We won't claim total objectivity here. Before we were bloggers, we were each Broncos fans, after all. But perhaps we see more value in the Orange Crush and Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. than the typical media analyst "expert." Perhaps we recognize the strengths of this Broncos team that incorporate elements this Panthers team simply cannot, such as the fuel that a recent Super Bowl loss can give you.
In our Super Bowl 50 predictions below, we aimed for objectivity while recognizing subjectivity and welcome you to do the same in the poll and comments.
Broncos 24, Panthers 20
The Broncos' defense will present a challenge that the Panthers haven't encountered all season, after matching up with some of the easiest opponents in the league this season. Cam will become frustrated and start to struggle under pressure with nowhere to run while staring into the eyes of Von, WareWolfe, Malik, and Sly barreling at him. Peyton and the rest of the offense will do everything it takes to get a final championship for the future hall of famer, who is extra pissed off about the most recent HGH "garbage story" out of the Washington Post. He will throw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions which is the key to beating the Panthers.
Expect coverages to fall:
Ted Ginn (51)/Bradley Roby (27), Corey Brown (45)/Aqib Talib (33), Jerricho Cotchery (33)/Chris Harris (3), T.J. Ward & Danny Trevathan/Greg Olsen with Josh Norman (18) manning LCB Emmanuel Sanders (21)/Demaryius Thomas (37), Robert McClain (not ranked top 110 CBs) at RCB with Cortland Finnegan (N/R top 110) matching up with Jordan Norwood (104) (numbers in parenthesis represent player's PFF final position rank on the season). Norman covers the slot receiver less than 2% of the time, while Thomas or Sanders operate over 40% of their routes combined from the slot.
The game will be decided in those 7 matchups, Denver's run game will have success against Carolina's weaker outside, especially if Gary Kubiak decides that C.J. Anderson (116 attempts 684 yards 6 touchdowns (5.9 average)) in the last 11 weeks versus Ronnie Hillman's (168 attempts 594 yards 5 (3.54 YPC)) is the man to run his outside zone this game. Peyton Manning's pre-snap check-down ritual will be mostly neutralized by the fact that the Carolina defense doesn't do much outside of running Cover 3 (Cover 1-Robber and Cover 3 are what the Seattle Seahawks defended Denver with in the 2013 Super Bowl). Carolina's secondary does Cover 3 very well. The Panthers run game will find little in the way of relieving what will likely be relentless pressure from Denver's outside pass rush (where Carolina grades out worst on their offensive line, especially on the blind side).
If Denver can figure out a way to utilize the ineptness of Carolina left tackle Michael Oher, flush Cam Newton to his right they can force Newton to throw and dump off to his right side where he has his lowest completion percentages. Five of Newton's interceptions this season have come in the middle of the field and within the 10-19 yard pass range, this will be where Darian Stewart can solidify his position as defensive MVP. Newton has not been hit more than 6 times in one game this entire season according to NFL Network, the Broncos predominantly 4 man rush hit Tom Brady 23 times in the AFC Championship Game with Brady coming off a divisional round where he was hit only once by the Kansas City Chiefs defense (which makes a pretty negating argument against claims that the Patriots offensive line played injured against Denver).
Olsen will be the point of focus if the Broncos plan on stopping Carolina's passing game, the Ward/Trevanthan coverage tandem left New England's Rob Gronkowski with MVP numbers in the AFCCG (8 catches, 144-yards and one TD while Harris added coverage assistance). Watch when Newton splits Olsen wide, because this opens up the middle of the field where currently employed NFL analysts will point to Newton's ability to run, but with a career average of 39 rushing yards per game and a 2015 average of 40-yards per game on the ground it seems like low hanging fruit for lazy analytics.
Avoiding Luke Kuechly will be Manning's number one priority, NFL quarterbacks own a 48.4 passer rating on the season when passing against Kuechly (that's better than any cornerback in the NFL, according to PFF). Four of Manning's interceptions occurred in the middle of the field in the 0-9 yard range, 5 occurred mid-field in the 10-19 yard range, both will be Kuechly's domain and both will likely be occupied at least 40% of the time by Sanders or Thomas. Sitting back in the Cover 3 is likely where Carolina will see most of their success in defending the pass as Manning owns a better QB Rating (by +10.6 points) when pressured than he does when given time to think and analyze and given that gaping wasteland which is the middle of the field expect Denver's most successful passes to be those on the outside. The Panthers defense blitzes a league average 28% of the time. Denver's best chance of winning is on the outsides both defensively and offensively and they will (win).
TL;DR: Denver by 2 touchdowns, Panthers have the edge, but not in quality of win. Cam don't want none.
Broncos 17, Panthers 13
The homer in me wants to throw down a complete game from the Broncos offense and defense, but there has only been one of those complete games all season. If they didn't come against teams like the Cleveland Browns or San Diego Chargers, then they are not going to come against these Carolina Panthers.
No, the recipe for these Broncos is score above. Peyton Manning and the Broncos start fast, but then get next to nothing done for the rest of the game. Meanwhile, the Broncos defense just grinds Cam Newton down drive after drive only to hold strong to win Super Bowl 50.
