The Panthers offense is so multi-faceted—their running game is particularly unstoppable—and their defense so physical that, when considered alongside the fact that Peyton Manning has been atrocious all season, the most likely outcome tonight is a Panthers blowout. Cam Newton won the MVP yesterday after one of the most memorable season-long performances I can remember. Yes, the Panthers had one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, but Newton dabbed all over everyone all year. The Panthers’ offense is as dynamic and exciting as the Broncos’ is staid and mediocre. If they can get a takeaway or two—not unlikely, given that Manning can’t feel his damn hands—they could eviscerate the Broncos tonight.
But the second most likely outcome is a slow, stodgy, grind-it-out game—think Denver’s victory over New England in the AFC Championship game. Denver’s defense, led by Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, is insanely good. And, as Deadspin’s Patrick Redford notes, Newton doesn’t have an array of elite receivers to throw to, which could allow Miller to wreak havoc. If everything goes right for Denver, they’ll gum up Carolina’s offense—considering that Denver’s offense is pretty much made of old gum, the Super Bowl would turn into a game decided by defense.
The Super Bowl, I am legally required to write, starts at 6:30 p.m.