I must say that this is probably the first year that I have avoided all the hoopla that surrounds two weeks of hyping one football game. I barely watched a few minutes of any sports network’s coverage of this years Super Bowl and frankly I’m glad because this year they seemed to be struggling to try and come up with some unique storylines. For one, anyone trying to make a point about Cam Newton and the way he conducts himself on the field was tiresome and disingenuous. What he does on the field is fine with me and if you don’t like it, keep him out of the endzone. No one was going to get the exclusive from Peyton Manning that this would be his final game regardless of the outcome. That was pretty comical to see everyone try to get it from him and politely pushed it to the side. With that said, here’s my outlook on the big game.
Both of this years head coaches are former players and this isn’t their first rodeo on the big stage as coaches either. Denver’s head coach, Gary Kubiak, was a backup to John Elway and was the offensive coordinator for the Broncos’ last two Super Bowl victories. He is coaching an aging quarterback that has a good array of targets to throw to and a decent running game, but with an average offensive line. This has been Kubiak’s biggest challenge as a head coach in keeping the team focused with Manning being out for a good chunk of the season and that was thanks in large part to a defense led by coordinator Wade Phillips, who keeps working with top tier defenses’ throughout his career. A lot of folks think that Brock Osweiler should be the one to lead this team, but it was the right call to put Manning back in late in the season and that has been their rallying cry thus far. Win one more for Peyton.
Ron Rivera played for the vaunted Chicago Bears 1985 defense and while his Carolina Panthers defense doesn’t exactly emulate that team in ’85, their coach has done a great job instilling the fundamentals. Carolina ins’t a blitzing team, but their linebacking corp is among the best in the game because of their speed and instincts on the field. If they see an opportunity to blitz, they will and with lightning speed. Just ask Seattle and Arizona. Rivera has had total control of this team, but has left his offense relatively untouched with Mike Shula and before him Rob Chudzinski as offensive coordinator. Those two did an amazing job to mold Cam Newton into one of the best quarterbacks the game has ever seen. There won’t be a “yeah but” comment from me about Newton as a quarterback. He is here to stay and that’s thanks in large part to the direction of Ron Rivera.
Players to Watch
All eyes will be on both quarterbacks as always, but this year it should be focused on their offensive lines. Denver’s was touted as one of the best in the game in the beginning of the season, but as the year wore on they began to show their flaws. This season they gave up 39 sacks which compared to last season they only gave up 17. Quite a difference and that could be exposed against a Panthers defense that had 44 sacks which was sixth most in the league. The running game will be a key for Denver as well. Can C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman keep Carolina’s defense? Can Manning stay afloat for an entire game? Can Denver hold Carolina’s pass rushers at bay?
Just like with Denver’s offensive line, Carolina’s hasn’t been great in pass protection, but they aren’t built that way. They run the ball early and often. Not just with Cam Newton, but Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert as well. Stewart would have had 1,000 yards rushing this season if not for an injury late in the season, but he is fresh now and bodes well for the Panthers. Tolbert is hard to bring down in short yardage situations. Newton is a great quarterback, but he is getting better at fooling the defense into thinking he won’t run the ball when in fact the play was designed as a quarterback run. Denver’s defense are no push overs and they led the league in sacks with 52. Ask Tom Brady if the Broncos can put pressure on a quarterback. Carolina will have to adjust at some point with the likes of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware on the field.
Key of the Game
It really all comes down to one simple word; pressure. Who can apply it consistently and relentlessly? You can’t let up in a game like this. Both teams are capable of coming back from large deficits and whichever teams defense can apply the most pressure to the quarterback will end up winning the game. The game really isn’t that complicated and those pundits on tv that make it sound more complicated are really giving lip service to the idea that you’re too stupid to figure it out on your own. The less time one teams offense is on the field will almost always mean they will lose the game.
Who Will Win?
Last year I really hoped for it to be a good game and that wish came true. This I can still hope for the same thing, but I have a feeling that one team will be overwhelmed by other’s pass rush and it will be a one-sided affair. While I think that Denver is capable of doing that against Carolina, I have my doubts on whether Peyton Manning can sustain that kind of pressure with the way his offensive line has played this season. With that said I’m predicting a Carolina victory with a final score of 27-17. Cam Newton will be named the MVP and will cinch himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the game today.