By Ian S Palmer
No matter what the experts say about defenses winning football championships, you still need to put some points up on the scoreboard to stand a chance. No team in history has won anything without scoring and that’s not going to change in Super Bowl 50 on February 7 when the Denver Broncos clash with the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Yes, the two best defensive teams in the league are facing each other and this is why points are at a premium. With Carolina leading the league in scoring this year as well as having the second-ranked defense, it’s easy to see why they’re the favorites heading into the game.
- Pinnacle currently lists the Panthers at -5.5 at -110 with the Broncos +5.5 at +100 and the over/under at 45 points with both being -105
There’s a good reason the Panthers went 15-1 in the regular season and that’s because they combined an excellent offense with a rock-solid defense. They took home the NFC South with ease and topped the league overall. They took care of the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals at home in the playoffs by respective scores of 31-24 and 49-15 to prove their success in the regular campaign wasn’t a fluke. Denver finished as the top-seeded club in the AFC and their 12-4 record was good enough to take the AFC West. They then took care of the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots at home by scores of 23-16 and 20-18.
While the Broncos were terrific on defense, they were basically mediocre or average on offense. They ranked 19th in the league for points scored per game with 22.2 while they were 16th in total yards at 355.5, 14th in passing yards at 248.1 and 17th in rushing yards with 107.4 per contest. The Panthers on the other hand, led the league with 31.2 points per game and raked 11th in total yards at 366.9, just 24th in passing yards and second in rushing with 142.6 yards per week. In addition Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is a dual threat since he’s an accomplished rusher as well as passer of the ball.
The 26-year-old Newton ran for a total of 636 yards this season while Broncos’ veteran Peyton Manning has run a grand total of 667 yards during his entire career, which now spans 18 seasons. The 39-year-old Manning has never been a running quarterback though, and he’s not going to add this part of the game to his repertoire at Super Bowl 50. However, it does give the Panthers another advantage. Manning has been an accomplished passer over the years, but he struggled in that department this season as he was picked off 17 times in 10 games and threw just nine touchdown passes. Newton managed to toss 35 touchdown passes and was intercepted only 10 times.
Through two playoff games for each team this season, Manning has completed 38 of 69 passing attempts for 398 yards and has a pair of touchdown passes. Newton has gone 35 for 50 in passing for 496 yards with three touchdown passes. He’s also carried the ball 21 times for 50 yards with a pair of touchdowns. The only Panther who has gained more yards on the ground in the postseason is Jonathan Stewart who has averaged five yards on his 38 carries for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
C.J. Anderson leads the Broncos in rushing this postseason with 144 yards on 31 carries for an average of 4.6. Ronnie Hillman is next at 54 yards on 27 carries for a two-yard average. As for receivers, Emmanuel Sanders leads Denver with 10 catches for 147 yards followed by Demaryius Thomas with 52 yards on six receptions, Owen Daniels with four catches for 43 yards and Bennie Fowler with a pair of receptions for 35 yards. Daniels has the only touchdowns though with two.
For the Panthers, their top receivers in the playoffs are Greg Olsen with 190 yards on 12 receptions, Corey Brown with six catches for 135 yards, Ted Ginn with a pair of receptions for 52 yards and Jerricho Cotchery, who has 39 yards on five catches. Both Olsen and Brown have a touchdown each. If both teams play to their potential defensively, then it’s going to come down to the best attacking team, and the general consensus is that the Panthers have the edge in that regard.
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