Here we are the very last game of the current NFL year, Super Bowl L. Not sure how many had these two teams in the final, but, nonetheless they are the two best teams left, one will always be remembered, the other will be forgotten by Super Bowl LII.
The Broncos flirted with this a year ago, only to find the Patriots in their way. The season started on a very high note, because not only Manning was back, but the team had finally found the RB it had been looking for’ CJ Anderson was one of the most sough after Fantasy Football picks, and he was going to be the focal point of this offense, thus taking a lot off pressure off of Manning. That did not happen.
First year HC, Kubiak came in to the year wanting to remake Peyton, take away what had made him the QB so many had fallen in love. Manning’s game has always been that of a field coach, he has always called his own game, and made adjustments without the approval from the sidelines. He has made so many OCs into HC candidates and heroes, Kubiak was having none of that. The two clashed early, and often. Manning appeared to hate his role as a standard regular QB, and it showed quickly. Although the wins kept coming, the 7-0 start was not an impressive one. This team was not the offensive powerhouse we had been used to. Manning lost the 8th game to struggling Indianapolis, and was benched during a loss to the Chiefs in game 9. Longtime backup, Brock Osweiler took over. The offense continued to struggle, but it appeared that Brock was more fitted for the role expect by Kubiak. The running game was inept as CJ Anderson was replaced in the starting lineup by Hillman. Brock started the remaining 7 games and won 5 of them, sending the Broncos to the playoffs with the most important price to date, the number one seed.
Peyton Manning relieved Brock in week 17 and started the playoffs. A smart move, since his experience would be better than Brock’s raw talents. The Broncos were lucky to face a Steelers team that came in all banged up and without their best weapon, Antonio brown. In the AFCCG they faced a Patriots team that also came in to Denver all banged up, and they almost pulled off the upset. All in all, one can make the case that the Broncos have not impressed to get to this big game. What has impressed is the only they are here, their defense. That defense stifled Tom Brady and kept that high powered offense in check.
I cannot believe anyone would have picked this team to be here. The pre-season took away their best WR and Cam Newton’s favorite target, Kelvin Benjamin. Most were not impressed by Cam’s progress, and felt that with the lack of weapons, this team would be no better than 8-9 win team. However, the wins began to pile up, one after the other, all the way to sending the fear of God into Don Shula and the always classy Mercury Morris.
At first all we read was that this team had beaten nobody, then everyone paid attention, when on week 6 they traveled to Seattle and beat the Seahawks. Cam Newton came of age, as his leadership and desire to win at any cost became contagious to the entire team. Suddenly players like Jericho Cotchery and Ted Gin Jr were relevant and dangerous, Cam rushed with a vengeance, and how he did not get hurt is incredible. If he doesn’t win the MVP Award, it would b e a major shock.
Going to week 16 at Atlanta, it seemed that an undefeated season was on hand, but Atlanta came away with the win, and possibly the best thing that could have happened. Nobody cared about Mercury’s feelings or history, somehow, Rivera had to be smiling that his team was going back to work.
With the number one seed, the playoffs were basically two pre-season games. In both games, against the Seahawks and the Cardinals, the Panthers put the game away by the end of the first half. The Seahawks almost came back, and that was another good lesson, because in the NFCCG, they beat up on the Cardinals, and never let up.
Super Bowl L-The game
Super Bowls are never easy to pick. You can go all the way back to the very first one, the one we now call SB3, and the Jets beat the odds and won. In more modern times and sticking to our teams, the Bills lost four straight, and in at least two of those, they were the better team by far. The Patriots lost twice to a lesser Giants team. Last year the Patriots were the underdog going up against Seattle, they beat those odds.
In this game you can make a case for either team, but I can only pick one, and I actually feel real good about.
The Broncos are huge beneficiaries of playing home games in that altitude. Their defense tends to take advantage of the fact that bye the third quarter the opponent is usually grasping for air. The offense is not that good: I mean you can’t say they will score because… Running game is on and off, Peyton seems to have to labor to make throws, and his accuracy is not even close to what it once was. This is a team that cannot make a big come back, or get into a shootout.
The Panthers didn’t just beat their opponents, they destroyed them; and yes, you can say they can score by running, passing, you name it. Their defense is as good as the Broncos’, except they don’t have to defend as often because Cam tends to control the game.
My pick: The Panthers will take a nice lead into the half, Manning will struggle to come back and give the ball up a couple of times. Its unfortunate to see his legacy end this way, although I will believe he is retiring when I see it (see Favre). Cam Newton will be the SB MVP and he will score at least one TD on the ground. The biggest disappointment will be, as he has been in the playoffs, D. Thomas. Panthers 30-20