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Countdown to Super Bowl Sunday - just two more days

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The second week before the Super Bowl always feels like a month. Luckily that "month" is almost up.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Good morning, Broncos Country!

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL YET?

I am sooo ready. After a nearly a week on the West Coast following the Broncos around on their media opps, I am even more excited for the Super Bowl than I was after the AFC title game.

And here's why:

The Broncos are ready

If you thought you were ready for the game to start, how do you think the players feel? Gary Kubiak said last week that the team could have been ready to play last Sunday if there hadn't been the usual Super Bowl bye week.

And the Broncos have certainly had good practices this week with news of Brandon McManus kicking 68-yarders and Peyton Manning hitting the deep ball. They've experienced all kinds of game situations this season and have had to dig deep more than several times to win games. All that experience will be extremely useful Sunday.

Most of us probably have a little hesitation about getting too excited because we remember 2014 and we just don't want to allow ourselves to believe this team is different because the heartache that will come from a loss - or a blowout like two years ago - is just too much to fathom.

But let me stop you. This team is not that team. And that team was still special. It was an offensive juggernaut that got beat. Plain and simple. Well, ok, it got pulverized. But it was still a team to be proud of. I may have listened to Peyton Manning's pressers too much this week and adopted his talking points, but honestly, they are good talking points. It was a good team. This is a good team. It's a different team.

I see a quiet, 'been-here-before' confidence that is channeling the excitement toward aggressive, leave-it-all-on-the-field play. That's a good thing.

This 2015-16 team is built around its defense; it has different coaches and a different leadership philosophy. While several of the players are the same, many of the playmakers now did not play in that game. This is a new team, and trust me, it has a new energy. I wasn't paying as close attention to this two years ago, but I recall an outwardly confident and excited team. This year it's a quiet "been-here-before" confidence that appears to be channeling the excitement toward aggressive, leave-it-all-on-the-field play. That's a good thing.

These guys are ready to be done talking to the media but they haven't gotten worn out. They know they have a job to do here, and talking about it is all part of it, so they took a deep breath, handled the hype, enjoyed some attention and are happy to move on. From a very objectively biased viewpoint (like that?), I think the media, the incessant attention, the insane questions have worn down the Panthers a bit more.

This team has great character

This is a special group of players. As outsiders, we were made aware of it many times during the season - the way the team rallied around Brock Osweiler but kept supporting Manning; the way the team embraced Manning when he came back but gave Oz plenty of props; the way DeMarcus Ware's mentoring of Von Miller has really developed into a friendship; the way the defense as a group has become a fraternity of its own; and on and on.

But what was cool this week was to genuinely see it in action. These guys love playing football and they love doing it with each other. Some are real characters - Miller and Emmanuel Sanders come to mind first. Some are the "cool teacher" who can joke around like the kids but have a commanding presence that says "in charge." Ware and Darian Stewart fit that bill. Matt Paradis is young, but also grounded and smart - the perfect guy to be the lynchpin on the offensive line.T.J. Ward is soft-spoken but if you just mention that people aren't believing in this defense, you can see the blood getting hot under his skin.

For 53 guys who stem from all kinds of backgrounds and are all different stages in their careers, this is a cohesive group.

Defense is the new offense

This one is no surprise as they've been telling us all season that they like winning the game. What's so impressive though is that they've also been doing it all season. And they truly want it to be that way. I spoke to a dozen players on defense this week and every single one mentioned in one way or another that they prefer to have their backs against the wall, to be relied upon to make a big play to win, to get the ball back, etc. In fact, I think a few of them might actually think they are on offense.

I realize my enthusiasm for this team may not be quite enough to get you pumped up and/or overcome any anxiety about the game. But this hype video on the defense just might make you punch a wall (in a good way, of course).  I highly recommend watching several times - possibly even during a workout, but definitely a few hundred times before Sunday. But fair warning - you may want to remove breakable items from your radius.

A week in Tweets

With so many player soundbites each day, it's difficult to keep up with all the material, so keep an eye out for several stories to come as we enter a relatively quiet two days before Super Bowl Sunday. But in the meantime, here is a Twitter highlight reel of some of my favorite conversations with our favorite players.

