So, after 255 games (let’s ignore the Pro Bowl), a few upsets along the way, and what seems like an unusually high number of injuries to big name players this year, we’ve finally made it to the Super Bowl. Super Bowl 50, from San Francisco.
In the Championship Round, the Denver Broncos beat the New England Patriots. They put points on the board early and forced New England to chase from behind. This helped them for two main reasons:
- After the first quarter, the Patriots’ defense figured them out and the Broncos’ offense was terrible for the rest of the day;
- The Patriots’ offensive line was beaten up before play started, and this only got worse chasing the game.
I said the Broncos needed to rely on their defense to win, and I think that view was vindicated. Their defense overpowered the offensive line to an extent that even quick balls were nigh-on impossible for Tom Brady to complete. The Patriots’ run game was non-existent and they couldn’t give Brady time to complete passes. Despite a late surge, they couldn’t do enough to pull it back. Denver survived.
The Panthers had it much easier. An early pick-six helped, but Carson Palmer struggled to throw well, whilst Cam Newton had no such issues. The Panthers showed they are a very good team on offense, defense and special teams. They have no big weaknesses, and that showed in the crushing scoreline of theiv victory.
So, how will the Super Bowl pan out?
I’ll be honest. I don’t see Denver winning. This isn’t a case of “they’ll need to rely on their defense making plays”. Even that won’t be enough. This is Carolina’s to lose. Here’s why:
- The Panthers have a pick-six in both their last two games. Peyton Manning leads the league in picks thrown this season.
- The Broncos’ defense can’t rush the Panthers like they did the Patriots – the Panthers have a healthier offensive line. Not league-leading by any stretch, but certainly better than the Patriots’ had two weeks ago.
- Cam Newton can escape the pocket in a way Tom Brady (and Peyton Manning) can only dream of.
- Probably the Panthers’ biggest weakness – the deep ball – is also the Broncos’ biggest weakness.
- The Broncos scored 30 points only twice this season (once, against the Patriots, required overtime). The Panthers have done it twice in the playoffs alone – against the Seahawks and the Cardinals, who both have highly rated defenses. They also did it eight times in the regular season. They are hard to stop.
My Power Rankings give this to Carolina by 2.267 – 2.042, and I agree. Ron Rivera should be a very happy man at the end of the game tonight.