We have had a wonderful season. It has been mesmerizing, turbulent and gripping to say the least. We have had teams fall from grace and other rise up from the ashes to give their loyal fans some hope for years to come. But two teams have made it this far. The Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.
Wow! This has been a crazy season for the Panthers who have risen from above average with several issues, to being in the Super Bowl. Personally I didn’t have them very high in my Pre-Season predictions, only at 17th This was mainly down to the fact that they had let their all-time rushing yards leader DeAngelo Williams leave in the off-season. I didn’t attribute their position much to that because by then. Williams was fading away in the backfield and on the depth chart to Jonathan Stewart. But more to the point, their star rookie Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin suffered a torn ACL before the season and was lost for the year. This, in my eyes, gave the Panthers no actual, solid attacking prowess for the season. But I have been proven wrong, just as many other people have been, by Carolina’s offence emergence this season. They led the league in touchdowns and scoring! All of this with such players as Ted Ginn Jr, Devin Funchess and Jerricho Cotchery. These players contributed to one of the worst-ranked pre-season receiving cores in the league! But they, and especially Tight End Greg Olsen, have stepped up magnificently this season to put their names out to the rest of the league.
Cam Newton has been on fire this season. His 35 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns have been the most celebrated points in the league, with Cam giving away every single football he’s scored with this season. I’d like to think it’s keeping the feel-good, laid-back aura around the team. But maybe Tom Brady should have done the same last season to keep the footballs from the officials… I agreed with many others that Cam Newton should be the league MVP, because he single-handedly led this offence all season, coming up with top notch performances and clutch throws whenever Carolina has needed them. He’s quite a polarizing player among the league and the fans mainly due to his extravagant celebrating ( dabbing has gone viral with even Hilary Clinton of all people learning how to dab ), his fickle nature with officials and media. But this season he has risen above all of that to put his name into the “elite” category of quarterbacks. His play has been wonderful along with his charisma. Both have been key to the Panthers getting to the Super Bowl because of course he has played well, but it’s his laid-back nature and ability to not let any errors from either himself or any of his teammates to stick in his mind that makes the difference. He just shakes it off and gets on with the next play; this allows his teammates to play happy and carefree, not having to worry about a mistake and in 17 out of 18 cases this season they have won so it’s obviously having a good effect.
Their defense this season has been the other element to propel them to the Super Bowl. This has been down to the combined brilliance of Star Linebacker Luke Kuechly, Defensive Tackles Kaawan Short and Star Lotulelei along with Cornerback Josh Norman, which has brought this defense from 10th in total yards up to 6th in the league and from 13th in sacks to 6th. Having a defense this belligerent is a huge plus because in six of the past 13 Super Bowls, the winning team has been ranked between 15th and 19th offensively (2000 & 2012 Ravens, 2001 & 2003 Patriots, 2005 Steelers and 2007 Giants), and on three occasions over the same period, a #1 offense has lost to offensive units ranked 19th (2001 Patriots over Rams), 24th(2002 Buccaneers over Raiders) and 16th (2007 Giants over Patriots).
This has been a very intriguing season for Denver who kept up with the Panthers till week 7 and then lost surprisingly in Indianapolis to the Colts who ended up finishing 8-8. But it was versus the Vikings when Manning started a 6 game streak of finishing every game with more interceptions than touchdowns, that to the surprise of nearly any millennials, Peyton Manning, the supposed “best quarterback of his generation” in their eyes was dropped and surprisingly Osweiler came in to lead the Broncos to 6 wins and a playoff birth. Manning came back in from a “Plantar Fasciitis” treatment which seemed to me to be quite a shifty move and a sly way to pull the wool over our eyes about his abject performance. To my astonishment, Manning, who had been so pitiful, came back in to start and has played well, not throwing an interception since his return in week 17. So their offence has relied on the run mostly from CJ Anderson with hints of Ronnie Hillman. This season they have played well enough to ease some of the pressure from either quarterback, so versus Carolina they will have to play very well and give Manning a wider field to find his favorite targets.
To say that Denver’s defense has been suffocating would be an understatement. They are No. 1 in total defense (283.1 yards), No. 1 in pass defense (199.6), No. 1 in sacks (52), No. 3 against the run (83.6), No. 4 in scoring (18.5) and No. 3 in defensive touchdowns (5). Their defense is extremely similar to Carolina in the fact that in some positions, they have the best in the league such as Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Aquib Talib, Chris Harris and TJ Ward, who all apart from Ward were voted to the Pro Bowl which is incredible and Miller was voted All Pro. Watching them play the Patriots in the AFC Conference game, it was astonishing how quickly the D-Line (and it wasn’t just one or two but all of them) got off the line and instantly had pressure on Tom Brady. This might have been the poor quality of New England’s Line, but either way this is a frightening sight for Carolina and will have to rely I think on Cam Newton’s rushing ability to escape the seemingly eternal pressure from Ware and Miller.
So in the end, I think that Denver’s defense will cement their legacy by managing a last- minute stand against Cam Newton, and give Denver their 3rd Super Bowl Victory and the ultimate send-off for Peyton and Ware. Age seems to be catching up with them so this might be their last chance to win a Super Bowl. But it will be a good game and Carolina will provide a solid performance but their quest for a super bowl will keep going on. I will be watching it all so I hope all of you enjoy it as much as I will!
Predicted score: Carolina 24 Denver 30