By Sean Rooney
Can you feel it yet? Well, you are not alone. The whole country, and many other parts of the world are getting ready for Super Bowl Sunday. I think it’s safe to say that the Super Bowl has become a national holiday and it’s just around the corner.
Media week is under way, storylines are being tossed around like live grenades, and pizza joints are bracing for the onslaught that awaits them. According to Statisticbrain.com there is a 35% rise in pizza delivery sales on game day, not to mention 49.2 million cases of beer are sold, but I digress. All the money being passed around, prop bets being placed, storylines circulating, and Super Bowl squares being made are fun topics of conversation, but ultimately everyone wants to know who is going to win? Well, if I knew that answer my friends I’d be rich.
Facing off on this Holy Sunday are none other than Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, arguably the two best teams during the NFL’s regular season in Super Bowl 50. In today’s NFL, it usually comes down to offense and more specifically quarterbacks, and these teams are helmed by two of the great ones the league has to offer; Peyton Manning vs. Cam Newton. Young vs. old, black vs. white, swag vs. class, Cam “The Fig” Newton vs. Peyton “The Forehead” Manning, the storylines are hot, and the anticipation is rampant. Now most people seem to be leaning towards Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers, and the hot streak they are riding where they cruised into the playoffs at 15-1 and basically dismantled their playoff opponents on the way. (They relaxed in 2nd half of the Seattle game after going up 31-0 at the half, so in my opinion still a dismantling even though they were outscored 24-0 after the hot start.) With that being said, here’s the case that can be made for why the Denver Broncos will win their 3rd overall Super Bowl title, and first since John Elway called it quits back in 1998.
First and foremost defense wins championships. With all the talk about offense this, and quarterback that, it’s no coincidence that two top 10 overall defensive teams are participating in the big dance.
Who has the edge? I’d have to give that to the number one overall defense in the league for the 2015 NFL season, the Denver Broncos. Early in the year before Manning’s injury, he wasn’t playing so hot, in fact he was downright awful (17 interceptions, yikes!). The defense is what carried them during that time, and into the playoffs. If Aqib Talib and company can hold the, mediocre at best, Carolina receivers in check, and the pass rush of Von Miller and Demarcus Ware can keep Cam scrambling, Denver has an edge.
The second reason Denver can win Super Bowl 50 is the running game. After a disappointing start (especially for fantasy owners), CJ Anderson has really come into his own as a running back, rushing 31 times for 144 yards at a 4.6 yards per carry clip in the postseason. Not to mention, they have Ronnie Hillman as well, and if they can run the ball, control the clock, and play good defense then it makes the third factor’s job a lot easier.
That third factor I speak of is none other than Peyton Manning. Now, I’m not going to throw career stats at you because frankly they don’t matter in just one game, and I’m definitely not going to throw in Peyton’s 2015 stats, well because they just aren’t good. (Okay one stat: 176 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no picks vs. New England in the AFC Championship for a 90.1 passer rating, so he’s getting better.) What I will say is that Peyton Manning is the hardest working, and smartest quarterback this game has ever seen. The preparation and work he puts into each contest where he steps on the field is exhausting just to think about. I also know this, 2-2 in the Super Bowl sounds a whole lot better than 1-3 for when he is ultimately inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I think with that incentive, Peyton will want it more; we’ll just have to see if his body responds.
Well, there you have it. Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers seem to be heavy favorites on paper, but they don’t hand out the Lombardi Trophy based on who is supposed to win but on who actually wins. If the Denver Broncos can play at the level of defense they are accustomed too, run the ball with consistency, and give Peyton Manning some time in the pocket, they could realistically pull this one out. We’re just going to have to wait until Sunday to find out. Enjoy your pizza folks; I think we are in for a good one.