It's quiet time at Super Bowl 50, at least as quiet as it gets for the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.
The day before the Super Bowl is all about making the final preparations and staying away from the distractions that can get in the way of a player's assignments for the game the next day.
It's important for players to concentrate on the specific jobs at hand and not think about the extravaganza known as the Super Bowl.
Things like the size of the audience on television and the cost of the ads shouldn't matter one bit to the players who are getting ready for the game. Things generally settle down after the first few plays when players have had a chance to make contact, but even the best players in the world have a few anxious moments before kickoff.
I have had the chance to interview several current and former players about what it's like to play in the game, and most have talked about how the game becomes familiar territory once the action begins, but Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott says it can be difficult to block out the distractions in the hours before the game.
"It's something you have to concentrate on," Lott told me. "You know that in a few days or a few hours, you will be out on the biggest stage in sports. If you are thinking about other things than your specific assignments, you can lose focus. But if you concentrate on where you will be on the field and the job you have to do, you will be all right during the game."
The action gets underway at 6:30 p.m. ET from Levi's Stadium and will be televised by CBS.
Super Bowl 50
When: Sunday, February 7
Where: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
Kickoff Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV Broadcast: CBS will broadcast the game live and will start its pregame show at 2 p.m. ET.
Live Stream: This year, CBSSports.com will stream the game live. You can also watch on the CBS Sports Channel/App on Roku, Apple TV, Xbox One and Windows 10.
Super Bowl 50 features one team that appears to be on the verge of greatness in the Carolina Panthers and another that has overcome many issues in the Denver Broncos.
The Panthers were an ordinary team in 2014 that happened to win the NFC South title despite a 7-8-1 record. They were lucky to play in the putrid NFC South, and their mediocrity was good enough to get them to the postseason.
When they drew the injury-riddled Arizona Cardinals in the Wild Card Round, they were fortunate, and they survived that encounter and advanced to the divisional playoffs.
They were stopped by the Seattle Seahawks, but the small surge they had at the end of the season set them up for a brilliant run in 2015.
While Cam Newton is the focus of much of their success, and he has clearly enjoyed a brilliant season that has seen him compile a 35-10 TD-interception ratio and also run for 10 touchdowns, the Panthers also have strength on both the offensive and defensive line.
Ryan Kalil is one of the team's anchors at the center position, while left tackle Michael Oher and right tackle Mike Remmers have provided stability. Both tackles started all 16 regular-season games.
Kawann Short has become a star at the defensive tackles position this season with 11.0 sacks. Mario Addison is not a starter at defensive end, but he plays with speed and aggressiveness and has 6.0 sacks.
The Panthers feature a pair of hard-hitting linebackers in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, and Josh Norman has become a shutdown corner this year.
The point is that the Panthers are far more than a one-man team.
They are 17-1 and on the verge of joining the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the 1985 Chicago Bears as the only teams in NFL history to go 18-1 and win the Super Bowl.
The Broncos may have trouble keeping this game within their comfort zone because they just don't have the firepower to keep up with the Panthers.
Peyton Manning may be in the top four when it comes to all-time NFL quarterbacks—along with Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas and Tom Brady—but he is clearly very near the end of his time in the league and he can't command the game the way he once did.
Manning understands as much as any quarterback who has every played, but his arm is not what it once was. Neck surgery and age have taken away his velocity, and even if he comes into the game with an extra week of rest, it's not going to help against the Panthers' hard-charging defense.
If Denver is going to compete here for 60 minutes, its defense must dictate the pace. Wade Phillips certainly has the firepower to cause some problems for Newton, as do Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Derek Wolfe, but can they really keep the Carolina quarterback and likely MVP in check throughout the game?
If Newton breaks free for two or three big plays, it may be too much for the Broncos to overcome.
The hours before the game are now dwindling to a precious few, and the time for prognostication is coming to an end.
The players who can block out the distractions have the best chance of being successful on Super Bowl Sunday.
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