Panthers Will Have a Double Digit Lead in First Half
One of the trends of the 2015 season is that the Carolina Panthers are a fast starting team and usually jump out to an early lead. In 17 games this year, the Panthers held a double digit led in the first half in 11 of those games, including seven out of the past nine games.
Now, the Denver Broncos have one of the best defenses in the league however the Panthers are 4-0 this year against Top 5 defenses with two victories over the Seattle Seahawks, one over the Arizona Cardinals and one over the Houston Texans. The Panthers have played the Seahawks and the Cardinals the past two games and in both of those were able to build big halftime leads (31 over Seattle, 17 over Arizona).
Panthers Extend Their Consecutive 100-Yard Rushing Game Streak
The Panthers' offense has run for over 100 yards in 27 consecutive games, which is currently the longest active streak in the league. The Panthers' finished the year second in the league in rushing yards with 142.6 yards per game thanks to players like Jonathan Stewart, who had 989 rushing yards in 13 regular season games, and Mike Tolbert.
This is going to be a matchup of strength vs. strength as the Denver Broncos finished third against the run, allowing only 83.6 yards per game in the regular season. They have locked down the run even more in the playoffs, only allowing 64.5 yards per game the past two games.
The reason the Panthers will be successful is because of this next prediction.
Cam Newton Will Have Double Digit Rushing Attempts
This season Cam Newton has been much more selective when he carried the football, which actually made him more effective. He saw his yards per carry drop to a career low to 4.8 yards per attempt but he had a career high in rushing first downs with 56.
During the regular season, the Panthers' quarterback had only six games where he carried the ball over 10 times but three of those games happened in the first four weeks. As the regular season carried on, Newton was running less and less.
However, with this being the final game of the season the coaching staff won't hold back and Rivera said this week that there has to be a "win at all costs" mentality. “I think for the most part, the approach has to be something like that. I think we have to understand what the situations and circumstances are within the game. It’s situational football now, from here on out. It is a no holds barred. There really is no next game. The approach has to be we’re willing to do things we need to do. We’ll have him do things that we want him to do for us and give us the best opportunity to win.”
The explosiveness from the quarterback position on the ground is something not many NFL teams have and the Panthers will need to use this to their advantage.
Broncos Will Have Less Than Three Sacks
The Denver Broncos' defense finished the regular season first in the league in sacks with 52. They have exceptional pass rushers on the edge with players like Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Malik Jackson but the Panthers' offense has done an excellent job protecting their quarterback this year.
The team only allowed 33 sacks this year which is due to a combination of an improved offensive line as well as Newton's athletic ability to scramble and avoid the rush. In 10 games this season the Panthers have faced nine players who finished in the Top 20 in sacks. This group registered 97.5 sacks this year but the Panthers held these nine players to only five sacks.
The Panthers have shown an ability this year of shutting down the oppositions pass rush and that should continue in Super Bowl 50.
Peyton Manning Throws At Least One Touchdown and One Interception
This is expected to be the last game for one of the all-time greats at the quarterback position, Peyton Manning, and will do everything he can to finish with a strong game. This is going to be Manning's fourth appearance in the Super Bowl and enters Sunday with a 1-2 record.
The record certainly isn't someone hopes to have in the biggest game of the season however in the previous three Super Bowls Manning has played in he has a touchdown pass. However, he has also thrown at least one interception in each game.
The Panthers' defense has excelled in forcing turnovers this year, leading the lead in takeaways with 39, and Manning has thrown 17 picks. The secondary though is not at full strength with injuries to Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere and they could be susceptible to a big pass play.
The Carolina Panthers have plenty going for them heading into this game with them winning 17 of 18 games this year as well as having the league MVP, Cam Newton, and the Coach of the Year, Ron Rivera. Meanwhile the Broncos have the top defense in the league and the future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning playing in what is expected to be his final game.
The Panthers have shown an ability to score points in bunches and jumping out to early leads. In eight of the past nine games, the Panthers have scored over 30 points as well as building double digit leads in the first half in the past three games.
I expect this trend to continue but Manning will not go away quietly and do his best to lead the Broncos back. This game will be close in the second half but Carolina will hold on to the lead for the win in Super Bowl 50.
Denver Broncos- 24