Our SB Nation experts favor Carolina by a 6-2 margin, with free spirit PFT Commenter and Stephen White being the only ones to pick the Denver Broncos. It's a similar consensus over at CBS Sports, with five of the eight writers taking the Panthers.
The Panthers are making their second trip to the big game after dismantling the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship. Cam Newton threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, while the defense forced Carson Palmer into six turnovers. Carolina ran roughshod in the regular season with a 15-1 record, its only loss coming to the division rival Atlanta Falcons.
One concern for the Panthers is the injury to veteran linebacker Thomas Davis, who broke his forearm in the NFC Championship. He's hoping to play, although his status will be a question mark with such a short recovery window. Defensive end Jared Allen sat out the last game with a broken foot, but is expected to play in his first-ever Super Bowl.
The Broncos pulled out a nail-biting 20-18 win over the New England Patriots, making the Super Bowl for the second time in three years. They'll hope to have a better result this time -- Peyton Manning had no answer for the Legion of Boom as the Seattle Seahawks cruised to a 43-8 win in Super Bowl 48.
The Broncos' defense had an inspired performance in the AFC Championship, putting constant pressure on Tom Brady and never allowing him to get into rhythm. That pass rush will be tested against Newton and an underrated offensive line, so look for the trench battle to be one of the key matchups.
The 40-year-old Manning has settled into a game manager role at this point of his career, but he still has top-shelf weapons in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver. However, Thomas has struggled with drops all season and Josh Norman is itching to shut down one of these receivers. The Panthers also have the league's fourth-best run defense, so it figures to be tough sledding for C.J. Anderson.
To win this game, the Broncos will need their defense to keep playing at a high level and possibly hope for some late-career magic from Manning. Not many experts predict that will happen, though.
Here are SB Nation's complete picks for the game.
|Ryan Van Bibber
|CAR vs DEN