Grimacing to Victory: AFC Championship Peyton’s Final Triumph?

On February 7th, Peyton Manning is playing in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in his career and the second time in the past three years.

From the moment the Patriots failed to convert a 2-pt conversion with 12 seconds left in the AFC Championship game, there have been two questions on every NFL fan’s mind:

  1. Is Super Bowl 50 going to be Peyton’s last game ever?
  2. How much are the Carolina Panthers going to win by?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a Peyton Manning fan. I would love to see him win another Super Bowl. There are also numerous analysts out there predicting a Broncos championship.  But let’s look at the facts.

Why are the Panthers favored in Super Bowl 50?

There may be dozens of advantages to point out in this matchup, but I want to focus on three key factors:

1) The Panthers had the number one scoring offense in 2015

Averaging 31.2 points/game, the panthers have the fire power to face the Broncos defense. Yes, the Broncos have a very, very good defense. But didn’t the Seahawks and the Cardinals have good defenses?  They were 2nd and 5th respectively in total yards allowed for 2015. Against teams ranked in the top five for total yards allowed, the Panthers put up 24, 27, 31, and 45 (including playoffs). That is an average of 31.8 points. Denver only averaged 22.2 points/game this season against all teams played.

2) The Panthers have one of the best defenses in football

This year, the Panthers led the league in take away differential (+20), gave up the 4th fewest rush yards (88 yards/game), and the 6th fewest total yards (323 yards/game). Not to mention, the Panthers lead the league in interceptions (24), while the Broncos threw the most interceptions (23). Even with Jared Allen and Thomas Davis playing with broken bones, the potential for points off of turnovers is too high to ignore.

3) The discrepancy in physical ability at the QB position is too large

After watching this season, there is no denying that Peyton’s physical ability is in decline. Was he hurt? Yes. How much did that factor into his terrible performance? We don’t know. But one thing is for sure – he cannot do this:

In fact, more recently he has looked like this:

When it comes down to raw athleticism and sacrificing your body for the win, Cam Newton’s willingness to take a hit AND his superior athletic ability are going to change the game.

Prediction: Panthers Win Super Bowl 27-16

The Broncos offense lacks the spark to keep up with the Panthers high-octane offense or score on a staunch NFC defense that they did not have to face this season. As much as my heart wants this for Peyton, I do not see a fairytale ending to his epic career. Win or lose, you have to take your hat off to his class and determination to get another ring. I hope you get it, Peyton. Go Broncos.

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