The Carolina Panthers, who were the No. 1 seed in the NFC, enter the game with a 15-1 record. The Denver Broncos, who were the No. 1 seed in the AFC, enter the game with a 12-4 record.
Coming off a dominant win in the NFC Championship Game, the Panthers are 5.5-point favorites over the Broncos. Here’s a look at the Super Bowl matchups:
Panthers offense vs. Broncos defense
The Broncos’ pass rush terrorized New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game, but it won’t be easy to duplicate that performance against the Panthers. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is obviously much more mobile than Brady, but the bigger difference is that the Panthers will be able to run the ball more effectively than the Patriots.
Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart is averaging 5.0 yards per carry in the playoffs, which will keep the Broncos’ defense honest. Carolina also has a better offensive line than the Patriots, who were abused by Denver’s front four in the AFC Championship Game.
Don’t expect the Panthers to light up their scoreboard, but their balanced offense should be able to make plays against Denver.
Edge: Panthers offense
Broncos offense vs. Panthers defense
An aggressive defense has allowed the Panthers to jump out to big leads in their two playoff games. If the Broncos fall in an early hole they’ll struggle to mount a comeback because the Panthers will be able to focus on getting after quarterback Peyton Manning.
The Broncos are effective when they get their inconsistent ground game going, but that won’t be easy against Carolina’s stout run defense. As much attention as Carolina quarterback Cam Newton generates, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly may be equally dominant on the other side of the ball.
Edge: Panthers defense