Super Bowl 50 Could be a Blowout

By Chris Malumphy

No matter which team you're rooting for in Super Bowl 50, be it the Carolina Panthers or the Denver Broncos, everyone wants to see a good game. Our greatest hope is that it will be an exciting match decided in the last seconds by plays that will leave fans in awe and with players and referees able to leave the field with their heads held high.

Unfortunately, Sunday's match up has the distict possibility of being a blowout that will be decided early causing many of us to switch channels or only stick it out to see Rihanna, Cold Play and the commercials.

Although there is no sure thing, and teams often rise to the occasion, their are many indications that this game could be a serious mismatch. The Panthers enter the game as six point favorites. I suspect it should be much more. With their two playoff wins, Carolina is now 17-1. In both of those playoff games the Panthers had leads of over 30 points against strong teams: the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. The Broncos two victories leave them at 14-4, but not able to be very proud about it. Denver beat New England in the AFC Championship game mostly due to a missed extra point. Even without wide receiver Antonio Brown and runnings Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, injured Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger clearly outplayed Denver's Peyton Manning for most of their divisional playoff game a week earlier. But the old pro came through in the clutch with a late touchdown pass and two point conversation. Nevertheless, if not for a fortuitous forced fumble by defensive back Bradley Roby on Pittsburgh's Fitzgerald Toussaint that was covered up by DeMarcus Ware, we'd probably be watching the Steelers this weekend.

This week's matchup against the Panthers won't be so easy for the Broncos. The Panthers sport one of the toughest defenses and the most prolific offense of the 2015 season with the team scoring 500 points overall. Most importantly, they have MVP quarterback Cam Newton who had his best season ever and is in his prime. Newton threw for 35 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions and a 99.4 QB rating despite the fact that his wide receivers are average at best. Just as importantly, Newton led all quarterbacks in rushing with 636 yards on 132 carries and 10 touchdowns. No player in the lineup on Sunday scored more touchdowns during the season or rushed for as many first downs as Newton. Only one player tied with him for touchdowns, teammate Ted Ginn Jr. As a comparison, the top touchdown maker for the Broncos was running back Ronnie Hillman with 7, but two Panthers, tight end Greg Olsen and running back Jonathan Stewart, scored just as many.

The Broncos scored a very pedestrian 350 points during the season which must be attributed in large part to lackluster quarterback play. In contrast to Newton, Peyton Manning is coming off the worst season of his otherwise illustrious NFL career. Manning threw only nine touchdown pass with 17 interceptions and finished with a QB rating of 67.9. Unlike Newton who has been poetry in motion all season, Manning is a still life, a boring one at that. Of all the starting quarterbacks in 2015, Manning had the fewest yards rushing: minus 6. Bronco backup quarterback Brock Osweiler outpaced Manning in nearly every statistical category this season. Nevertheless, Manning will get the start on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Broncos, his 67.9 QB rating is the worst of any Super Bowl starting quarterback since Tony Eason (67.5) started for New England Patriots 30 years ago in a 46-10 loss to the Chicago Bears following the 1985 season. Eason was replaced early in that game by teammate Steve Grogan. If Manning can't keep the Broncos in the game on Sunday, he might face the same fate with Osweiler waiting in the wings. On the bright side from the Broncos' point of view, Manning hasn't been the turnover machine he was earlier in the season and he has yet to through an interception thus far in the playoffs.

The Broncos have already been the losers in three of the five biggest blowouts in Super Bowl history. Denver lost to Washington 42–10 in Super Bowl XX following the 1987 season. Two years later they were pasted 55–10 by the San Francisco 49ers in the worst Super Bowl massacre ever. Super Bowl XLVIII following the 2013 season was little better with the Broncos falling to the Seattle Seahawks 43–8 in a game in which the first snap from center flew past Peyton Manning resulting in a safety,

For the Broncos to win, or even stay in the game for long, their defense will need to be superb. If Cam Newton is not harried mercilessly, all is lost. Newton is capable of picking a defense apart even with a below par group of wide receivers. He is also capable of hitting wide receiver Ted Ginn and tight end Greg Olsen for big yards at any time. Luckily, the Broncos have pass rushing talent to keep the pressure on with outstanding outside linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware leading the way aided by Derek Wolfe, Shaquil Barrett and Malik Jackson. But they must also keep Newton contained otherwise he will murder them with his running ability.

