This year will be the 50th Super Bowl, or the National Football League championship game. The National Football Conference (NFC) champion Carolina Panthers will play the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Denver Broncos to decide the league champion for the 2015 NFL season. The game is scheduled to be played on February 7, 2016, at 6:30 pm Eastern time at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. CBS will broadcast the game in the United States.
For the third straight season, the number one seeds from both conferences will meet in the Super Bowl. The Carolina Panthers became one of only ten teams to have completed a regular season with only one loss, and one of only six teams to have acquired a 15–1 record, while the Denver Broncos became one of four teams to have made eight appearances in the Super Bowl.
The Panthers offense, which led the NFL in scoring (500 points), was loaded with talent, boasting six Pro Bowl selections. Pro Bowl quarterback Cam Newton had one of his best seasons, throwing for 3,837 yards and a career high 35 touchdown passes, with 10 interceptions and a career-best rating of 99.4; Newton also added 636 yards and 10 more touchdowns on the ground.
His top target was Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, who caught 77 passes for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns. Multi-talented receiver Ted Ginn Jr, was also a major element, catching 44 passes for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns, while also rushing for 60 yards and returning 27 punts for 277 yards.
The Panthers defense gave up just 308 points, ranking sixth in the league, while also leading the NFL in interceptions with 24. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawaan Short led the team in sacks with 11, while also forcing three fumbles and recovering two. Fellow lineman Mario Addison added 6½ sacks.
Behind them, two of the Panthers three starting linebackers were also selected to play in the Pro Bowl: Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly Davis compiled 5½ sacks, four forced fumbles, and four interceptions, while Kuechly led the team in tackles (118) forced two fumbles, and intercepted four passes of his own.
Carolina’s secondary featured Pro Bowl safety Kurt Coleman, who led the team with a career high seven interceptions, while also racking up 88 tackles and Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, who developed into a shutdown corner and had four interceptions, two of those were returned for touchdowns.
After last year’s loss in the playoffs, The Denver Broncos went through a few changes in their coaching staff, finally hiring Gary Kubiak as the new head coach. Under Kubiak, the Broncos planned to install a run-oriented offense with zone blocking to blend in with quarterback Peyton Manning’s shotgun passing skills.
But they struggled with numerous changes and injuries to the offensive line, as well as Manning having his worst statistical season since his rookie year with the Indianapolis Colts in 1988, due to a plantar fasciitis injury in his heel that he had suffered since the summer, and the simple fact that Manning was getting old, as he turned 39 in the 2015 offseason.
Although the team had a 7–0 start, Manning led the NFL in interceptions. In week 10, Manning broke the all-time record for passing yards in NFL history, but completed just 5/20 passes and was intercepted four times before suffering a partial tear of the plantar fasciitis in his left foot, which resulted in backup quarterback Brock Osweiler taking over as the starter for most of the remainder of the regular season.
Manning finished the year with a career-low 67.9 passer rating, throwing for 2,249 yards and nine touchdowns, with 17 interceptions. In contrast, Osweiler threw for 1,967 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions for a rating of 86.4.
Veteran receiver Demaryius Thomas led the team with 105 receptions for 1,304 yards and six touchdowns, while Emmanuel Sanders caught 76 passes for 1,135 yards and six scores, while adding another 106 yards returning punts.
Tight end Owen Daniels was also a big element of the passing game with 46 receptions for 517 yards. Running back C.J. Anderson was the team’s leading rusher with 863 yards and seven touchdowns, while also catching 25 passes for 183 yards.
Running back Ronnie Hillman also made a big impact with 720 yards, five touchdowns, 24 receptions, and a 4.7 yards per carry average. Overall, the offense ranked 19th in scoring with 355 points and did not have any Pro Bowl selections.
The Broncos’ defense ranked first in the NFL yards allowed (4,530) for the first time in franchise history, and fourth in points allowed (296). Defensive ends Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson each had 5½ sacks.
Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller led the team with 11 sacks, forced four fumbles, and recovered three. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware was selected to play in the Pro Bowl for the ninth time in his career, ranking second on the team with 7½ sacks. Linebacker Brandon Marshall led the team in total tackles with 109, while Danny Trevathan ranked second with 102. The team’s secondary had two Pro Bowl selections: cornerbacks Aqib Talib(three interceptions) and Chris Harris Jr (two interceptions).
The Broncos opened as 3.5 point betting underdogs at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com for Super Bowl 50 against the Panthers after both teams earned victories in their respective conference championship games on Sunday. The total for Super Bowl 50 opened at 45.5 points at the sportsbooks on Sunday night.
The line is at 4.5 points at most sportsbooks, but heavy public betting has it up to five at several places. One site suggests that 80% of public wagering has come in on the Panthers.
So, who is your money on, the “old school” Broncos, or the “youngblood” Panthers? Will the defense be the deciding factor against the young quarterback Newton? Will this be Manning’s last season win or lose?
Personally I would like to see the Bronco’s take it, just for Manning’s sake, but deep down, I have a feeling that that the Panthers will be the guys to come out on top.