San Fransico is the center of the NFL universe as media from every fabric of life has descended upon the City By The Bay for the upcoming Super Bowl game. The Denver Broncos will square off against the Carolina Panthers in what, on paper, looks to be a defensive showcase. Despite a Confrence Championship preview late submission, PW has gone 11-1 predicting outright winners this playoff, so we felt it only natural to give you a full rundown of those vying to hoist the Lombardi trophey.
Denver Broncos - We will start with the obvious, Peyton Manning is speculated to be playing in his last game. Reports from undisclosed sources state that this will indeed be the last time Manning laces his cleats. The future Hall of Famer has not played well this year, throwing the most interceptions of his career with the exception of his rookie season. He missed a 4-game stretch, which saw backup Brock Osweiler lead the Broncos offense to lackluster second half performances in which they did not score. Manning made a valiant return, leading them to a victory over San Diego that ensured home field advantage. Since returning, The Sheriff (Manning's nickname), seems to have recovered completely from the Plantar Fasciitis that had sidelined him. The four neck surgeries, Plantar Fasciitis, numb fingers and out-of-nowhere HGH allegations stemming from a report from Al Jazeera all seem to have worn on Manning; which fuels the speculation this is the end.
Wide recievers Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas, Tight End Owen Daniels, and the Running Back by committee of CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman have had up and down seasons; all possess the talent to provide game-breaking plays. The real strength of Denver though lies in its top ranked defense. Derek Wolfe is the anchor of a stout defensive line, absorbing blocks that allow the exquisite linebacking corps. The second level unit is headlined by outside linebackers Von Miller and Demarcus Ware, the two orange jerseys constantly pressuring New England's Tom Brady in the AFC championship.
No slouches on the inside as middle linebackers Danny Trevathen and Brandon Marshall usually clear up anything that gets past the defensive line. The secondary is home to dynamic playmakers in the form of TJ Ward and Chris Harris Jr. The ball hawks usually provide severe punishment to any ball carriers they come across. By only allowing 283 yards per game, offenses struggle dearly against the Broncos defense, which makes getting rhe most on possestions crucial for sucess.
Lucky for Carolina, they are led by MVP front runner Cam Newton. You may have seen him indulging in some Oikos Greek Yougurt or dabbing after TD celebrations on highlights or handing those TD footballs to children in the front row of Panthers home games. If you haven't, well Newton is on a whole other level. Standing at 6'5, weighing 245, he looms over his own linemen. His right arm launches perfect spirals that coaches dream of, fitting them in impossible windows at a high rate of speed; laser beams. If that wasn't enough to worry about, Newton has the speed of a running back; which makes him damn near impossible at the goal line if he decides to call his own number.
Running back Jonathen Stewart has enjoyed a rebound year, finally getting to enjoy the majority of the workload when DeAngelo Williams left for Pittsburgh in the offseason. His relief is the durable, powerful Mike Tolbert, which allows Carolina to wear down defenses. With the running game established, it creates the perfect opportunity for play action passes; usually seem or post routes with nary a defender near their wideouts. Ted Ginn Jr, Philly Brown, Jerrico Cothery are all journeymen, average recievers that have elevated their play due to Newton's exceptional play at QB.
The top threat in the air is tight end, Greg Olsen, who has enjoyed his best season to date. The former Chicago Bear is a matchup nightmare who provides the security blanket for Newton, his go to when he is trouble. Carolina also has a formidable defense led by last year's defensive player of the year, Luke Kuchley. The heat seeking missle of a man goes sideline to sideline, can cover some wide recievers, and has a pick 6 in both of the Panthers playoff wins. His neighbor Thomas Davis plays the same way, however broke his arm in their win against Arizona in the NFC Championship. He has 6 screws, a large cast, but says he is optomistic that he will play in the Super Bowl. The Secondary is led by Pro Bowler Josh Norman, the cornerback has made waves this year due to his confotational, trash talking play. The thing is though he backs it up, leading his defense in interceptions.
Denver Broncos: 24 - Carolina Panthers: 21
We say that Peyton rides into the sunset one last time.