The Gents Guide to Super Bowl 50
It’s that time. The last dance, the final epic battle, the conclusion to a season’s worth of blood, sweat and… you get the idea. Anyway before we settle in for the final game of the season and we all start poring over endless videos of twenty something’s running in a straight line, let’s look at some key points that we believe will affect the Super bowl. Whilst I’ll be writing up the bulk of this piece, I’ll be using details raised by my fellow gents over the past week or so, to give you the opinions of not just me but all of the gents. In this post I’ve tried to make it enjoyable not just for our regular readers, but also for someone who only really watches the Super bowl by giving them some players/areas of the field to keep an eye on, so tell your friends! With that let’s start with the most obvious factor in this matchup.
How do the Broncos Slow Down Cam? It is without question that I say the single most important player taking the field on Sunday is Cam Newton. So in its most simplistic form the Broncos can win this game by doing one thing. Stop Cam. That however is not easy. Cam is the league MVP this season, being, well the most valuable player in the league, providing more to the Panthers offence than any other player in the league has on any team and being so much more than just a “dual threat” QB. All of this is beyond obvious to anyone that has read/watched/heard anything regarding the NFL this Season, so the question is, how can the Broncos stop him? James (who dwells in the Gents cellar), believes that the key to this is putting an intense amount of pressure on him and to a certain extent I agree. Cam Newton holds onto the ball for roughly 2.8 seconds, 0.3 seconds longer than the average QB (2.5, but you probably worked that out), meaning that time is on their side. Getting to him might be slightly difficult though.
Broncos Pass Rush vs. Panthers Offensive Line: As Dylan stated on the pod this week, the exceptional talent of Derek Wolfe, Von Miller, Demarcus Ware and Malik Jackson, who successfully hit Brady 23 times. However in this game they’ll be going up against a very different offence that has far more success running the ball than the Patriots. This means we’ll see far less empty backfields and far more max protection, with 2 tight end set. For me the key to the Broncos neutralizing Cam is based heavily on getting a rush going without over-committing. Force Cam to make quick decisions under duress with very little running room keeping Trevathan and Marshall ready to deal with a Cam Newton that could slip out of the Broncos pass rush. Force him to make throws into a great Broncos Secondary. Speaking of which…
The Broncos Secondary: We were asked this week on the podcast by the twitter user @nickpinko, which was ” if each team could draft in two players of their choice for Sunday who would they go for and why?” For which the no. 1 answer for the Panthers was Antonio Brown. I highlight this to point out a potential weakness for the Panthers at receiver. That being said there is no doubt that outside of the many talents of Cam Newton, the Panthers ability to coach up positions is probably their biggest strength, which they have done to great effect with wide receivers that have struggled to find a home on other teams. In this match up however they’re up against an elite set of corners, with Bradley Roby stepping up in a big way to fill Chris Harris’ shoes in the early playoff games, whilst he nursed an injury. Harris and Talib both now fully fit should be able to handle one on one match ups on the outside, although maybe with both of them being reasonably big you move one of them inside to sit on Olsen when he isn’t blocking and let Roby deal with Ginn. Regardless if the Panthers over commit to pass protection the Broncos can perhaps afford to send a little extra pressure, maybe in the form of T.J Ward who I’m sure would love to take down a Cam Newton who might struggle to find an open receiver.
If the Broncos defence can do all of this and take away all of Cam’s multi-dimensional options, they can keep the score low, which leads us to our next question.
Can Peyton Score Enough Points to Win the Game? Despite beating a favoured New England in the AFC Championship game there was still a few concerns surrounding the Broncos offence. The fact is that after a quick start the Broncos let the Patriots back into the game and if the game had gone on for a further 2 minutes we’d be talking about how Tom Brady matches up against the Panthers defence. Manning had plenty of chances to put the game out of reach but a lack of a run game and waning physical ability meant out of 15 drives they only managed to put 20 pts. on the board, which probably won’t be enough to keep up with the dynamic Panthers offence and a ‘less-than-shabby’ defence. Starting with an exceptional Panthers defensive tackle pairing.
The Panthers Defensive Line: Whilst Carolina has a decent amount of talent on the outside in Charles Johnson, Kony Ealy and Jared Allen, it’s the interior that has stood out in the playoffs with Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei looking unstoppable against both the Seahawks and Cardinals, managing to get to far more mobile QBs than Peyton. This isn’t just a concern for the future hall of fame QB, but also for the Broncos brace of running backs. Intense pressure from the inside should force the backs to bounce to the outside and Peyton to roll out to find space, it’s at this point they’ll meet the Panthers top player.
The Panthers Line-backers: Regular listeners to the pod will know about my love for Panthers line backer, Luke Kuechly, who I believe has the chance to be a truly special player. Kuechly is teamed up with Thomas Davis, who goes into this game having broken his arm 2 weeks ago and rookie Shaq Thompson, who is probably looking at replacing Davis in the future. All 3 of them on run plays can read the game perfectly and just seems to have a super-human ability to find the ball carrier, which presents yet another problem for the Denver ball carriers who will be rapidly running out of space to move the ball. If the backs can’t break past the line-backers, this puts a lot of pressure on Peyton to keep them in the game against a difficult to beat group in pass coverage.
The Most Underrated Group on the Field: One of the many stories we’ve heard repeatedly through the post season is that the Panthers Secondary is their weak point. If we’ve learnt anything at this point, it’s surely that this team doesn’t have a standout weak point, thanks in part again to exceptional coaching. This is no less prevalent than in the Panthers secondary who have bonded as a unit. Despite injuries to Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere, Robert Alford and Cortland Finnegan are playing pretty well against decent competition. Roman Harper and Kurt Coleman wouldn’t be the 1st names on anyone’s list as a top safety pairing, even going into the playoffs. Quietly though they’ve had a great season and with help from Luke Kuechly (the best coverage inside line backer in the league), the so called weak point actually becomes a strength for this team, once again making Peyton’s job incredibly hard. If Peyton is going to get anything going in this passing game it’ll be from exploiting mismatches. Expect another decent game from Owen Daniels as Peyton matches his wits against Kuechly.
Biggest Match-up on the Field: Peyton Manning Vs. Luke Kuechly: If you assume that the Broncos defence will be able to slow down the Panthers offence (it’s a reach but hear me out), then the single biggest element of this game is whether Manning can outsmart the Kuechly led Panthers defence. In any other season I would say this is a clear advantage to Manning, but this year we have seen a few mental errors, something that a player like Kuechly, who has 2 pick sixes in the playoffs, will take full advantage of. You have to think that as Peyton enters the twilight of his career, the speed, athleticism and football smarts of Kuechly will probably be enough to win this battle of wits and like the rest of the season keep the field position in the Panthers favour, something that has been key to their offensive performances, which leads us to one final point.
Special Teams: I’ll leave you guys with a quick thought. Field position is essential for the Panthers and whilst the defence has managed to keep the offence in relatively short yardage situations, the special teams has almost been working against them, being 5th worst in kick return defence and making a handful of mistakes throughout the season. This is a potential backdoor the Broncos could sneak through. Maybe we see Sanders returning kicks as the Broncos do their best to make Peyton’s job easier.
Prediction: Vegas has the Panthers 5.5 pt. favourites, which I think might be a little steep. The Broncos defence has been fantastic this year and I believe they can do a pretty good job of slowing down Cam. That being said I do think the Panthers sneak it, in a game that will be a closer than people think, with 2 violent defences putting in season best performances.
Enjoy the game folks! I want to reiterate what we said on the podcast. Thank you for downloading, reading, commenting on everything we have done this year. It means an awful lot to us know that this isn’t just being read by the other gents.