My boss asked me if I was watching the Super Bowl. At first I looked at him sideways, but he followed up by mentioning that his heart isn't in it as he has no one to root for. As a diehard Pats fan, he's not going to pull for Peyton Manning and as a man of a certain age (my take), he's not going to cheer for Cam Newton. That leaves him without much interest.
My response was that we're about to be without football for 7 months, why wouldn't you watch?
I'll admit, 2 weeks ago when this matchup was set, I was sure Carolina was going to take this game, and it wouldn't be a one-story affair.
As I've read more and more on this matchup, I think my initial take was being unfair to the Denver defense. They may not be #1 in points allowed for the 2015 season, but I'd agree that they were the best defense of 2015. There is absolutely a formula Denver can follow to win this game: if you watched the AFC Championship Game, you've seen it: Get points early and let the defense protect that lead the rest of the way.
The issue here is, Carolina has made strong starts the rule in this postseason, and they've done so against very strong defenses. In a way, the Panthers remind me of the LeBron Cleveland Cavaliers pre-LeBron in Miami edition. Those Cavs teams were talented, and they were very interested in showing how much fun they were having playing the game. And they were front-runners. They would feed off of the emotion of strong starts to carry themselves to terrific regular season performances. Then in the playoffs, someone would hit them in the mouth and they wouldn't know what to do. Their resolve cracked when breaks didn't go their way.
So if Denver can stop them early, and if Peyton Manning can score 10-14 points on his first 2-3 drives, there's a chance it could all come apart for the Panthers. I just don't see it happening. And if Denver doesn't get a 2 - score lead by the end of the first quarter, they won't be able to hold off the Panthers attack all game long. Newton is too much of a run/pass threat to bottle him up all game long.
Essnetially, the 1st quarter will decide this game. If Denver is up 7+ points after one quarter, they have a chance. If not, they won't score enough points to win the game. Peyton Manning will not get better as the game goes on.
In the end, Denver's offense just won't score enough against the Panthers defense, and Cam Newton will take home his first title.
The pick: Panthers 26, Broncos 16 (Carolina -5)
MVP: Cam Newton