Super Bowl 50, matching up the National Football Conference champions the Carolina Panthers and the American Football Conference champions the Denver Broncos on Sunday (6:30 p.m.) at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., will be a confrontation of size versus speed.
The 17-1 Panthers are massive mashers on both sides of the ball, built to dominate where the outcome football games are, by and large, always decided in the trenches. While 6-foot-5 250-pound Panthers quarterback Cam Newton deservedly receives widespread accolades for his otherworldly talent, the men that protect him should also be broadly praised. Led by 6-foot-2, 300-pound nine-year veteran center Ryan Khalil, one of the best at his position in the NFL, as well 6-foot-3, 320-pound guard Trai Turner, a mere baby at 22-years-old, the Panthers will enter the game with an offensive line as physical and nasty as any in the league.
They are the heart of a rushing attack that was ranked second in the regular season with 2,282 yards for an average of 142.6 per game. The trend has carried over to the postseason, during which the Panthers’ Jonathan Stewart has galloped for more yards (189) than all running backs. Additionally, Newton is arguably the most overpowering running threat from the QB position in the history of the sport.
Despite the 14-4 Broncos defense being the best statistically in the league, they are constructed as a relatively light, fast unit up front that is vulnerable to a big, battering outfit. The sheer force of the Panthers’ running game will open up big plays for Newton, his superlative tight end Greg Olsen and an underrated, if obscure group of wide receivers. By the fourth quarter, the Panthers’ sheer physicality will wear on the Broncos’ run stoppers.
Conversely, the Panthers’ sixth-ranked defense, spearheaded by outstanding linebackers Luke Kuechly and Tom Davis, and gifted cornerback Josh Norman, will slow down Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense. The result will be a 30-20 Panthers win.