For those who were unable to grab a copy of Saturday February 6th’s Melbourne’s Herald Sun or Adelaide’s The Advertiser newspapers, here is the Super Bowl preview I wrote.
It was a joy to provide such well renowned print media companies with a write-up that was able to reach the eyes of hundreds of thousands of readers.
Here is the match preview;
Like every year, the story lines surrounding Super Bowl 50 are endless.
Cam Newton and his brash, dancing, selfie-taking Carolina Panthers team mates have ascended to be the NFL’s most dominant all-around outfit. On the other side, a truly all-time great of the sport leads his team into one last shot at Super Bowl glory with him at the reins. Peyton Manning – the once prolific quarterback – now plays a supporting role as the league’s number one defence makes enough plays to put the Denver Broncos on the brink of championship elation.
There are brilliant individuals littered throughout this match-up. From the explosive, emerging star that is Panthers cornerback Josh Norman to born-again offensive lineman Michael Oher, who’s adolescent life was depicted in an award-winning movie, titled ‘The Blindside.’
When markets opened, Carolina were the clear 3-point betting favourite and that margin has continued to extend as money has been wagered in Las Vegas. But that is doing a disservice to what Denver achieved in dismantling New England in the AFC Championship game. Defensive end duo Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware were constantly in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s face, pressuring him and forcing the usually methodical Pats into errors and punts. This Monday (Australian time) the Broncos star-studded defence faces a vastly different challenge with Newton, his unheralded receiving core and a no-nonsense running back named Jonathan Stewart who has compiled 1,178 tough yards and eight touchdowns.
With the NFL being the most ‘chalk and talk,’ research driven game on earth, let’s dig deeper into the match-up and assess who and what will decide this epic clash between two extremely different squads.
PANTHERS OFFENCE v BRONCOS DEFENCE
Cam Newton is unlike any quarterback we have seen in the NFL.
Already among the most prolific touchdown rushing QB’s in history, Newton possesses a devastating combination of size, speed, strength and creativity allowing him to be almost unstoppable at the goal line and when the Panthers need a couple of yards for a first down. Running back Jonathan Stewart also drives the Carolina bus with his gritty running style, often allowing Newton and the offence the opportunity to control the clock and the tempo of the game. Though short on reputation and star power, Newton’s receivers have been explosive and consistent, particularly as the season wore on. Tight end Greg Olsen is a bona-fide star and will cause Denver many issues whilst Ted Ginn, Corey Brown, Ed Dickson and Devin Funchess provide the offence with enough options to score points.
Carolina are the number one overall offence thanks largely to a dual-threat running game with Newton and Stewart, a bunch of honest pass-catchers and an other-worldly talented quarterback at the peak of his powers.
Standing between Carolina and the end zone will be the number one defence in football.
DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller form a brutal defensive rush end combination that give quarterbacks nightmares whilst Derek Wolfe controls the line of scrimmage and gets penetration on the inside, allowing the pass rush pair to go to work. In the secondary, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr and TJ Ward will be pressing to take the ball away on any errant Newton pass.
The Broncos kept the high-scoring, high-yardage Patriots to only 18 points whilst Brady was pressure, hit and sacked more than any game this season. Newton and Brady are vastly different beasts and containing Newton on the ground will be a vital ingredient in any Broncos defensive scheme.
They say ‘offence sells tickets and defence wins championships’ but Carolina’s potent, smash-mouth, efficient offence will be just too much for Denver to withstand.
DENVER OFFENCE v CAROLINA DEFENCE
Make no mistake, Peyton Manning is no longer Peyton Manning.
But since returning from an array of ailments and never-before-seen poor form from ‘The Sherriff,’ Manning has reappeared as an elite game-manager with the ability to read defences, make in-game adjustments and put others in position to succeed. He is not turning the ball over at an alarming rate like he was early in the year and running back pair CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman have slightly increased their production. Owen Daniels was a surprise playmaker in the AFC title game victory over New England, burning the Pats for two crucial touchdowns.
First and foremost, Manning must take care of the ball. Turnovers are an absolute no-no as it will ignite the electric Panthers squad and give Newton opportunities to control the speed of the game.
Often overshadowed by ‘Super Cam’ and co. is the vaunted, nasty Panthers defensive unit. Led by linebacking duet Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis as well as defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. Davis suffered a fractured forearm in the NFC game against Arizona but has already hit the practice field and looks likely to take his place in the big one. Kuechly is the consistent playmaker on the Panthers defence. He has two interceptions this post-season as well as a fumble recovery. He is elite in pass coverage for a linebacker and tackles with ferocity. He can be an early tone-setter in the match.
Despite Manning no longer being the 400-yard per game thrower that he was when he was playing with Indianapolis and his initial season in Denver, he still needs to get the ball outside to his two standout receivers, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Thomas – a Pro Bowl regular – was held to just two catches for 12 yards last week and a repeat performance will make things very hard for coach Gary Kubiak and the Broncos. Sanders is the deep threat and outstanding cornerback Josh Norman will have his work cut out whether he is defending the big, strong Thomas or the elusive, speedy Sanders.
Cam NEWTON (Carolina) Will go down as the greatest dual-threat quarterback the game has seen but his only focus at the moment is adding his first Super Bowl ring to his already impressive trophy cabinet. Early on he will be keen to find safety blanket Greg Olsen but as the game wears on, expect Newton to look to run the ball often as well as make splash plays to electric wideouts Brown and Ginn. Provided Newton plays somewhere near the level he has all season, then the Carolina Panthers will be the Super Bowl 50 champions.
Demaryius THOMAS (Denver) With an extra week to rest, recover and prepare, Peyton Manning will be ready to go for one ‘last rodeo’ so Thomas needs to come to the party also. Held in check last week, the 6-3″ receiver needs to outplay star corner Josh Norman and put on a near MVP performance to ignite the mediocre Broncos offence and claim that elusive crown.
FINAL SAY; The Panthers have been rolling since real early in the NFL season and don’t expect them to slow down in the big one. Newton seems built for the big moments and he has his team mates believing in themselves and one another. It will take an epic, back-to-the-future effort from a likely retiring Manning and some sensational plays from Thomas and Sanders to give Denver a surprise win.
SCORE: Carolina 33, Denver 17. GAME MVP: Cam Newton (Carolina)