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The Panthers are equipped to dismantle the Broncos' vaunted defense

Carolina dominated two of the best defenses in the NFC, the Seahawks and Cardinals, in the Divisional Round and Conference Championship.

One of the oldest adages in football is the phrase, "Defense wins championships." The Denver Broncos are hoping that holds true this year, considering they have the No. 1 ranked defense in the league.

But holding down the Carolina Panthers this postseason proved to be an impossible task for the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks, both of whom had two of the best defenses in the NFC this year. The Broncos, despite their dominance over the Pittsburgh Steelers' and New England Patriots' high-powered offensive attacks, should prepare to suffer a similar fate.

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the Panthers' top scoring offense is that they can beat you in a multitude of ways. That was on display in their Divisional Round win over the Seahawks, in which running back Jonathan Stewart set the tone early and rumbled forward for a 59-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage, setting up a touchdown run three plays later. Carolina scored 31 unanswered points in the first half and rushed for 144 yards. Newton, meanwhile, only threw the ball a total of 22 times.

One of the reasons why the Panthers' running game is so successful is Newton himself. He's always a threat to run, meaning defenses have to back off to see what he does with the football. This opens up a lot of space for Carolina's backs, who often rush for big gains on a play as simple as the read option.

The Panthers led the league in rushing attempts this season, but that doesn't mean Newton can't win with his arm. That's exactly what happened in the NFC Championship against Arizona, when Newton threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns in the Panthers' decisive 49-15 victory. Newton tore up the Cardinals with his feet, too, rushing for 47 yards and scampering into the end zone twice.

The Seahawks allowed the least number of points in the league this season and the Cardinals surrendered the eighth fewest. But the Panthers' diverse and unpredictable offense ripped them to shreds.

Denver was able to dominate New England in the AFC Championship, but the Patriots' offense is largely one-dimensional. No playoff team ran the ball less often than the Patriots this season, which allowed a potent Denver pass rush to tee off on Tom Brady in the AFC Championship. The Patriots' offensive line was ravaged by injuries, and the Broncos hit Brady a season-high 20 times.

One of the reasons why the Broncos were so successful against the Patriots is because they were able to generate pressure on Brady by only sending three or four rushers. Denver, which blitzed 41.7 percent of the time in the regular season, only sent extra rushers on 16.4 percent of Brady's drop backs.

Against the Panthers Sunday, the Broncos will be unable to only send a few pass-rushers and drop everybody else back in coverage. With Newton's ability both inside and outside the pocket, you always have to keep an eye on hm.

But if the Broncos blitz, Newton has developed into a skilled enough passer to take advantage of a handicapped secondary. He spreads the ball around arguably better than any other quarterback in football, as nine Panthers receivers recorded double digit reception totals this season. The training camp loss of Kelvin Benjamin forced Newton to find other receivers, and he's done exactly that.

The Broncos' defensive dominance this season can't be discounted. But shutting down the Panthers will be their toughest task yet. The way Carolina was able to dismantle the Seahawks and Cardinals promises to be a harbinger of what's to come.