5. Kawann Short
There has been only one defensive tackle to ever win Super Bowl MVP, which happened in 1978 when Randy White of the Dallas Cowboys split the honor with defensive end Harvey Martin. Carolina Panthers' defensive tackle Kawann Short has a good chance to be the second.
Short had a breakout year in the middle of the Panthers' defense that earned him not only his first Pro Bowl selection but NFC Defensive Player of the Month twice (October, December) and NFC Defensive Player of the Week once (Week 6). The third-year player finished tied for first among defensive tackles in sacks with 11.
The reason Short has a great chance of winning the award is that he usually will get his sacks in bunches. He had four games this year with multiple sacks and in two of those games had at least one forced fumble. This could be a great opportunity for Short to end what has been a career year with not only a Lombardi Trophy but an MVP trophy as well.
4. Kurt Coleman
Only two safeties have won an MVP award with the last one being by Dexter Jackson in 2002 as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs' safety had two interceptions in the first half that helped propel his team to a 48-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Interceptions is something Kurt Coleman has excelled in this year. In his first season with the Panthers, Coleman had seven in the regular season and had two interceptions in the NFC Championship Game against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Broncos finished the regular season leading the league in interceptions with 23 and Peyton Manning threw 17 of them in 10 games. However, the Broncos' quarterback has not thrown a pick since his return in the second half of Week 17. Coleman's ability to force turnovers could be the deciding factor in the Super Bowl.
3. Jonathan Stewart
The Panthers' offense finished the regular season second in the league in rushing and averaged over 142 yards per game. This was due in large part to Jonathan Stewart who played very well in his first full season as the team's featured running back.
During the regular season, Stewart averaged 76 yards per game but missed the last three games due to injury. The rest appeared to be exactly what he needed for the playoffs as he has averaged 94.5 yards per game and has two rushing touchdowns.
The running back position has won the MVP award seven times, which is the second most in league history but the last time a running back won it was in 1998 when Terrell Davis won it for the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos had a Top 5 defense this regular season against the run and it won't be easy for Stewart to find room to work. It won't be a question of workload for Stewart against the Broncos, it comes down to can he make enough of an impact on the game.
2. Luke Kuechly
The Panthers' linebacker is one of the best linebackers in the game and amazingly continues to find ways to improve. He has developed into one of the best linebackers in coverage this year and made game-changing plays this postseason. He is the only linebacker to return interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive games.
Luke Kuechly may be needed more in this game than any to this point in the season. While Thomas Davis is expected to start in this game, it would be unrealistic to expect him to be 100% after suffering a broken forearm less than two weeks ago. He may be needed to make more plays than he is normally expected to.
The Panthers' middle linebacker will also be expected to match wits with Manning prior to the snap. The Broncos' quarterback is one of the best at making adjustments at the line of scrimmage prior to the snaps. The Panthers' will need their quarterback on defense to be able to be just as quick to make adjustments on his side of the ball.
1. Cam Newton
The Panthers' quarterback is expected to be named the league MVP on Saturday night and has to be considered the favorite to add Super Bowl MVP to his trophy case if the Panthers' win. Cam Newton finished the regular season with 45 touchdowns and has not slowed down in the postseason with five touchdowns over the past two games.
The past nine Super Bowl MVP awards to be handed out, seven of them went to quarterback, including Newton's counterpart on Sunday, Peyton Manning. The Panthers' quarterback is one of the most dynamic players in the league, able to beat teams through the air as well as on the ground.
This type of versatility and playing the position he does has to make him the favorite to win Super Bowl MVP on the Carolina Panthers.