Ten things to ponder while we await the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos and their Feb. 7 date in Super Bowl 50:
1 I’m convinced that if it is up to linebacker Thomas Davis, he will play with a broken right arm. But it’s not totally up to Davis.
Remember, Panthers defensive end Jared Allen was quite upset last week that he didn’t get to play in the NFC Championship Game with a broken bone in his foot. Allen thought he could go. Rivera said no because he thought the risk of a first-quarter re-injury could leave Carolina short-handed.
Here’s the thing, though – Davis is one of Rivera’s all-time favorite players. Do you remember that Rivera once choked up during a news conference describing Davis’ trip back from three ACL surgeries? Rivera truly loves the guy, and he will give No. 58 every benefit of the doubt assuming Davis receives medical clearance.
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Bottom line: I’d be shocked if Davis doesn’t play against Denver.
2 Denver quarterback Peyton Manning’s age is almost at the exact midpoint between Rivera and quarterback Cam Newton. Manning turns 40 in March. Rivera is 54. Cam is only 26.
So what does that mean? It means to get ready for a barrage of national “One Last Showdown” stories about the most beloved Manning of them all, who may well be playing his last game for the Broncos given that he’s due about $20 million next season if the Broncos keep him.
3 Early weather forecast for Santa Clara, Calif., site of Super Bowl 50, on game day: High of 66, low of 46 and a chance of rain.
4 So the NFL is taking a one-year break – a break I wish the league would make permanent – from referring to this game with those pretentious Roman numerals. This golden anniversary game will be labeled Super Bowl 50. But next year, the NFL will call the 51st Super Bowl by the odd name of “Super Bowl LI,” which sounds more like the name of the official Super Bowl panda.
5 When watching the Denver-New England game, I was absolutely stunned by how many times Tom Brady went down. Denver led the NFL with 52 sacks in the regular season, and I have never, ever seen Brady battered like that. Brady was officially hit 19 times, which was more than any NFL quarterback has been hit in any game since 2006.
The way Carolina’s offensive line handles Denver’s fearsome rushers will be the biggest key to this game. If the Panthers can give Newton time to throw, I think the rest of it will fall into place. If not? Trouble.
The Panthers will travel to California on Sunday in preparation for the Super Bowl, arriving a week before the game
6 Newton enjoys making a colorful analogy in a news conference. Here’s one from Sunday night about his five-year journey in the NFL with the Panthers. Said the quarterback: “It wasn’t going to be … instant grits, quick grits. It was going to be a process like long-cooked collard greens. I think those collard greens are brewing right now. You can smell it from 100 miles away.”
7 Denver will officially be the home team for Super Bowl 50, meaning the Broncos get first choice on what uniforms to wear. That also means Carolina, as the visiting team, will get to call the coin toss just before the 6:30 p.m. kickoff.
That coin toss will be performed by referee Clete Blakeman, who once was a backup quarterback at Nebraska. Given this plum assignment, Blakeman has been judged as the very best NFL referee in the league for this past season.
But can Blakeman flip a coin correctly? He made news just a couple of weeks ago in the playoffs, when his coin toss failed to flip on his first try in overtime in the Green Bay-Arizona game, and he had to do a do-over.
8 No doubt a lot of Panthers season-ticket holders are about to be disappointed in the team’s private lottery that will (or more likely, won’t) allow them to buy two Super Bowl tickets. As always, there simply aren’t enough Super Bowl tickets to go around.
9 Seven turnovers?! I still can’t believe Carolina forced Arizona into seven turnovers. Of all the wild statistics in Sunday’s 49-15 Carolina victory in the NFC Championship Game, that one will go down as the most bizarre.
10 If Newton wins the Super Bowl, he will become one of only three quarterbacks to win both a national championship in college and a Super Bowl as the primary quarterback for each team.
No big deal, really – Cam would just join a pair of average Joes in that small group.
You might know those two Joes better by their last names: Montana and Namath.