February 7th, 2016 @ 6:30 PM ET: #1 Denver Broncos vs. #1 Carolina Panthers (-6.5)
For the third straight year, the two number one seeds in the NFL clash on the game’s biggest stage as the 12-4 Denver Broncos face off against the 15-1 Carolina Panthers in Santa Clara. Two years ago, Denver entered the Super Bowl as the best offensive team in the NFL, but this year they enter as the NFL’s number one defensive team in yards allowed. On the other side, likely MVP winner Cam Newton leads the NFL’s highest scoring offense despite the loss of #1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in the preseason. This game will feature the first ever matchup of quarterbacks taken with the #1 overall pick (Manning 1998, Newton 2010), the 3rd matchup of former SEC quarterbacks in the Super Bowl (Manning – Tennessee, Newton – Auburn), and the largest age differential between Super Bowl starting quarterbacks ever (Manning 39, Newton 26).
Despite the high profile quarterbacks, this game may very well be a defensive battle. Defensive ends Von Miller and Demarcus Ware lead a formidable Broncos pass rush while Luke Keuchly and Thomas Davis provide a dynamic 1-2 linebacker punch for the Panthers. Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib anchor the Broncos secondary while Josh Norman has been shutting down #1 receivers all year for Carolina. Both teams will have to get the ground game going to slow down the pass rush. C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman provide 1-2 punch from the Broncos backfield while veteran Jonathan Stewart is a dual threat through the air and on the ground for the Panthers. However, the X-factors in this game may be the tight ends. Greg Olsen has been Cam Newton’s go to guy and has made big plays all year, while Owen Daniels broke out with two TDs in the AFC Championship game for the Broncos.
I do think the Broncos will have some success slowing down Cam Newton and the Panthers offense. However, the Panthers defense led the league with 39 takeaways this season and is arguably just as good as Denver’s defense. Carolina won’t have to score even close to their average of 32 points per game to win this one. Peyton Manning will be under attack all game long, and the Broncos will be in big trouble if they get behind early. Carolina simply has no weaknesses. They have a QB who accounted for 45 TDs, a 1000 yard RB, the 2nd best tight end in the game, a receiver who caught 10 TDs, the best linebacking core in the league, the best cornerback in the league, and an outstanding offensive and defensive line. The only team they lost to this year, they also destroyed 38-0 during the same month. The Carolina Panthers are a historically great team, and I think they will win this game 23-16 and Luke Keuchly will be MVP.
Let me know your predictions in the comments down below!