Sideline Report: Do Peyton and the Broncos stand a chance on Super Sunday?


Braden Shaw, JagWire editor-in-chief

The Super Bowl turns 50 on Sunday and the game has become something of a national holiday. Every year, the broadcast has memorable halftime performances, hilarious commercials, big-time movie trailers and, of course, the game itself. This year will be no different as Super Bowl Sunday quickly approaches, capturing the attention of sports fans all across the nation.

When the game kicks off from Santa Clara, California, on Sunday, I’ll be nervous. The NFC champion Carolina Panthers will face off against the AFC champion Denver Broncos, and this has the potential to be a blowout. The Panthers are coming off a 49-15 obliteration of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC championship game and only have one  loss this year. On the other side, the Broncos are far from perfect. Their quarterback, Peyton Manning, has missed significant time this season and is currently having the worst statistical season of any quarterback to start a Super Bowl. Oh, boy.

One saving grace that the Broncos have is that they have a stellar defense. They have lock-down pass coverage anchored by cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib. They also have a great pass rush led by outside linebacker Von Miller and defensive end Demarcus Ware. They can destroy opposing offenses, and are the main reason the Broncos are even in this position. Heck, defensive back Bradley Roby’s interception of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC championship game pretty much sealed a Super Bowl berth. But, the major flaws lie on the other side of the ball.

Like I said earlier, Manning has been horrendous this year. It doesn’t help that he also missed six games in the middle of the season due to an injury. Also, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas hasn’t been consistent, and the run game has been a question all season. This offense is no longer intimidating as in past seasons, but serviceable enough to keep the team in games. I can only imagine how they will adapt to the aggressive defense of the Panthers.

Speaking of that defense, the Panthers are quite good at stopping opposing offenses. If shutdown corner Josh Norman isn’t enough, linebacker Luke Kuechly can pass rush or create turnovers. Also, linebacker Thomas Davis has been consistently great, even if he broke his arm last game. (He claims he’ll play this Sunday, but I’m not sure how much, though.) This defense is keen at disrupting the opposition, taking the ball away and applying pressure in key situations. This is going to be a long night if Manning can’t get rid of the ball quick enough.

Saying that the offense of the Panthers “isn’t too shabby” would be an understatement. They’re led by MVP candidate quarterback Cam Newton, who has weapons like tight end Greg Olsen, wide receivers Ted Ginn, Jr. and Devin Funchess and fullback Mike Tolbert. They also have an effective running attack with Newton himself, as well as running back Jonathan Stewart. They can beat you on the ground and through the air, scoring fast and furiously. Newton also isn’t easy to take down, something the Broncos defense will have to change if they have any hopes of winning on Sunday.

So, how will the game play out? Well, the Panthers are coming in red hot and they seem to be a team of destiny. They have proven that they can beat any team in the NFL and are easily the favorites for this game. The only way that the Broncos stay in this game is if the defense forces Newton into bad decision-making and if the offense can score enough to keep the Broncos in the game.

But, at the end of the day, I think Newton and the Panthers will be holding the Lombardi Trophy, after a final score of Panthers, 42; Broncos, 20.

The Panthers just have too much firepower and playmakers for the Broncos to overcome. Also, they have all of the momentum right now. I’m really hoping that it isn’t a blowout again this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the scoreline is worse than the one that I predicted.

Even if the game stinks, the commercials — but not Coldplay — will be worth the watch, right?

Junior Braden Shaw is a passionate sports fan who follows sports at both the college and professional level. He loves to defend his unpopular opinions on the University of Nebraska, Sporting KC, Chiefs and Royals and is always up for a debate over any game or team.

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