The Panthers have the advantage over the Broncos in most areas of play. Check out the individual stats below. The Panthers have the clear advantage in passing statistics. The running backs are fairly equal but Newton's superiority over the Denver quarterbacks in running the football gives the advantage to the Panthers in rushing. DeMaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders provide an advantage to Denver at wide receiver, but the Panthers Greg Olsen is superior to Owen Daniels at tight end. Denver might have an advantage in place kicking but Carolina is better at punting. The Panthers 500 points were the best in the league compared to the Broncos 350. Defensively both teams were tough with the Broncos allowing 296 points and the Panthers 308. The difference is less than a point per game: advantage none. The kickoff returners of both teams were comparable. The Broncos Omar Bolden is a dangerous punt returner, but he had only five returns all year, albeit with one going 83 yards for a touchdown. Ted Ginn Jr. returns many more balls and is equally dangerous, so advantage Panthers. The Carolina defense had a league best 24 interceptions compared to just 14 for Denver: advantage Panthers. But Denver sacked quarterbacks 52 times compared to 44 sacks by Carolina: advantage Broncos. Both teams forced 22 fumbles and Carolina recovered 15 fumbles versus 13 by Denver: advantage none.

For Denver to win, I think it will need to be a relatively low scoring game and the Broncos defense will need to force Cam Newton into multiple errors. I can't see Manning or Osweiler putting many points on the board against the Panther defense. If Manning is forced to pass downfield often, I expect the Panther ballhawks will have a big day. And while the Broncos led the league in sacks, I don't think they will be able to stop Newton from having a big game. Newton and the Panthers blew both the Seahawks and the Cardinals out of the water early in their games earlier in the playoffs. It is very possible that the Broncos might meet the same fate. This all leads to the sad conclusion that Peyton Manning's career could end on a down note. However, as it now stands, nothing is known for sure. That's why they play the game.

Super Bowl 50
Broncos and Panthers Passing Statistics
Name Team Att Comp Pct Yds Avg TD TD
Ints Int
Sacked Pct
Cam NewtonPanthers49529659.838377.8357.1102.0336.399.4
Peyton ManningBroncos33119859.822496.892.7175.1164.667.9
Brock OsweilerBroncos27517061.819677.2103.662.2237.786.4
Derek AndersonPanthers6466.7366.
Advantage: Panthers

Super Bowl 50
Broncos and Panthers Rushing Statistics
Name Team Rushes Yds Avg TD First
Jonathan StewartPanthers2429894.16412
Ronnie HillmanBroncos2078634.27431
C.J. AndersonBroncos1527204.75332
Cam NewtonPanthers1326364.810563
Mike TolbertPanthers622564.11180
Cameron Artis-PaynePanthers451834.1160
Fozzy WhittakerPanthers251084.3170
Brock OsweilerBroncos21612.9150
Ted Ginn Jr.Panthers46015.0020
Juwan ThompsonBroncos18482.7020
Corey BrownPanthers6386.3040
Emmanuel SandersBroncos3299.7010
Jerricho CotcheryPanthers11616.0010
Andre CaldwellBroncos133.0010
Cody LatimerBroncos210.5000
Trevor SiemianBroncos1-1-1.0000
Joe WebbPanthers1-1-1.0000
Brad NortmanPanthers1-1-1.0000
Derek AndersonPanthers7-2-0.3000
Peyton ManningBroncos6-6-1.0000
Advantage: Panthers

