After four weeks of pre-season games, seventeen action filled regular season weeks and three weekends of intense playoff football, it all goes on the line in Santa Clara come Monday morning when the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos square off for the NFL championship in Super Bowl 50.
Whatever your interest in the game, as a diehard fan like many of us, or a casual observer, the Super Bowl is always one of the biggest sporting events of the year and well worth watching, no matter who is playing and that for us Aussies it is played on a Monday morning.
This year promises to be no different when the two number one seeds square off. Sub-plots and narratives abound. You need look no further than the quarterbacks for two of the most interesting stories.
Denver is led by the ageing warrior Peyton Manning, who is widely tipped to retire after this “one last rodeo”, as he told New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick it might be after the Broncos’ AFC Championship game win. Manning would do anything to cement his legacy and go out with a second Lombardi Trophy to his name.
An unescapable irony if this happened would be that after being the man almost all his career, Manning would be no more than a bit part player in this one. Defence and the running game has led the Broncos all the the way back to their 2nd big dance in three years.
Cam Newton followed his time in Melbourne during the off season with a career year, taking all before him, leading his team to a 15-1 record and two impressive playoff wins, all of which is expected to result in him being named the league Most Valuable Player this weekend.
Their battle will be one key to who comes out on top, but there is more than that to watch out for.
When Newton and the Panthers have the ball, we will see the leagues top offence in terms of points scored go up against the defence that gave up the fewest yards from scrimmage in the regular season.
The approach the marvellous Denver defence, with a star studded linebacking and defensive back corp, takes to stopping the Panthers, will be the key to the game.
If the linebackers try to pressure Newton too much, it brings Running Back Jonathan Stewart into the game. Stewart has had a phenomenal season, as the largely no-name receiving group of Ted Ginn, Philly Brown, Jerrico Cotchery and rookie Devin Funchess.
Newton himself will hurt them with his running game and his connection with Tight End Greg Olsen has reaped seven touchdowns this season.
They will need to restrict the Panthers to under 20 points to win it for mine, as the Broncos offence is hardly as potent as the one that went to the Super Bowl two years ago.
Manning will rely on his running game of C.J Anderson and Ronnie Hillman to open up the game for him, but don’t be surprised if he tries a long ball or two early on to test the Panther defence in their biggest game ever.
Its highly doubtful though that he will throw the ball anywhere near the direction of Linebacker Luke Keuchly or Cornerback Josh Norman, who have four picks each this year, including back to back pick sixes in the playoffs for Keuchly.
Will Manning will his team to a victory and ride off in to the sunset or will the best team across the season to date win when it really counts?
I really can’t see this being close, as much as I want it to be.
Panthers win 37-14