The Denver Broncos have a good defense, make no mistake about it. But they aren’t exactly the ’85 Bears or ’00 Ravens….(hell, are they even as good as the ’13 Seahawks that smoked Manning in the Super Bowl??)… They finished the season as the No. 1 defense in terms of Total Defense. Guess who ranked No. 2 and No. 5 in Total Defense. Yup, the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. The Panthers obliterated those defenses, tallying a combined 55-7 halftime lead. So the Panthers could give two fucks that they have to play a “fast, aggressive” defense. Actually, that plays right into the Carolina Panthers offensive strengths.
Denver’s interior defenders collapsed the pocket while Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware raced by the offensive tackles against the Patriots. They knocked down Tom Brady 20 times! That was the most knockdowns in any game this season….and they were still a two-point conversion away from overtime. They had a meet you at the quarterback party on pretty much every passing down because they knew where to find the quarterback. Sure, Tom Brady is flirting with GOAT status, but he doesn’t exactly scare you with his legs. Pass rush that aggressive against the Panthers and Cam will gouge you up the middle. He wants to beat you from the pocket with his howitzer arm, but he doesn’t shy away from tucking the ball and transforming into a running back. And why not, he’s as big (if not bigger) than all of Denver’s starting linebackers:
- Von Miller 6’3” 250 lbs.
- Danny Trevathan 6’1” 240 lbs.
- Brandon Marshall 6’1” 250 lbs.
- DeMarcus Ware 6’4” 258 lbs.
- Cam Newton 6’5” 245 lbs.
Carolina will also do something that New England failed to do: run the football! Ginger King thinks he’s old school. And I guess he is in a drinking-wine-coolers-in-his-parents-basement-while-making-prank-phone-calls-on-a-Friday-night kind of way. That’s cool. He was quick to point out the importance of defense winning championships. But isn’t the old adage “run the ball and stop the run”. And Carolina more than checks those two boxes. A healthy Jonathan Stewart, human-bowling ball Mike Tolbert, and Cam Newton form a formidable 1-2-3 punch that can attack you from various formations and schemes.
Carolina can play some defense too, they checked in at 6th in Total Defense for the year. They’ve got All-Pro defenders at each level: Kanwann Short, Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman. Norman has the ability to cancel out either Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders, while Kuechly is a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine. Peyton has yet to turn the ball over in the playoffs, but isn’t that what a game manager is supposed to do against two average (at best) defenses in Pittsburgh and New England? How will he handle this loaded front-7 and aggressive secondary? Will he continue to be methodical and beat them underneath, or will he cave like the last time he played a defense this good, this late? I’m guessing his turnoverless streak ends on Sunday.
Cam Newton represents a new breed of NFL quarterback. A height/weight/speed specimen that can make all the reads, throws and drop dimes all over the field from the pocket; but whom can do equally as much damage with his legs. This type of quarterbacking isn’t a fad; this will be the fourth consecutive Super Bowl featuring such a quarterback under center (Kaepernick, Wilson x2). What separates Cam from those other two is that his size makes him impossible to defend on short yard and goalline situations. But it’s not his size, arm, or speed that makes Newton so great. It’s his ability to elevate the play of his teammates. He makes a great tight-end in Greg Olson into an All-Pro tight-end. He turns career special-teamer Ted Ginn into a 10-touchdown receiver. Super Bowl Champion sure seems like the next box to get checked:
- Heisman Trophy
- BCS National Championship
- Rookie of the Year
- NFL MVP
This game will cement Cam Newton as the face of the NFL. In one fell swoop the NFL can usher out a legend and start a new chapter with someone as equally charismatic, charming and talented in Cam Newton. In a league so anally conscientious about its image, about protecting “The Shield”, they have a minority quarterback that can relate to and inspire a new generation of kids (ie. the future talent pool and more importantly: season-ticket holders and merchandise-hawks). Cam Newton winning, succeeding – his way – is the best possible scenario for the future of the National Football League.
Based on the matchup, I don’t think Denver’s offense can produce more than 13 points. If they catch a break on defense or special teams and return a touchdown that puts them at 20. Even if their defense balls-out for a second consecutive game, I don’t see them holding the Panthers under 20 points.
I think we are in for an entertaining Super Bowl. Give me Riverboat Ron and the Carolina Panthers. Give me Cam. Let me dab.
Panthers 24, Denver 20
(The Carolina -5.5 point line is a bit out of whack. It originally started at -3, but as late as Friday almost 90% of the money coming in was on the Panthers. This forced the line to steadily increase throughout the week to -5.5. Saturday saw a huge swing, with money pouring in on the Broncos, including a few six-figure bets. The money has damn near evened out as of late Saturday night, with a slight 52% edge on the Panthers. The above score would be a dream scenario for the bettor who got in early on the Panthers -3.5 and late on the Broncos +5.5…..conversely, and this goes without saying, this is the sportsbooks nightmare scenario….it’s happened before!).