Super Bowl 50
Broncos and Panthers Receiving Statistics
Name Team Rec Targets Pct Yds Avg TD First
Demaryius ThomasBroncos10517659.7130412.46632
Emmanuel SandersBroncos7613755.5113514.96511
Greg OlsenPanthers7712362.6110414.37521
Ted Ginn Jr.Panthers449645.873916.810360
Owen DanielsBroncos467759.751711.23270
Jerricho CotcheryPanthers395373.648512.43260
Devin FunchessPanthers316448.447315.35241
Corey BrownPanthers315556.444714.44240
Jordan NorwoodBroncos223268.82079.40110
Bennie FowlerBroncos162466.720312.70110
Vernon DavisBroncos202969.020110.10110
C.J. AndersonBroncos253669.41837.3060
Virgil GreenBroncos121580.017314.4190
Mike TolbertPanthers182281.81548.6380
Ed DicksonPanthers172665.41217.12100
Brenton BersinPanthers91181.811913.2051
Ronnie HillmanBroncos243568.61114.6030
Jonathan StewartPanthers162176.2996.2150
Andre CaldwellBroncos102245.5727.2240
Fozzy WhittakerPanthers121580.0645.3020
Cody LatimerBroncos61154.5599.8140
Cameron Artis-PaynePanthers55100.05811.6040
Juwan ThompsonBroncos6966.7518.5010
Scott SimonsonPanthers11100.01010.0010
Advantage: Broncos

Super Bowl 50
Broncos and Panthers Kicking Statistics
Name Team FGA FG Pct Longest 1-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ XPA XP Pct
Brandon McManusBroncos353085.7570-012-128-85-85-7363597.2
Graham GanoPanthers363083.3521-110-104-513-162-4595694.9
Advantage: Broncos

Super Bowl 50
Broncos and Panthers Punting Statistics
Name Team Punts Yds Avg Longest Blocked Inside
Returned Return
Brad NortmanPanthers70317545.465020519372887.8
Britton ColquittBroncos84366343.662022416362476.9
Brandon McManusBroncos14141.0410010000.0
Advantage: Panthers

Super Bowl 50
Broncos and Panthers Scoring Statistics
Name Team TD
Graham GanoPanthers000056030146
Brandon McManusBroncos000035030125
Cam NewtonPanthers10001000060
Ted Ginn Jr.Panthers01001000060
Ronnie HillmanBroncos700700042
Greg OlsenPanthers070700042
Jonathan StewartPanthers610700042
Emmanuel SandersBroncos060600036
Demaryius ThomasBroncos060600036
C.J. AndersonBroncos500500030
Devin FunchessPanthers050500030
Mike TolbertPanthers130400024
Corey BrownPanthers040400024
Jerricho CotcheryPanthers030300018
Owen DanielsBroncos030300018
Ed DicksonPanthers021300018
Andre CaldwellBroncos020200012
Aqib TalibBroncos002200012
Josh NormanPanthers002200012
Danny TrevathanBroncos00110006
Bradley RobyBroncos00110006
Omar BoldenBroncos00110006
Cody LatimerBroncos01010006
Brock OsweilerBroncos10010006
Chris Harris Jr.Broncos00110006
Virgil GreenBroncos01010006
Kurt ColemanPanthers00110006
Cameron Artis-PaynePanthers10010006
Fozzy WhittakerPanthers10010006
Luke KuechlyPanthers00110006
Malik JacksonBroncos00000002
Advantage: Panthers

Super Bowl 50
Broncos and Panthers Kickoff Return Statistics
Name Team KR Yds Avg Longest TD
Fozzy WhittakerPanthers920923.2330
Andre CaldwellBroncos716223.1290
Omar BoldenBroncos1534222.8410
Joe WebbPanthers817822.3270
Kapri BibbsBroncos11515.0150
Jordan NorwoodBroncos22914.5150
Emmanuel SandersBroncos11313.0130
Mike TolbertPanthers188.080
Ted Ginn Jr.Panthers188.080
Thomas DavisPanthers133.030
Ed DicksonPanthers210.510
Juwan ThompsonBroncos100.000
Advantage: None