Thank you, Mile High Report

Being able to cover the Super Bowl like a real reporter has been completely awesome, and I'm stoked about culminating the week with covering the game. Thank you, Kyle, from the bottom of my Orange and Blue heart for pushing to get MHR credentials again and for allowing me to be the representative.

Thank you SBNation for giving us the credentials (though you owe us big-time since we clearly had had two requests approved but only one provided - grrr).

Thank you MHR readers for giving us an awesome audience to write for.

And mostly, thank you Broncos for GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!

Horse Tracks

Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos both healthy as Super Bowl nears - Friday NFL preview
NFL Nation looks ahead to Friday for Carolina and Denver, including both teams being at full strength for the first time in several weeks.

Super Bowl: How can the Broncos beat Cam Newton?
How can the Denver Broncos beat Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl? By getting hits on the MVP and making life hell for him.

Trash talking between Super Bowl teams has heated up - The Denver Post
For the first three days of Super Bowl week, the Broncos and Panthers traded compliments. That changed Wednesday. And things took a nasty turn Thursday.

Snoop Dogg steals show from Panthers, but Thomas Davis is guy Broncos fans should watch | Mile High Sports
Da, da, da, da, da, it’s the motherf****** D-O-Double-G, Snoop Dogg!

Josh Norman Q&A
Cornerback talks about the obstacles he's overcome and his impressions of the Super Bowl experience.

Super Bowl 2016: Tim Tebow rooting for a good Newton game, Broncos win | Broncos Wire
As a former teammate of Cam Newton and a member of the Denver Broncos, Tim Tebow had a predictable answer when asked who he's rooting for.

NFL Super Bowl history - how offenses have changed
Shotgun snaps. Efficient running. Shorter passes. Fewer drops. Offenses have come a long way since Super Bowl I.

Why the Denver Broncos shouldn't be afraid of the Carolina Panthers | Mile High Sports
Everybody's picking the Panthers this weekend, but the Denver Broncos shouldn't be afraid of Carolina

Peyton Manning's legal team looked into Al Jazeera documentary | Mike and Mike, ESPN
Investigators working for Peyton Manning visited the source of a report that he and other athletes had obtained PEDs before a documentary aired late last year, according to the Washington Post.

Broncos back at full strength for Super Bowl 50 | Pro Football FanZone
The Denver Broncos are back at full strength, as three players were upgraded Thursday to full participation in practice just days before Super Bowl 50.

Darian Stewart, T.J. Ward anchors of the Denver defense - The Denver Post
Darian Stewart walked into a Broncos defense that was already built, talented and somewhat defined.

Belief in himself and an opportunity brought Ryan Harris to Super Bowl 50 | Mile High Sports
With the Broncos suddenly desperate for offensive tackle experience, they turned to a familiar face in Ryan Harris and he more than delivered on their way to Super Bowl 50.

Super Bowl 50 -- Antonio Smith of Denver Broncos preparing to play after death of father
A day after learning of the death of his father, Broncos defensive end Antonio Smith vowed to play Sunday and salute the way his dad lived even after being sentenced to life in prison.

O-line brotherhood paving way for Panthers
Members of the Carolina offensive line believe their tight bond is the main reason they've been so successful.

Peyton Manning: Four Super Bowls, four head coaches - Denver Broncos Blog- ESPN
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is used to change -- he has reached four Super Bowls with four different head coaches.

Cam Newton represents football's evolution heading into Super Bowl 50 - The Denver Post
Faster than a pocket quarterback, more powerful than an average linebacker and able to leap defensive lines in a single bound. Cam Newton is the NFL's man of steel.

Denver has the best defense in football but will be facing an attack it has yet to face before - NFL
There is no question that Denver has the NFL's best defense this season. What the Broncos haven't seen is an offense that can target their weaknesses quite like the Carolina Panthers'.

Though injured, safeties Bruton and Bolden still contributing
Safeties David Bruton Jr. and Omar Bolden may be on IR, but their presence with the team for the entire week leading up to the Super Bowl has helped their group of defensive backs.

Chasing Lombardi: Vic goes one-on-one with Tim Tebow | Mile High Sports
Vic Lombardi finally gets his one-on-one with Tim Tebow thanks to some advice from Nick Ferguson. Then Vic does one better when he gets a contemplative Peyton Manning.