Friday, February 5, 2016

Super Bowl: How Denver Will Upset Carolina

Super Bowl 50 is commonly viewed as a David vs Goliath match, with the Carolina Panthers poised to crunch the Denver Broncos. Many experts predict a blowout, insisting the Broncos don't have a chance in hell.

Not so fast.

The underdog Broncos just might pull off the upset. The expeerts who are forecasting Denver's demise are either forgetting or downplaying the team's signature strength--its defense.This is not just a good defense, it's a great one, up there with the bone-crunching  Baltimore Ravens' crew that won the Super Bowl after the 2000 season.

The Broncos' stats are impressive. Their defense leads the league in yards allowed (283.1), passing yards per game (199.6) and sacks (52), and is third in rushing yards allowed (83.6). Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are the NFL's most lethal pass-rushing pair, teaming up for 18.5 sacks, The secondary, featuring CBs Chris Harris Jr. and Aqid Talib and safety Darian Stewart, is second to none. True, the Panthers boast the league's No.1 offense, scoring 31 points a game under the leadership of the top NFL QB, linebacker-sized Cam Newton, But the Panthers haven't had to contend with a defense this talented and this ferocious. They also have to contend with the baffling schemes of Denver's defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who's arguably the best in the business.

The Panthers have been elevated to this pedestal because they have just one loss and also because they looked so dominant in the playoffs, whipping Seattle, after jumping off to a 31-point lead, and embarrassing the Arizona Cardinals, who many thought were the best team in the playoffs. In retrospect, beating the Cardinals was no big deal. Their aging QB Carson Palmer was awful in both playoff games. Arizona's demolition by Carolina was more a function of Palmer's ineptness than the Panthers' skill.

Beating the Panthers won't be easy. They have a rugged, top-five ranked defense that should make it tough for Denver to gain much yardage. Ancient Bronco QB Peyton Manning has a dead arm and is hobbled by foot and rib injuries that make it hard for him to get any velocity on his passes. It doesn't help that the Denver running game is just passable. The Broncos will be lucky to score 17 points. But the Denver defense should keep the Panthers' offense in check and well below its scoring average.

This game shapes up to be a repeat of the 2007 Super Bowl, in which the undefeated, heavily-favored New England Patriots played the New York Giants, who were deemed dead meat.. But the Giants, behind a murderous defense and the clutch passing of QB Eli Manning, won 17-14. David, as it turned out, toppled Goliath. It can be done.

To beat the Panthers, the Broncos' defense has to rattle QB Newton, limit his running and scrambling, disrupt his rhythm, and clamp down on the Panther receivers, a task that, for this secondary, won't be that difficult. As a group, the Panther WRs are just modestly talented. Because of his speed, Ted Ginn Jr is the most dangerous of the lot. But he's inconsistent, tends to run so-so routes and is prone to dropping passes.
One huge advantage the Broncos have is Super Bowl experience. They were in the Super Bowl just two years ago, so the circus-like atmosphere is nothing new for many Denver players and coaches. However, this is a totally new experience for the Panthers, who are likely to get a case to the Super Bowl jitters and make some critical errors.

The way this game will play out is strength against strength, the Broncos' defense against the Panthers' offense. Edge to Broncos' defense.

Look for Denver to win a low-scoring game.