My heart wants 45-10 Broncos, because my heart is worn out from the 15 close games the Broncos have been in this season. My head knows better. This is going to be a fun Super Bowl.
Broncos 23, Panthers 20
Super Bowl MVP: Demaryius Thomas, WR
This is it. The culmination of a season's worth of blood, sweat and tears from both teams that have amalgamated into a desire for one goal â to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
The Carolina Panthers stormed through the season on the arm and legs of star quarterback Cam Newton, who has been backed by a defense whose front 7 has created havoc all season long for opposing squads. On the other side are our beloved Broncos, who endured a roller coaster ride of a season, yet were able to keep their Super Bowl dreams alive by the play of a ferocious defense that will likely go down as one of the best to ever roam the gridiron.
I don't expect a ton of points to be wracked up this game. I firmly believe that it will be a nail biter that is decided in the final minutes of regulation. The team that wins the turnover battle and holds the advantage in time of possession will be the victor of Super Bowl 50. The battle in the trenches will also be pinnacle to who reigns supreme in this battle of two heavyweight teams.
I expect the Broncos defense, under the tutelage of Wade Philips to have a diverse game plan that is able to stop the big-play offense of the Panthers. On the other side of the ball, I believe the Broncos to come up with a formula that sustains long drives and is able to put enough points on the board that will bring the franchise its third championship.
It won't be easy, but nothing ever was for the Denver Broncos in 2015. When it is all said and done, the orange, blue and white confetti will be flying through the air and the euphoric aura of the Broncos players, fans and coaches will be felt around the world.
Ian St. Clair
Broncos 24, Panthers 10
As with Tim, I want Denver to drop a blowout in the Super Bowl as opposed to being the team getting blown out. But that's not this team's MO. The Broncos thrive at close games. They, whether you're worn out by it or not, kick and scream. Denver needs to come out from the start and hit Carolina in the mouth. And then do it again. Don't allow the Panthers to get out to those fast starts. Force Cam Newton into third and longs and you will see the frustration start to build. On offense for the Broncos, stick with the run game and don't turn the ball over. Then when the chances present themselves, connect on deep pass plays. If the Broncos do their job, they win. Super Bowl MVP: Peyton Manning. When it's announced, hopefully this happens.
Broncos 27, Panthers 28
(censored) you Pete you (censored) (censored) (censored)! You (censored) (censored) (censored) (censored) (censored) (censored)!!!! Move to Carolina with all the other (censored) Panther fans! You back stabbing (censored) (censored)! WRONG. I'm doing this purely because 2 years ago, I predicted we'd blow the barn doors off of the Seahawks. I'm doing this because whenever I pick against Denver, they win. So YOU ARE WELCOME Broncos Country. In my heart of hearts, I believe the Broncos will win. But because I love this team more than all of you put together, I will pick Carolina simply because I'm convinced it will jinx them. Go Broncos!!!! But Carolina is my official pick!
Broncos 24, Panthers 21
MVP: C.J. Anderson
Broncos 34 - Panthers 17
There are too many people from every nook and cranny throwing this Denver Bronco team under a bus for me to predict anything other than a big win by our team. Anything could happen. We could lose big. We could win big. At the end of the day, I believe in this team too much to think we aren't going to win this game handily. I'll be the minority on staff and with the minority against popular opinion.
One of the most often repeated things I've heard said this past two weeks is, "Carolina is going to get their points." Bull. They don't have the kind of wide receivers that are going to be able to break this defense down like Pittsburgh could. The only weapon I'm seriously concerned about is Olsen on their team. Everything else, this defense can handle. We're going to cause turnovers in this game. It is going to be a long day for Carolina and Cam Newton.
Carolina on paper is a juggernaut of a team. Cam Newton is the best QB in the NFL. Their run game is unstoppable. Their defense is too good. Yeah...go ahead and disrespect my team. Lots of teams have this year: Green Bay, NE (twice...LOL), Cincinnati, etc. We win far more than we lose and on the biggest of stages this year our team has shown up to play some football. I expect nothing less and I think Carolina is going to be in shock when things don't go their way.
Broncos 23 - Panthers 17
My head knows this Panthers team represents the toughest task the Broncos have faced this season. My heart can't be ignored. The Broncos will not lose another Super Bowl.
These Broncos will follow the path forged by John Elway late in his Broncos career - where the veteran quarterback doesn't need to lead the team to victory. The 1997 Broncos advanced in the postseason behind the strength of their defense and running game. Manning and company can do the same.
Cam Newton and the Panthers will pose problems for the Broncos, particularly in the variety of formations they can pose in order to keep pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware from pinning their ears back and pursuing the League MVP. But I believe in Wade Phillips. I believe in Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan, probably the most underrated parts of this Denver defense. And I do believe in Peyton "Not Done Yet" Manning, to take are of the football, and keep Denver's turnover battle in check.
Peyton rides into that orange and blue sunset with two Lombardi trophies in his back pocket, just like John Elway did 18 years ago.
MVP: Von Miller. Another versatile game from Miller, who registers two sacks including a forced fumble of Newton.
You make the pick