Who will be biggest the x-factors?
Kento Kato: The Broncos RBs. Everybody knows that this team has been carried by its defense and I believe that the same will be the case on Sunday. That being said, I believe that it will be their offense that will make the difference. The Panthers bring a very tough defense of their own, which ranked first in turnovers forced. So the Broncos offense, led by Peyton Manning, who was turnover-prone this season, will need to limit their mistakes, and manage the game. I do think that Manning will have a pretty good game, but I see the Broncos RBs being the difference makers. If the tandem of CJ Anderson and Ronny Hillman can continue to average 4 yards per carry, then I think they will have a shot. But if the two RBs, who have been inconsistent for much of the season, are not able to break through the aforementioned Panthers defense, then it could get ugly as the defense will be able to capitalize on 3rd and longs.
Osiris Diaz: If there is one non superstar player who is going to have a massive impact on this game, it’s going to be Carolina Panthers left tackle, Michael Oher. “The Blindside” star is charged with protecting Cam Newton’s blindside, the unquestioned most important player in this game. That is a lot easier said than done when facing a combination of Demarcus Ware and Von Miller, 7.5 and 11 sacks respectively. We have already witnessed the kind of havoc those guys can cause for an offense in the AFC championship game. One way or another, unsung hero or goat, Michael Oher will play a huge role in determining the outcome. If he protects Cam, they will win, and if not they will lose.
Do you think this will be Manning’s last game?
Kento Kato: I think so. He hasn’t said so definitively but with some of the things he said in his post-game speech last week, I think that the signs point to him retiring. There are people out there that think that he will only do so if he wins the big game on Sunday and the Rams seem to be in that group as they have been rumored to be interested in him. Nonetheless, I say he retires regardless of the outcome of the game.
Osiris Diaz: Win or lose, I don’t see Peyton coming back. His diminishing arm strength as well as his health and just overall age give him more reasons to go than to stay. His legacy is a top 5 quarterback ever is thoroughly intact and this is his best chance at a second title. I see Peyton is too much of a thinking quarterback to overdue his welcome in the league like a more gut-reaction Bret Farve did (no disrespect to Ironman Bret). Superbowl 50 should and will be the last time we see Peyton Manning play quarterback in the NFL.
Kento Kato: Thomas Davis will be the LB that stands out. Luke Kuechly has been the stand out LB for most of the season with his pick sixes and amazing play. Thomas Davis, not to be outdone, has played well himself, but most people would pick Kueckly over Davis when picking a LB who will have a more impactful game. Yes Davis will be playing with a broken forearm that he suffered in the NFC Championship game, but strange things can happen in sports and I think this will be yet another example of that. I see Thomas Davis, in an almost perfect, movie-like setting, coming up with a big stop in a play in which he puts his body on the line and being remembered as the more impactful LB on the Panthers side.
Osiris Diaz: As for my bold prediction, I see Luke Kuechly forcing two turnovers in some way, shape or form as well as him tallying up double digit tackles. Most likely a pick and a strip sack of Manning. The Panthers stud linebacker is in rare form, probably the best the league has going to day and I expect him to show up big time in the biggest game.
Kento Kato: My gut and heart are at war. My heart wants Peyton to ride off into the sunset with his second ring and going out on top. Manning, albeit being the butt of many jokes, has long been looked at, along with Brady as one of the greatest to ever do it and as the golden standard for QBs. There wouldn’t be a more story book ending to a great career than to get injured in your last season, come back for the playoffs and lead your team to a Super Bowl win, even with everyone saying you are done.
But my gut says the Panthers because…. well, because nobody has been able to stop them really. As Skip Bayless of ESPN said, “its the year of the Panthers,” and it really has seemed that way. Cam Newton has made a more-consistent-than-ever playmaker out of Ted Ginn Jr. and has led an offense with a shaky group of WRs and Greg Olsen to new heights as an elite QB. The defense, with the addition of Jared Allen, has been great and has been healthy enough to make it this far. Everything has just seemed to go their way and there doesn’t seem to be any signs of them or their luck stopping.
At the end of the day, if I were to put money on it, I’m going to go with my gut feeling. Many of the Super Bowl winners seem to just get on a roll that can’t be stopped. I’m not sure what it is but the Panthers pass the eye test and look like a team that is just destined to win. I have them winning the game 27-20 in a game that is up and down. I don’t think the game will start as a blowout, but I do think the Panthers will take a decent lead at first. I see the Broncos defense tightening up and keeping the game close with Peyton and the Broncos making a comeback and keeping it close, but ultimately the Panthers win with the popular pick, Cam Newton getting the MVP.
Osiris Diaz: I have the Panthers winning this game 31-21, although I will say that I am definitely rooting for the Broncos to win and for Manning to get the best send-off possible. That being said, I don’t see it happening. This Panthers team seems to be a team of fate, as well as just being a better team with a better QB. I don’t think the Broncos can score with the Panthers and don’t predict any team, even the league’s best defense, dragging Cam Newton and company into a defensive struggle. For my Superbowl MVP, or bold prediction part 2, I predict that for the first time ever, we will see a Tight End crowned as the MVP. Greg Olsen is definitely going to get the ball, and I see him vs. T.J Ward as an option the Panthers can exploit while keeping away from the Broncos two all-pro caliber corners.