolina Panthers their first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.
Nick can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org