February 5, 2016

Who will the Super Bowl and why

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

We’re down to the top two teams in the NFL playing in the biggest game of the season for all the marbles. It’s the definition of must-win and this game will cement the legacies of some players while create a foundation for others.

With both top seeds in Santa Clara for the big game, the matchup of Denver vs. Carolina is no fluke. Both of these teams have a good chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy and here’s the case for each side.

Why the Broncos will win the Super Bowl

Despite having an offence led by Peyton Manning, this Broncos team is all about defence.

Denver’s defence ranked top in the league this season and it was no fluke. It is good across the whole lineup without a weak spot to be found.

The pass rush is as good as it gets with DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller leading the way with a solid group of defensive backs that can take away most of the field. It’s not like the Panthers have a decent receiving crops anyway, with Tedd Ginn Jr. leading WRs with just 739 yards this season. This is a team that could seriously use injured sophomore Kelvin Benjamin.

The Broncos run defence also allowed just 3.3 yards per carry while the Panthers relied heavily on a ground attack. If Denver’s front 7 can stuff Carolina’s running attack, the Panthers offence will be very limited.

As for Manning, he’s less than a shadow of what he once was, but it might not matter too much. His arm strength is clearly diminished, but he can still throw a couple of good routes and his mind is as sharp as ever.

If Manning plays this game smart and knows his limitations, there’s no reason that he can’t lead an effective dink-and-dunk passing game down the field while also leaning on C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman.

With Thomas Davis playing with a broken arm, you can also bet that Denver will attack him. I’ve never broken my forearm before, but I can bet that your ability to tackle 200-lbs men will be severely compromised.

It’s hard to see the Broncos blowing out Carolina, but it does have all the right pieces to grind out a win with defence and an efficient offence.

Why the Panthers will win the Super Bowl

Quite simply, the Panthers were the best team in football this year, leading the league in scoring while also putting together a solid defence capable of shutting down opponents.

Cam Newton led both the passing and rushing attack for the Panthers in a MVP-worthy performance this season. He set records along the way for his ability to attack with his arm and his legs while working with a group of players that didn’t exactly scream talent.

Sure, Greg Olsen is probably the second or third best tight end in the game right now, but after that it’s Ginn, Corey Brown, Jericho Cotchery and rookie Devin Funchess out wide. Nobody is writing home about those guys, but each served their purpose in this well-oiled machine.

The Cats also got a good season out of Jonathan Stewart, who should be 100% for this game after a late-season foot injury. With Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Fozzy Whitaker and Newton in the backfield, Carolina can attack in a variety of ways, which provides a tremendous advantage, particularly close to the goal line.

The defence is led by tackling machine Luke Kuechly and all-pro corner Josh Norman. The defensive front has proven adept at both stopping the run and providing pressure. Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei could collapse the pocket and force Manning to be on the move most of the game.

That’s one way that the Panthers could make this one a blowout: By creating turnovers. Manning was second in the league in interceptions this season despite missing several games with a foot injury.

It should also be noted that Ginn is an accomplished return man as well as a solid deep threat. When a home run hitter like him gets the ball, there’s always a chance he can break off a big one.

Carolina also had experience in both blowouts and close games. More often than not, it was running up the score, but you can’t forget Newton’s leadership in driving down the field and beating the Giants with time running out.

So who will win?

While comparing this Panthers team to the Seahawks team that destroyed Denver two years isn’t really fair, it’s fairly conceivable that this game could go that way.  You never want to bet on an underdog just to get the points in a game like this and I think it’s more likely that it’s Newton hoisting the trophy at midfield than Manning making a tearful retirement speech – if this truly is his last hurrah.

The pick: Panthers -5.5

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