BY GRIFFIN ASELTINE | STAFF WRITER
That time of year is starting to approach once again, as the golden anniversary of America’s most-watched event is less than one week away.
This year, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California will be hosting the most widely anticipated matchup of the NFL season: the young, uprising star quarterback Cam Newton and the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers (17-1) versus the future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and the AFC Champion Denver Broncos (14-4).
The Panthers will be looking for their first Super Bowl championship in their 21-year franchise history, while the Broncos will be looking for their third championship overall and their first in 17 years.
Carolina led the league in total scoring with 31.3 points per game compared to Denver’s 22.2 points per game. When it came to turnover differential (defensive interceptions and fumble recoveries over offensive interceptions and fumbles lost), the
Panthers led the league with +20, while the Broncos had more giveaways than takeaways at -4.
Despite these glaring advantages for Carolina, Denver’s defense has managed to maintain the team’s status as a Super Bowl contender: They led the league in yards allowed (283.1 yards per game compared to 322.9 for the Panthers) and ranked fourth in the league in terms of points allowed (18.5 points per game compared to 19.3 for the Panthers).
In terms of recognized roster talent, 10 Carolina players were elected for the 2016 Pro Bowl (including QB Cam Newton, LB Luke Kuechly and TE Greg Olsen), compared to just four players from Denver, all of which are on the defensive side of the roster (including CB Aqib Talib, LB Von Miller and LB DeMarcus Ware).
According to Yahoo Sports, as of this writing, the Panthers are currently 5.5-point favorites over the Broncos, and out of 47,114 users, approximately 56% select the Panthers to emerge victorious. The majority of surveyed athletes around the Point Loma campus generally agree with this trend, including the men’s soccer team captain Daniel ten Bosch, senior baseball catcher Michael Randel, and senior baseball outfielder AJ Derr.
“Cam Newton has been the most dominant player this season,” said Derr, in reference to Carolina’s quarterback who has been having an MVP-caliber year. “I think the Panthers will win.”
This statement basically summarizes the general opinion of most NFL fans coming into this matchup, as the Panthers will be following off a 49-15 domination over the NFC threat Arizona Cardinals.
You can chalk this writer up as some- one who agrees with the majority in this situation. Personally, as legendary of a story it would be to see Peyton Manning win his second Super Bowl not long be- fore his retirement, I don’t see it happening against this Carolina Panthers team.
Carolina is a more well-rounded squad with a dual-threat quarterback, a high-scoring offense, and a vicious defense. The Broncos have a historic defense of their own, but with Manning on an aging decline, their offense has barely managed to scrape by as of late. Barring a miraculous outbreak from Peyton Manning, I see the Carolina Panthers winning a relatively tight game by about a touchdown.
But of course, anything can happen. As they say, “any given Sunday.” Whether or not you are a fan of—or even familiar with—the National Foot- ball League, Super Bowl 50 will be a celebrated cultural event to watch. Being a notable milestone in American sports history, the majority of the country will likely tune in, whether it be for the game itself, the commercials, the half- time show (featuring Coldplay, Beyoncé, and Bruno Mars), the social gathering, or simply the desire to be a part of the event. It will most certainly be historic, and you won’t want to miss it.
Kickoff is set for Sunday, February 7 at 3:30 PST on CBS.