ESPN's Media Blitz: I like the Super Bowl as much as the next person, but ESPN seems to like it a lot. I'm surprised they don't have a show airing from a cable car or a studio hanging from the Golden Gate bridge. One of their shows actually took place in the general's residence at one of the army posts in the area. I don't think anyplace was safe from the ESPN invasion. How much can one game possibly be covered? I mean, it's the Broncos and the Panthers. Peyton Manning and Cam Newton. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, Von Miller and Demarcus Ware. Wait a minute, I think I just boiled it all down to six guys. A full week of coverage from San Francisco for about 237 shows? Really?
Manning's Swan Song, Cam's Disrespect? Of course, about 236 of those shows have focused on two issues. Is this Peyton Manning's last game and has Cam Newton been portrayed unfairly? Let's take the Manning one first. It's pretty simple. Either he knows already or not, and at this point, he's not talking about it. I would suspect that at the age of 38 and facing the prospect of preparing for another season, and with a new team at that, he is probably going to call it a career. But we might not know that for a while. Regarding Cam Newton, I like him and I think his antics on the field are refreshing. If you're an opposing team and don't like it, then the best way to stop him from celebrating is to keep his team out of the end zone. Is there a racial component to all of this? Possibly, but I think most fans have gotten past all of that. It's really interesting to me that people will bash the NFL for not allowing celebrations, but when someone displays genuine exuberance, they're vilified for it.
Santa Clara is not San Francisco: I heard a number of commentators talk about the lack of Super Bowl vibes in San Francisco. What do you expect? The game is being played almost 60 miles south of the City by the Bay, much closer to San Jose, where the teams are staying. When the Super Bowl was played up the road in Palo Alto at Stanford stadium, it was fifteen miles closer to San Fran, about 45 minutes in California traffic. What did these guys expect from a game that is drawing 70,000 fans to a metropolitan area that numbers almost 9 million people?
Can the Broncos Contain Cam Newton? This game really hinges on the ability of the Broncos to limit the Panthers' dangerous QB's big play chances. In the AFC championship game, Denver repeatedly put Tom Brady on his back, a difficult place from which to make plays. It'll be harder for the Broncos to do that to a bigger, stronger, more mobile quarterback, but Newton has the same problem Brady had: Outside of a talented tight end, there isn't a Panther receiver that can truly stretch the field. The Broncos are the toughest defense the Panthers have played, with the talent to rush from the outside and inside. The first quarter will be the key to this football game. If Denver can withstand an early push by the Panthers and take the game into the second half, they have a chance to put Cam in pressure situations.
Does Young and Brash Beat Old and Seasoned? It's a mixed bag in Super Bowl history. Namath beat Unitas, but Plunkett beat Theismann. Wilson beat Manning, but Brady beat Wilson. Two years ago, Peyton Manning's Broncos were absolutely humiliated by a talented and enthusiastic Seattle Seahawk team led by a tenacious defense and multi-faceted quarterback. Sound familiar? Yes, with one exception. The Denver defense this time around is built for post-season football and Wade Phillips is a terrific defensive coordinator. Manning gets two weeks to get healthy and Phillips gets two weeks to game plan for Cam Newton. Two years ago the Broncos were gashed by the running of Russell Wilson. I'm not so sure Newton will have the same success, but if he does, the Panthers will win.
Super Bowl Prediction: I've picked the Broncos in their first two playoff games, going with my heart and definitely against the grain. I'll go out sticking with Peyton Manning to do what John Elway did for the same team, win a title in his last game and ride off into the sunset, humming the Nationwide theme song with a saddle bag full of Papa John's pizzas. Why the Broncos? I just think their defense will disrupt the Panthers enough to give Manning a chance to engineer a few effective drives. Could Carolina do the same thing the Seahawks did? Sure, especially if they jump out on top like they did against Seattle and Arizona. Will they? I don't think so.
Denver Broncos (14 - 4) 24 Carolina Panthers (17 - 1) 23