Get your 6 packs of American beer, put the nachos in the oven, and get the popcorn ready for a long night stint. Superbowl 50 is not an event to be missed, even for the soft Brits!
This Superbowl will be fascinating, because it will almost certainly be decided by one key battle: The Panthers offense versus the Broncos defense. The Broncos booked their place on Sunday because they have the best defence in the NFL by an absolute mile. Their defense has been so good that a few pundits have resurrected the famous phrase “Orange Crush” used to describe the legendary defensive unit of 1977-79. With household names that would scare any quarterback – Miller, Ware and Wolfe, and threats against in the backfield to boot, there’s plenty to worry the Panthers, who haven’t had much to worry about until this point.
Tom Brady couldn’t quite unlock the Broncos defence, so can Cam Newton? The first thing to note: The Broncos have been excellent against pocket quarterbacks like Brady, but less good against more dynamic all-rounders. Alex Smith, one such dynamic quarterback, dismantled the Broncos in their only significant loss of the regular season. So the evidence is there that Cam’s scintillating form could continue, even against the best defense in the NFL. The Panthers will not run away in the first half like they did in their two previous playoff games, but they may just be able to find the key to unlock the Broncos defense with their dynamism.
If the Broncos do manage to keep up their excellent defensive record, they have to keep the chains moving on their own drives. After all, there is no point in keeping points off the board if you can’t put then on yourself. Peyton Manning may be an NFL legend, but he has a questionable playoff record (13 wins and 13 losses), has had an unremarkable season by his standards, and doesn’t have the same weapons around him as he did 2 years ago when the Broncos last made the Superbowl. Demaryius Thomas has also not been as successful receiving in previous years, and the team seem reliant on their solid running game and Emmanuel Sanders’ receiving yards. They face a Carolina defense with a Pro-Bowler in every part of the field, a terrifying proposition for a team already struggling with confidence with the ball in hand.
Carolina on the other hand, have no such problems moving down the field. Even if the Broncos restrict them to one and two yard gains and a few incompletions, Newton has been throwing 30-yard passes to devastating effect all season. With Greg Olsen and Corey Brown in form in the receiving positions, and Jonathan Stewart posting outrageous rushing numbers in the post-season, the Panthers undoubtedly have enough big plays in their arsenal.
If you believe in superstition, the Broncos are wearing white on Sunday, and have never won the Superbowl in their famous orange. The famous phrase “Offense sells tickets, Defence wins championships” has been knocking around a bit – which obviously favours the Broncos. Having said that, superstition and traditional phrases seem to be the only indications of a Broncos win. Carolina are 17-1 all season, Cam Newton is unstoppable and everything that has happened up to this moment makes you think it may be Carolina’s year. It will be a low scoring close affair, but Carolina will produce the goods offensively when it matters, Newton will be MVP, and Panthers fans will be talking about this season for decades to come.
SCOTT SIMPKIN is a UK sports journalist with a growing interest in sports in the US, particularly American football and baseball. He has previously contributed to publications including Palatinate Online and FourFourTwo.