Super Bowl 50 is finally upon us. The wait is over, and now we will finally find out which team will own the NFL this season: the old-school, defense-driven Denver Broncos led by Peyton Manning or the young, fun-loving Carolina Panthers helmed by the dabbing Cam Newton.
You can catch the game on CBS at 6:30 p.m. ET from Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. If you can't watch the game on TV, you can stream it with CBS Sports.
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The game is right around the corner, but there's still time for a few last-minute predictions. For what it's worth, we have the Panthers winning the game. But let's take a look at just how they are going to get it done with a few statistical projections.
Peyton Manning's Passing Yards
In order to win, the Panthers are going to have to contain Manning. In the AFC Championship Game, he threw for only 176 yards on 17 completions, but the Broncos defense thoroughly dominated the Patriots, so Manning didn't need to do much.
But the Panthers offense is a different animal. Newton is a mobile quarterback—perhaps the most dangerous NFL signal-caller once he escapes the pocket—so the Broncos pass-rushers can't presume the quarterback will be a statue in the pocket.
In addition, the Panthers haven't scored less than 30 points since November, with the exception of a 20-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16.
So what does this all mean? Assuming Carolina has more success on offense than New England did, the Broncos are going to need to rely more on Manning's arm to stay in the game. While he does have receivers who can take the top off the defense, he just doesn't have the arm to consistently get the ball downfield.
Look for Manning to get around 250 yards based on the sheer number of attempts he will have.
Cam Newton's Rushing Yards
It's unlikely the Panthers will win despite Newton, so it's reasonable to expect him to have a big game in a victory. That's why Newton is the favorite to win the Super Bowl MVP, according to Odds Shark.
As we mentioned before, Newton is a dangerous runner as well as a passer. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula even calls designed run plays for Newton. Facing such a formidable pass rush, he will have ample opportunities to escape the pocket and rack up yards with his legs. Around the NFL predicts Newton is in for an unprecedented day on the ground:
Around The NFL @AroundTheNFL
Our Super Bowl 50 bold predictions: Cam Newton sets QB rushing record with 100-yard day https://t.co/GGiiR4YIHI https://t.co/rGJpdUBiUs2/5/2016, 5:18:59 PM
While we don't think Newton will quite get to 100 yards, he will make the Broncos pay when he escapes the pocket. It's less about the number of yards he picks up and more about the number of first downs he gains, which can extend drives.
Something in the neighborhood of 65-75 yards for Newton could be sufficient to keep the chains moving and net a victory Sunday night.
Greg Olsen's Receiving Yards
Greg Olsen has been Newton's most reliable receiving target this season, racking up 1,104 yards on 77 catches in the regular season.
If the Panthers are going to win, Olsen is going to have to be a factor. The Broncos will likely aim to take away Olsen as much as they can and force Newton to look elsewhere. But Olsen will still do just enough, and as Pro Football Focus notes, he has been one of the most effective tight ends this postseason:
Pro Football Focus @PFF
Panthers TE Greg Olsen is averaging 4.13 yards per route run this postseason, over a full yard more than the next best TE2/3/2016, 2:21:59 PM
We don't expect Olsen to have a monster game considering the Broncos will try to neutralize on him, but something like 70 yards and a few big catches down the stretch seems reasonable for the Panthers' bearded tight end.
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