If the Carolina Panthers are going to win their first Super Bowl ever Sunday, they must know where two men are at all times.
No, I’m not talking about Cam Newton and Peyton Manning. They will be the headliners in Super Bowl 50. But Carolina will win if they can hold off No. 58 and No. 94 on Denver – Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, respectively.
If Miller and Ware wreak havoc on the Panthers’ offensive line, then this game may be won by the underdog Broncos. I think Newton will have to play poorly for Denver to win, and few players on the Broncos have the wherewithal to make that possible. Ware and Miller do.
Denver led the NFL with 52 sacks during the season. In the AFC Championship Game, the Broncos sacked quarterback Tom Brady four times, picked him off twice and had 17 quarterback hits (that’s the official number anyway – it seemed like more).
Brady is a mostly stationary target, and Newton is happy to take off up the middle when Ware and Miller take the very wide angles they prefer when trying to get to the quarterback. But if they get there, and the Broncos force Newton into two or more turnovers, this becomes a very different game. I believe Carolina is more talented, but the Broncos can make up for it and win if they can make Newton mediocre.
So step right up, Michael Oher and Mike Remmers. Neither of you Panthers offensive tackles have ever played a more important game in your life.
▪ With Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders saying that cornerback Josh Norman was a media creation, watch out whenever you see No. 10 for Denver and No. 24 for Carolina collide. Sanders probably did Norman a favor with that verbal jab.
▪ Speaking of Norman, Snoop Dogg had seven words of advice for him Thursday. “You a bad boy,” Snoop Dogg said as the two hugged during a media session. “Keep it up.”
▪ Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula will call plays in the biggest game of his life Sunday, but the even-tempered Shula certainly won’t be intimidated by the Super Bowl. The youngest of Don Shula’s five children, he has been going to games ever since he was a small child. He once attended three Super Bowls in a row in the early 1970s while watching his father Don coach the Miami Dolphins.
Shula had some funny memories of those games this week, including this one: “The first one against Dallas when I was six, I remember sitting in the upper deck and it was so cold. It was in New Orleans. I can remember getting a hot dog, and it was ice-cold. The next year, the year (the Dolphins) won it, I can remember that I was in the stands, and the biggest thing I remember from that year was that my mom had just bought me a red transistor radio. I thought that was awesome because I could listen to the game while I was watching it.”
▪ Michael Irvin, the former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver and current NFL Network analyst, said he didn’t like to play with mobile quarterbacks much. “I didn’t want my quarterbacks running,” Irvin said. “I wanted them to throw it to me so I could run with it.”
With that said, though, Irvin said he would have enjoyed playing with Newton. “I would love to play with him,” he said, “and I’d worry if I had to play against him.”
▪ OK, prediction time. Finally. After all the hype, aren’t you ready to watch an actual game?
I think the Panthers are going to pull it off Sunday and will have a parade in Charlotte a couple of days later. I think there will be one unlikely star on Carolina’s sideline we never would have expected (maybe from the special teams), and I think Newton will ultimately end up as the game’s Most Valuable Player.
My pick: Carolina 27, Denver 19.
Fowler: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @scott_fowler