DENVER BRONCOS vs. CAROLINA PANTHERSHopefully this will be an exciting matchup, but the ghosts of Super Bowl 48 still haunt the Broncos. The Panthers are back in the Super Bowl, determined to win their first Lombardi Trophy after Tom Brady and the Patriots snatched it away in the dying seconds of Super Bowl 38.
How the Broncos reached the Super BowlThe Denver Broncos finished first in the AFC, capitalizing on a sudden slump by the New England Patriots, the latter of which lost four of its last six regular season games. Peyton Manning has suffered numerous injuries this season, but has recovered to lead the Broncos to victory over the reigning Super Bowl champions and receive another chance for a Super Bowl victory. The Broncos defense smothered the Patriots dangerous offense; the Broncos benefited further from mistakes by the Patriots, including a missed PAT and two costly turnovers in the AFC Championship game.
In the playoffs, the Broncos enjoyed a first-round bye, first playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional game. The Broncos slipped away 23-16, setting up the match-up with the Patriots in the Championship game. Along with the aforementioned mistakes, Tom Brady threw a game-ending interception when the Patriots desperately needed to complete a two-point conversion to take the game to overtime.
As the Broncos advance to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years, Peyton Manning looks for his second ring. His first and only ring came in a victory over the Chicago Bears nine years ago in Super Bowl 41. Since then, he suffered a disappointing loss against the New Orleans Saints in 2009 and a humiliating beatdown against the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. Whether Manning and the Broncos are up to the task remains to be seen...
How the Broncos can win the Super BowlThe Broncos can win if they can maintain their defense against a deadly Carolina offense that overwhelmed the Seahawks and the Cardinals. The Broncos proved they can hold off the Patriots, but the Panthers look to be a daunting threat given the thrashing of the Cardinals. Manning has struggled with interceptions, but he has not thrown a turnover in the playoffs so far.
How the Panthers reached the Super BowlThe Panthers dominated the NFL all season, save for a frustrating loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers have obliterated nearly all opponents with ease. At no time were the Panthers playoff hopes in doubt.
In the playoffs, the Panthers enjoyed a first-round bye, first playing the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisonal game. The Panthers destroyed the Seahawks in the first half and opened up a 31-0 lead, but a furious comeback by the Seahawks nearly ruined the Panthers season; the Panthers won 31-24.
Next, the Panthers played and obliterated the Arizona Cardinals, forcing seven turnovers and winning 49-15. The Panthers appear unstoppable, and hunger for their first Super Bowl win, determined not to lose on a last second field goal.
How the Panthers can win the Super BowlThe Panthers must keep doing what they're doing. The offensive line must protect Newton at all costs, knowing how dangerous the Broncos defense was against the Patriots. The defense must relentlessly attack Manning at every opportunity in order to stifle the Broncos offense. The Broncos haven't produced many points in the playoffs (23 against the Steelers, 20 against the Patriots); the Panthers ruthless offense may trigger for the Broncos haunting memories of Super Bowl 48 against the Seahawks.
Indeed, it might just be a rerun of Super Bowl 48, albeit with the Carolina Panthers instead.