Super Bowl 50 – Head to Head
Cam Newton – Newton is the quintessential dual-threat Quarterback. Defences must respect his arm as well as his running ability. He is having the best year of his career and looks unstoppable.
Peyton Manning – On a downward trend (to be kind) and almost definitely playing his last game. Manning’s aim, (despite what his legendary name suggests) will be to look after the ball and ensure that the Broncos don’t lose the turnover battle.
Verdict – Cam Newton (Panthers)
Jonathan Stewart – The only remaining part of the famous running back 1,2 punch with DeAngelo Williams. Stewart has had his 2nd best year of his career rushing for 989 yards and 6 TD’s.
CJ Anderson – Despite Ronnie Hillman having more rushing attempts, Anderson’s 4.7 yards per carry makes him a potent threat rushing the ball. Realistically, with the strength of the Defensive Lines on both sides, rushing the ball for both teams might end up being a moot point.
Verdict – Jonathan Stewart (Panthers)
Ted Ginn Jr – Ginn Jr has been one of the best deep threats in the league this year, in what can only be described as an up and down career. 10 TD’s is a total that should be respected, as should his dynamic kick returning ability.
Demaryius Thomas – Thomas had 565 more receiving yards than Ginn Jr in the regular season but scored less TD’s (6). Thomas is a much more polished receiver and can run every route in the route tree making him a danger going deep but also at picking up key 3rd downs on short and intermediate routes.
Verdict – Demaryius Thomas (Broncos)
Greg Olsen – Olsen has been the best Tight End in the league not named Rob Gronkowski this year and has really elevated his game to the elite level status. Cam Newton’s go to guy has been a lot more than the reliable starter he was in Chicago. Expect lots of targets in the Super Bowl.
Owen Daniels – I think Denver would have liked Vernon Davis to be the Tight End that was being analysed here, but the trade they made mid-season for the long time 49er has not lived up to their expectations. Daniels is a solid player who played very well in the AFC Championship game and is a very underrated player. Daniels doesn’t get the separation that Olsen does but he does not command the coverage that his counterpart does. He could surprise a few on Sunday.
Verdict – Greg Olsen (Panthers)
Carolina – We all saw what Denver’s front-seven can do against a poor Offensive line like the Patriots and how much that can affect the game. Carolina is a much sterner test with two of their starters going to the Pro Bowl in Trai Turner and Ryan Kalil.
Denver – A team that couldn’t settle on a Left Tackle for most of the season, the Broncos lines has statistically ranked in the middle for both rushing and pass protection. A trade for Cleveland’s Joe Thomas did not materialise and they have patched up their line using veterans Ryan Harris, Tyler Polumbus and Michael Schofield.
Verdict – Carolina
Kony Ealy – Ealy has had an impressive start to his career being highly ranked against the run and chipping in with 4 sacks in 2014 and 5 this year.
Von Miller – Either Miller or DeMarcus Ware could have won this matchup. Come to think of it Derek Wolfe might have too. That is not a knock on Ealy but more of a statement as to how impressive the Denver pass rushers are. Miller finished the year with 11 sacks.
Verdict – Von Miller (Denver)
Luke Kuechly – The heart of the Carolina Defence ever since he was drafted out of Boston College. Kuechly is one of the best overall linebackers in the league, one of those rare athletes as comfortable stopping the run as he is in coverage.
Danny Trevathan – Trevathan is one of the newer breeds of faster Middle Linebackers that the league is moving towards. A bargain as a 6th round pick, he has been a tackling machine for Denver but does not provide the elite talent or versatility that his Carolina counterpart does.
Verdict – Luke Kuechly (Carolina)
Josh Norman – Part of the “Legion of Whom?” named by John Gruden in 2013, the Defensive Backfield led by Norman has developed into one of the scariest in the league. Norman is coming off an All-Pro season and is arguably playing better than any cornerback in the league right now.
Chris Harris Jr – Harris Jr was supposedly injured for the Patriots game but that didn’t stop him putting in a good performance and making key pass breakups in the game. He has surpassed Aquib Talib as the number one cornerback in Denver this year with impressive performances.
Verdict – Josh Norman (Carolina)
Graham Gano – Gano floated around the league for a few years. Known for as much for his big leg as his inaccuracy, Gano is probably one of the most improved kickers in the league this year. Something to watch out for is he is tied for the most blocked field goals this year with 4.
Brandon McManus – Pretty much automatic within 40 yards, his form dips once you go past 40 yards with a 66% conversion rate. Field Goals could be important for both teams if the game is close. It will be interesting to see if Coach Kubiak trusts his kicker or goes for it on 4th down within the 50-yard range.
Verdict – McManus (Denver)
Overall – Carolina 6 – 3 Denver
Carolina have the better team in the head to head match ups and with a Quarterback playing as well as Newton is, it will be a tough ask for Denver to overcome, however it is not as insurmountable as some members of the media have suggested.