As we inch closer to Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco, we look back at a season that was. We’ll first look at the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers and AFC Champion Denver Broncos, and then we’ll look at the road traveled by each team to get to California.
Carolina Panthers (17-1), NFC South and NFC Champions
The Carolina Panthers have been both the darlings and the villains of the National Football League. Finishing a league-best 15-1 on the regular season, the Panthers defensively dominated and dabbed their way to the NFC title.
Quarterback Cam Newton blossomed into an NFL MVP candidate, racking up over 3,500 yards, 35 touchdowns and limiting himself to 10 interceptions. Newton’s dual-threat capabilities proved problematic for the rest of the NFL as well, rushing for over 600 yards and adding 10 touchdowns on the ground.
Carolina’s defense stepped up this year as well, thanks in large part to the Panthers all-pro linebacking duo of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. The two combined for 223 total tackles, 6.5 sacks and eight interceptions.
Carolina’s touted the complete package all season. It’s no surprise they open as 3.5-point favorites for Super Bowl 50.
Denver Broncos (14-4), AFC West and AFC Champions
The Denver Broncos had a much more tumultuous road to Super Bowl 50. Despite also showcasing one of the league’s most elite defenses, the Broncos’ offense struggled throughout a season that saw a Peyton Manning injury and Brock Osweiler starting at quarterback.
Manning had only thrown one touchdown at home before the AFC Championship game. Denver’s leading rusher, Ronnie Hillman, had only 863 yards and seven touchdowns all season.
It was the vaunted defense, led by perennial pro-bowler Von Miller, that carried this team through the season. Miller’s 11 sacks, paired with Danny Trevathan’s 109 tackles and Aqib Talib’s three interceptions and two touchowns, and the Broncos were able to defeat the high flying Steelers, and keep MVP candidate Tom Brady in check in the AFC playoffs, en route to their second Super Bowl appearance in three years.
Despite having an equally talented defense, Denver’s offense is going to have to show up in big ways on Super Bowl Sunday, if they want to match the high flying Panthers.
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