The Super Bowl ranks as the single biggest yearly sporting event in North America. However, the game also has a wide reach, with a sizable international audience tuning in to see the best two teams in gridiron football.
This season, the Carolina Panthers and their exuberant superstar quarterback Cam Newton reigned supreme in the NFC. Carolina finished the regular season with a 15-1 record, best in both the conference and the league. The team's one loss came as the result of an off day against the division rival Atlanta Falcons, a tilt lost by only seven points. The Panthers experienced little trouble outside of that game, averaging 31.3 points per outing while allowing an average of only 19.3.
Although the Panthers secured the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff field, many doubted their ability to reach Super Bowl 50 due to the lack of support for Newton on offense. Before the regular season even began, the team lost top wideout Kelvin Benjamin to an ACL tear. Benjamin led the team in receiving yards the previous year, finishing with 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns.
On paper, Carolina had little in reserve to cover for Benjamin's loss. Outside of Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, the offense has had to rely on the talents of former first-round bust Ted Ginn Jr., past-his-prime veteran Jerricho Cotchery and rookie Devin Funchess. In the backfield, Jonathan Stewart has played admirably but not spectacularly while Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert perform best in limited roles.
Still, Newton took his game to a new level in 2015. He accounted for 45 total touchdowns, the most of his career, while cutting down his interception total to 10, his lowest mark ever. The totality of his performance has the majority of the football world expecting him to collect his first league MVP award during the NFL Honors ceremony before the Super Bowl.
On the other side, the Denver Broncos have survived a season's worth of questions surrounding star quarterback Peyton Manning. The 39-year-old signal caller endured the worst statically season of his remarkable career, nearly leading the league in interceptions despite missing seven starts. Manning also finished below 60 percent completion for the first time since his 1998 rookie campaign.
Though Manning struggled, the Denver defense did not. The unit allowed just 18.5 points per game, the second-best mark in the conference, and led the NFL in sacks with 52. The pass rushing tandem of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware proved unblockable for most of the season, and both have saved their best football for the playoffs.
In the AFC Championship, Miller produced a robust 2.5 sacks against the New England Patriots with Ware producing the other half sack. Because of their efforts, Tom Brady absorbed 23 hits, the most by a quarterback in NFL postseason history. For the Broncos to defeat the favored Panthers, they must reprise that performance on the game's biggest stage.
How to watch
When: Sunday, Feb. 7, 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
Commentators: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Australia: Seven Network, 7mate, ESPN
England: Channel 4, Sky Sports
Italy: Italia 1, Fox Sports 2
Germany: SAT 1
New Zealand: Sky TV