By The Fordham Ram Sports Staff
Sam Belden: Panthers 34 – Broncos 17
A Super Bowl win over the Denver Broncos would be a fitting way for the Carolina Panthers to end their season. Throughout the first half of the season, a number of teams — the Patriots, the Packers, the Bengals, even the Broncos — looked like they could have a historic campaign, but Carolina was the only one to actually do it. Now that they’re just one game away from becoming the fourth 18-1 team in NFL history, they’re not likely to let up now. Just like in the regular season, quarterback Cam Newton has been outstanding in his two postseason starts, posting a passer rating of 113.4 and rushing for two touchdowns. The defense, too, is outstanding, ranking sixth in the league in yards allowed and grabbing the most interceptions of any NFL team. With all due respect to Peyton Manning and his boys in orange, they don’t stand much of a chance. The 39-year-old future Hall of Famer looked shaky at times this season and has been no better than average in the playoffs. The Broncos deserve praise for a job well done this season, but Newton and the Panthers have been on another level.
Pat Costello: Panthers 43 – Broncos 8
Panthers Panthers Panthers. I would pick them 10 times out of 10 and bet my house on it (if I owned a house). The Carolina linebackers are going to eat Peyton Manning alive, similarly to how he eats chicken parm or Papa John’s. He can’t throw passes past 15 yards, as he showed us with his performance against the Patriots. He looks like football’s version of Jamie Moyer. Many believe that Cam Newton will fall victim to the powerhouse Bronco defense as Tom Brady did, but there is one major difference: Newton runs a 4.59 40-yard dash, while Tom Cool runs about as well as Betty White through mud. Carolina’s offensive line will be just fine against the pass rush. Here are my predictions: the Panthers will win, Matt Paradis will snap the ball over Peyton’s head twice, Michael Oher will celebrate with Sandra Bullock (that’s his Mom, right?) and Cam will dab while holding the Super Bowl trophy.
Jack McLoone: Panthers 35 – Broncos 14
Does anyone remember the last time Peyton Manning and the Broncos were in the Super Bowl against one of the best defensive teams that season that also had a run first offense helmed by a mobile quarterback that can also throw the ball? I thought so. Let’s face it: Peyton Manning did not beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship. The Patriots offensive line beat the Patriots (you could even say their play was…offensive). Yes, the Broncos have the best defense in the NFL this season. But the Panthers absolutely dismantled a better team in the NFC Championship, the Cardinals, who also have a great defense and a quarterback who was actually born after the Civil War. The Carolina defense is too adept at forcing turnovers (they led the league with 24) to not force Mr. Noodle Arm himself to throw one or two picks. Giving Cam Newton, quite possibly the best athlete in the NFL (and certainly a better QB than Russell Wilson), just one or two more possessions in good field position are too much to overcome, regardless of one’s defensive prowess. Newton is everything fun about football. Manning is a mannequin with a peewee-level JUGS machine for an arm. You decide who wins that matchup.
Drew Casey: Panthers 27 – Broncos 17
A Panthers and Broncos Super Bowl does not necessarily create a buzz on the basis of name recognition. But a Cam Newton and Peyton Manning Super Bowl does. Newton, the likely NFL MVP to be announced this weekend, has had a season for the ages. The Auburn product racked up 45 total touchdowns in the regular season and has added five more in the Panthers’ first two playoff games. Manning, a five-time MVP, has also had a season for the history books in light of his illustrious career. The sure Hall of Famer has battled injury and it seems clear that this season will be his last. With that said, Super Bowl 50 ultimately comes down to a different matchup in my eyes. Denver boasts the best defense in the league statistically from the regular season, while Carolina boasts the best postseason offense thus far. Can Cam Newton conquer the Broncos defense? Yes. Newton leads the NFL with 21 touchdowns when facing blitz this season. The Panthers, a true team, will finally get the recognition that they’ve deserved all season. It won’t be a walkover like many are predicting, but the Panthers will win Sunday’s battle in Santa Clara.
Anthony Pucik: Panthers 45 – Broncos 10
In Super Bowl XLVIII, I said that there was no way a veteran like Peyton Manning would be dominated by a Seattle Seahawks team that got through the playoffs with relative ease. Needless to say, the Broncos were embarrassed by Seattle in East Rutherford, New Jersey. I will not make the same mistake this year. Despite the Bronco defense being significantly improved this time around, Manning is another two years older and has not been 100 percent this year. The Panthers dynamic offense will cause problems for Denver’s biggest strength, its defense. Combine that with the Panther defense bringing the heat to Manning and the Denver offense, it will prove to be too much to handle. I hate to say it, but I believe we will see another blowout in this Super Bowl for the Broncos, and they will be on the losing end. Cam Newton and the Panthers will finish the season as Super Bowl champions and go down as one of the more dominant teams in history. It will not be pretty, and it will end a rather lackluster playoff season for the NFL.