Super Bowl 50 Preview — Can the Broncos Stop Cam Newton?
The Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos will meet in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday evening to determine which team will hoist the Lombardi Trophy as NFL champions. Here’s a preview of the 50th edition of the NFL’s greatest spectacle:
Sunday, February 7
Super Bowl 50: Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos
Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.; 4:30 p.m. on CBS
How They Got Here: Driven by a high-scoring offense led by quarterback Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers had the NFL’s best record this season (15–1). They seemed to have only gotten better in the playoffs. The NFC South champions defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 31-24, in the divisional round and routed the Arizona Cardinals, 49-15, in the NFC title game.
Anchored by a ferocious, quarterback-hunting defense, the Denver Broncos were among the AFC’s best teams all season (12–4). They captured their fifth consecutive AFC West title on their way to the top seed in the conference. Denver beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-16, in the divisional round and edged the defending Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots, 20-18, in the AFC Championship.
History: The teams didn’t face each other this season; they have only met four times in their history. The last time they played was 2012, when Denver thumped Carolina, 36-14. Cam Newton was sacked seven times in that game.
The Panthers are making their second Super Bowl appearance. They lost to New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. The Broncos are playing in their second Super Bowl in three years and eighth in franchise history (2–5).
Betting Line: Panthers –5.5
Carolina Offense vs. Denver Defense
Forget ‘Superman’-ing and dabbing, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s most impressive displays are his running and passing skills. Newton has 45 combined touchdowns (35 passing, 10 rushing) this season, and his athleticism and size present a problem for any defense, even one as good as the Broncos. For all the Super Bowl–winning quarterbacks Denver has beaten this season (Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady -- twice), they have yet to face a talent like Newton. Tight end Greg Olsen and receivers Ted Ginn Jr., Philly Brown and Devin Funchess give Cam plenty of targets.
Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware won’t care what Cam Newton has done against the rest of the NFL, they’ll just want him to feel uncomfortable all day long. Cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib will help the attack by locking down whichever Panthers receiver they are covering. If the Broncos can pressure Newton and hold Carolina to field goals instead of touchdowns, they’ll keep the game close. And that’s a good thing: Denver has 11 victories by seven or fewer points this season (including the postseason).
Denver Offense vs. Carolina Defense
Whether it’s his "last rodeo" or not, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will need to play mistake-free football for Denver to have a chance to win Super Bowl 50. Manning threw 17 interceptions in just nine starts this season, but he hasn’t thrown a pick in 78 attempts since returning from the foot injury that sidelined him for seven weeks. The Panthers led the league in interceptions with 24. This could get ugly if the Broncos fall behind.
Manning’s lack of mobility may make him an easy target for the Carolina pass rush, especially if Jared Allen has used the two weeks of Super Bowl hype to rest his broken foot. Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly can be a game-breaker. Carolina may need him to reign in Denver’s clock-eating running game led by C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman. The Panthers defense doesn’t get the media coverage afforded to its offense, but it consistently gives them the ball in great position to score. If they can put up more than 21 points against the Broncos, they’ll likely win their franchise’s first Super Bowl title.