The Orange and Blue have been nothing short of amazing this season. With their ups and downs, this team just found a way to win and win big when it mattered. Denver comes into this game as 5.5 point underdogs and that is just the way they like it.
With the final game of the NFL season upon us, we asked our staff here at BSN to drop their predictions.
Coming into this week, I was convinced the Broncos were doomed. The Panthers are, after all, a pretty bad matchup for the Orange & Blue — a good enough defense to stall out Peyton and the offense and a good enough offense to scrape out some point on the Orange Crush 2.0. As I stood in front of players from both sides this week and listened to them talk, as I watched them interact with the media and their fellow teammates, as I took in the vibe from both sides, it became clear to me that the Broncos are much more prepared for this stage. The Broncos handled this week with class, featuring a calm confidence, the Panthers, in my opinion, hid behind a veil of cockiness. They took the idea that they were this uber-confident squad and felt the need to up the ante, taking it to a point that didn't feel real. As the Panthers sat there all week spewing out quotes on their supreme reign, I actually looked at the Broncos as the team with more confidence, a feeling that they've been through it all together and they're prepared for whatever comes their way, prepared to conquer it as a team.
So with all of that said I've thrown analysis out the window, the Panthers are the more talented team and I believe they match up very well with the Broncos but the Super Bowl can sometimes come down to more than that, today will be one of those days. Behind a huge game from Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas and a turnover from Cam Newton in an important situation, the Broncos hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Broncos 27, Panthers 24
Defense wins championships and the time has come for Denver's new age orange crush to prove it. I'm going with the feel-good prediction and the Broncos just have so many storylines to latch on to. The Panthers will have their time, Cam Newton may be the most electric quarterback in the NFL but I just don't see them ready to overcome the task at hand. Only five of the Panthers 17 wins this season have come against teams with a winning record while the Broncos have been tested in close games all year. Peyton Manning walks away in his final game with the Super Bowl MVP, not with stellar numbers, but enough to get the job done, much like his first Super Bowl win. By day's end, Broncos fans will finally hear the words they've been longing for when John Elway steps on the championship podium, Lombardi in hand, "This one’s for Pat!” Full circle.
Broncos 23, Panthers 16
This season has been about one mantra, kicking and screaming and that is exactly what the 2015 Denver Broncos have done on the road to Super Bowl 50. All the talk this season has been about the ongoing and overwhelming shortcomings facing impending doom for this Broncos team. From the struggles on the offensive line, the lack of a consistent running game, dropped passes from the franchise receiver and a lack of a game-changing tight end, to the benching of Peyton Manning for injury and performance to Brock Osweiler and back to Manning for the postseason run, the Broncos have found ways to do enough to compliment their dominant defense on their way to Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers.
The Carolina Panthers have almost effortlessly coasted their way to a 17-1 record and a near-flawless postseason on their road to the Super Bowl. The downside to that is the Panthers haven’t faced the degree of adversity that the Broncos have. Unlike the Broncos, the Panthers have coasted to easy victories with the exception of a few scares to the Saints and Giants in the regular season and the loss to Atlanta. The Panthers have also benefited from minimal damage due injury to key playmakers on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, unlike the Broncos who have had several of their starters out for key stretches of the season.
The key to who wins Super Bowl 50 on Sunday will be the team that can overcome adversity without folding in the red zone. The Broncos have faced and found a way to overcome adversity all season long, whether it is turnovers, injuries, or falling behind early and have found ways to win in unconventional ways with a struggling offense and a dominant defense and special teams to carry their sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterback to the Promised Land. The fact that the Panthers haven’t faced adversity and haven’t had the true threat of losing this season will be the reason why this young team led by a young quarterback will fold under the bright lights when it comes down to crunch time.
Broncos 34, Panthers 13
The Carolina Panthers are the point spread favorites and the overwhelming choice of national prognosticators to win Super Bowl 50, and I totally get it. On paper, the Panthers have the more complete team, the league’s highest-scoring offense and the NFL MVP in Cam Newton. Meanwhile, aside from the league’s best defense, the Denver Broncos’ true strength isn’t so easily observable unless you’ve watched the Orange & Blue game in, and game out this season. It’s a largely intangible belief, togetherness and toughness honed by their league-record 11 wins in tight games. The Panthers have made a living most of the season by forcing the opposition into early mistakes and jumping out to big leads. But what if Super Bowl 50 -- like four of the previous five Big Games — doesn’t follow that script? What if the Broncos don’t turn the ball over early and often, and Cam and Co. encounter some real adversity? How will the talented but youthful and inexperienced Panthers handle the mounting pressure of a game that was supposed to be decided early? That there is your script for a Broncos’ win. And driven by the nightmares of their Super Bowl drubbing two years ago, paced by inspired efforts from veteran leaders Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware and playing for ailing owner Pat Bowlen, somehow, some way, the Orange & Blue find a way.
Broncos 24, Panthers 22
With all the hard work Denver has put in this season, it is no surprise we are still talking about them in February. Assistant coach of the year Wade Phillips has fine-tuned his defense into the No. 1 in the league and they are sure playing like it this postseason. After holding New England to 18 points in the AFC Championship game, they get one more test this season in Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Denver must play mistake free football Sunday to bring the Lombardi trophy back where it belongs, the Mile High city.
This game will come down to who makes fewer mistakes. Both Denver and Carolina have played their best football in these recent weeks and deserve to be here. But, there is something Denver had that Carolina doesn’t, Peyton Manning. With all the talk about what was said on the 50-yard line about his “last rodeo” and sitting out six games this season, there is no surprise that people are saying this could be the last game for “The Sheriff.” With the hype of veteran players such as Manning and Ware trying to go out on top just like a certain former Bronco legend, I believe Denver finds a way to gut this out and pull the upset, even if it is on the leg of Brandon McManus. Denver wins this game literally kicking and screaming.