Super Bowl 50
Broncos and Panthers Punt Return Statistics
Name Team PR Yds Avg Longest FC TD
Omar BoldenBroncos512324.68331
Ted Ginn Jr.Panthers2727710.337220
Jordan NorwoodBroncos6518.51420
Emmanuel SandersBroncos171036.114200
Shiloh KeoBroncos166.0610
Robert McClainPanthers252.5320
Dean MarlowePanthers100.0000
Advantage: Panthers

Super Bowl 50
Broncos and Panthers Pass Defense Statistics
Name Team Int Yds TD Passes
Kurt ColemanPanthers78919
Luke KuechlyPanthers448110
Thomas DavisPanthers42207
Josh NormanPanthers4110218
Aqib TalibBroncos3123213
David Bruton Jr.Broncos21107
Chris Harris Jr.Broncos29416
Danny TrevathanBroncos23916
Charles TillmanPanthers2007
Josh BushBroncos11301
Bradley RobyBroncos119010
Shiloh KeoBroncos12201
Darian StewartBroncos10010
Brandon MarshallBroncos1004
Colin JonesPanthers1001
A.J. KleinPanthers1801
Robert McClainPanthers12401
Malik JacksonBroncos0007
Roman HarperPanthers0005
Bene BenwikerePanthers0009
Shaquil BarrettBroncos0004
T.J. WardBroncos0006
Kawann ShortPanthers0004
Advantage: Panthers

Super Bowl 50
Broncos and Panthers Sack Statistics
Name Team Sacks Yards
Kawann ShortPanthers11.091
Von MillerBroncos11.078
DeMarcus WareBroncos7.558
Mario AddisonPanthers6.035
Thomas DavisPanthers5.544
Derek WolfeBroncos5.539
Shaquil BarrettBroncos5.539
Malik JacksonBroncos5.032
Kony EalyPanthers5.030
Shane RayBroncos4.028
Kyle LovePanthers3.023
Sylvester WilliamsBroncos3.010
Ryan DelairePanthers2.520
Antonio SmithBroncos2.517
T.J. WardBroncos2.018
Vance WalkerBroncos2.016
Jared AllenPanthers2.013
Brandon MarshallBroncos1.511
Bene BenwikerePanthers1.09
A.J. KleinPanthers1.08
Star LotuleleiPanthers1.08
Kurt ColemanPanthers1.07
Luke KuechlyPanthers1.05
Dwan EdwardsPanthers1.05
David Bruton Jr.Broncos1.03
Wes HortonPanthers1.03
Charles JohnsonPanthers1.01
Corey NelsonBroncos1.01
Shaq ThompsonPanthers1.00
Lerentee McCrayBroncos0.53
Advantage: Broncos

Super Bowl 50
Broncos and Panthers Fumble Recovery Statistics
Name Team Fumble
TD Forced
Von MillerBroncos304
Shaquil BarrettBroncos204
Josh NormanPanthers203
Kawann ShortPanthers203
Kony EalyPanthers203
Darian StewartBroncos201
Roman HarperPanthers200
Malik JacksonBroncos200
Thomas DavisPanthers104
David Bruton Jr.Broncos102
Luke KuechlyPanthers102
Charles TillmanPanthers102
Bradley RobyBroncos111
DeMarcus WareBroncos101
Bene BenwikerePanthers101
Star LotuleleiPanthers101
Kyle LovePanthers100
Joe WebbPanthers100
Todd DavisBroncos100
Chris Harris Jr.Broncos002
T.J. WardBroncos002
Brandon MarshallBroncos002
Kevin NorwoodPanthers001
Teddy WilliamsPanthers001
A.J. KleinPanthers001
Josh BushBroncos001
Bennie FowlerBroncos001
Michael SchofieldBroncos001
Advantage: None