The Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos made it out of Championship weekend alive and will face off at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on February 7th in Super Bowl 50, setting up what should be a tight defensive battle.
Championship Game Recap:
The Panthers absolutely dismantled Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 to secure their spot in the Super Bowl, led by Cam Newton’s 382 total yards, two touchdown passes, and two rushing touchdowns. The Panthers picked off Carson Palmer four times on Sunday night, including a pick-six by Luke Kuechly. Following Kuechly’s interception which sealed the victory, Panthers fans obviously went bonkers, except for this one fan who just so happens to own the franchise, Jerry Richardson:
Carolina Panthers owner is AMPED that his franchise is going back to the Super Bowl https://t.co/30zkUTrbxa
— Mike Flanagan (@fLAno0) January 25, 2016
Unlike Richardson, this one fan may have gone a little too crazy following Kuechly’s interception, as he fell from the stands and landed on his back:
Panthers fan falls out of stands tryna reach for ball https://t.co/If1vyIvc3Q
— Mike Flanagan (@fLAno0) January 25, 2016
Known Carolina Panther fan and NBA Superstar Steph Curry also went crazy over the win and gave praise of his favorite team via Twitter following the game:
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) January 25, 2016
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos had to fend off a late rally attempt by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship, prevailing 20-18 after intercepting Tom Brady’s pass on the potential game-tying two-point conversion in the game’s final seconds:
— Broncos Report (@broncos_fanly) January 25, 2016
Super Bowl Preview:
* Both the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers have been stout defensively all season, as each have incredible secondaries with Denver’s T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib, and Chris Harris Jr, and Carolina’s Josh Norman, and Kurt Coleman.
* Another key to both defenses will be the play of the linebacker sets, as Denver will be led by four-time Pro-Bowler Von Miller while Carolina will be backboned by tackling machine and three-time Pro-Bowler Luke Kuechly. With both defenses being extremely talented in all areas of the field, the game will almost certainly come down to whichever team is able to capitalize on the few defensive mistakes their opponent makes (missed tackles, blown coverages, etc).
* The edge for better offensive potential in Super Bowl 50 has to be given to Carolina, as Cam Newton is playing on another planet right now. Newton is clicking on all levels with Greg Olsen, Devin Funchess, and Tedd Ginn Jr, and his ability to scramble out of the pocket may be heavily utilized if Denver’s elite secondary is able to lock down the Panther receivers. Carolina is going to put up points, but the real question will be if Denver can match them?
* Denver’s defense is what got them to Super Bowl 50, and in order to win against Carolina, the Broncos’ D will not only have to play incredible but so will Peyton Manning. After a season filled with significant production declines and injuries, Manning was still able to help get his team back to the Super Bowl. Manning is being given an extremely tough task against Carolina’s elite defense, and will have to, at least, throw a couple of touchdown passes if Denver is to have any chance. In the second half against New England on Sunday, Denver was held to just three points and 7 first downs. If Denver does that again against Carolina, this game will turn into a blowout.
Greg Olsen vs. Von Miller
After picking off Tom Brady once, recording 2.5 sacks, and defending Rob Gronkowski extremely well for most of the AFC Championship game, Von Miller will again draw another elite tight end in Carolina’s Greg Olsen in Super Bowl 50. Olsen is just as versatile as Gronkowski but does not have as much strength or ability to bull people over as Gronk. Olsen will still be a tough matchup for Denver, but Miller has seen more difficult ones in the weeks leading up to this game. If Miller is able to lock down Greg Olsen similar to the way he did in the first half against New England with Rob Gronkowski, it could be a huge factor in which team is able to gain control of the game early.
DeMarius Thomas vs. Josh Norman
The skill set of Denver’s All-Pro wideout DeMarius Thomas will be put to the test when he is likely shadowed by up and coming shut down cornerback Josh Norman. Thomas has the height and strength advantage over Norman, but any potential success Thomas could possibly have in Super Bowl 50 will entirely depend on what Peyton Manning is able to do. If the front seven of Carolina is able to penetrate and force Manning to throw into tight windows, it will be a huge advantage for Norman. If this game stays close late, expect Manning to go to his main man in Thomas often, setting up a big time responsibility for Norman.
Owen Daniels vs. Luke Kuechly
Denver tight end Owen Daniels was able to get good separation off the line of scrimmage and burn New England’s Jamie Collins for two touchdowns in Sunday’s AFC Championship game. In Super Bowl 50, expect Daniels to see a lot of Carolina’s Luke Kuechley. Due to Carolina’s elite secondary shadowing DeMarius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, expect Peyton Manning to look Daniels’ way often despite the lockdown coverage from Kuechly.
The Panthers opened up as 3.5-point favorites late Sunday night following their NFC Championship win over Arizona. Expect that number to go up during the remainder of the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, as Cam Newton and company put on an absolute clinic on what was supposed to be one of the league’s top defenses in the Arizona Cardinals. The Carolina defense also played incredible in their NFC Championship win and held Carson Palmer to just 235 passing yards and one touchdown. With Manning’s age and lack of arm strength possibly becoming a huge factor heading into this game, expect the line to grow significantly and for Carolina to be favored by possibly 9.5-11.5 points before kickoff.
Peyton surprises a lot of people and is able to limit the amount of Denver turnovers and actually makes it a game. Cam Newton proves to be too much, however, and Carolina wins 27-20 behind a war of a matchup between DeMarius Thomas and Josh Norman.