Most experts are picking the Carolina Panthers to win Super Bowl 50. Here are five keys to the game for the NFC Champions:
1. Quick start, fun finish
Carolina has put up video game-like numbers during its run through the NFC playoffs, outscoring the Seahawks and Cardinals by a combined 55-7 score in the first half. If the Panthers can jump ahead again, they can force the Denver offense out of its comfort zone and possibly start posing for on-field pictures during the game again.
2. It all starts with No. 1
Not many quarterbacks are built like Cam Newton (6-foot-5, 245 pounds). Denver can’t afford to let him run wild, especially in the red zone, where he has a nose for the goal line. If the Broncos play to stop the run to heavily, it should open up some opportunities for Newton to show how much he’s matured as a passer and produce some big plays.
3. Deceive to achieve
Denver has one of the quickest defenses in the league, but Carolina can turn its aggressive nature against it by using the read-option and other gadget plays. The Panthers can slow down the Broncos’ talented edge rushers by making them play honest and perhaps even break off big plays, such as Ted Ginn Jr.’s TD on a reverse against Arizona.
4. Force Manning’s hand
Denver knows it needs to run the ball. If Carolina can either take that option away defensively or by putting the Broncos in an early hole, the pressure to win Super Bowl 50 then rests with aging quarterback Peyton Manning, and that should create opportunities for Luke Kuechly and the Panthers secondary to put the game away with an interception.
5. Cross up the line
Denver’s young offensive line has struggled with communication and reads all season long, allowing opponents to either sack Manning or make the running game look worthless. If Star Lotulelei and Carolina disguise their rushes and delay some blitzes, they should be able to create some confusion up front and disrupt what Denver wants to accomplish.