Why I Like The Panthers
February 4, 2016
The Carolina Panthers are making their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Those who remember the first appearance back in 2003 remember that the Panthers were big underdogs against the mighty New England Patriots. Falling to the Pats on a last-minute field goal almost seemed like a moral victory.
Things are a little different this time around. Carolina is the “mighty” favorite and it would be disappointing to fall this time. But I do not think the Panthers will fall.
My regular readers may have sensed that I have been waiting for Carolina’s bubble to burst, even though I am a fan of the team and how it was built. The playoff run that has the Panthers at 17-1 this season has convinced me that this is a great team. A great team that finished the regular season first in the NFL in scoring with 31.2 points per game. The defense had plenty to do with that. Quarterback Cam Newton is the MVP front-runner who enjoys a consistent running attack led by himself and Jonathan Stewart who has the NFL’s longest active streak of games with at least 50 rushing yards. And Newton is behind a Panthers offensive line that is arguably the best in the NFL as a unit.
I like the Panthers because I do not see the Broncos rallying if they fall behind early. We saw the Panthers race to huge leads against the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals this postseason, and I feel those teams are better than the Denver Broncos. At least offensively because Denver comes to the Super Bowl with a mediocre offense that ranked 19th in the NFL. I bring up the Panthers’ wins over the Cardinals and Seahawks because they were impressive and it showed that even two offenses led by MVP-candidate QBs couldn’t complete a comeback. The Broncos, on the other hand, don’t have that sort of productivity at quarterback. I know he is already a legend. But Peyton Manning threw an interception on five percent of his pass attempts. Moreover, Manning completed just 35% of his passes of at least 20 yards with more picks than TDs (five to four) and a 64.0 QB Rating. Without a real vertical passing attack and facing the league’s best defense vs. short stuff and throws over the middle, it is hard imagining Denver coming back from a double-digit deficit.
I like the Panthers because they force turnovers and rarely turn the ball over themselves. Whether it’s Josh Norman, Kurt Coleman, or Luke Kuechly, the Panthers pass defense is loaded with playmakers.
I already mentioned that Manning is the most interception-prone quarterback in the NFL. He will be taking on the defense that led the league with 24 picks, was second in net yards per pass attempt allowed, sixth in scoring, and gave up just 21 touchdowns through the air.
Cam Newton & Peyton Manning
I like the Panthers because of their run defense. Denver will attempt to move the ball on the ground in an effort to keep Newton and company off the field. They will struggle moving the ball this way as Carolina has not given up 80 rushing yards in their past four games. The Panthers run defense allowed just 3.9 yards per rush during the regular season.
I like the Panthers because they are making a habit of producing explosive plays on offense. Carolina’s wide receivers have been criticized often, but the numbers point out that they’ve been considerably better than expected. Newton knows how to use these players to their strengths and his line gives them enough time to get open. And they are all good after the catch. The explosiveness of the Panthers offense stems from the speed of their receivers, Cam’s greatness, and tight end Greg Olsen’s ability to beat whoever the opponents attempt to defend him with. The Panthers are great at setting up the vertical passing game with their rushing attack.
I like the Panthers because of Cam Newton. I usually favor teams that have the best player on the field. And Newton will be the best player on the field. He is the one with the best chance to make game-changing plays. The man will be the MVP for this very reason. He has always had talent. Now there is a sense of intelligence to go with his talent. Newton has 35 passing touchdowns and has only thrown one interception since Week 10. And he also has 10 rushing touchdowns this season. Newton has outstanding third down skills to keep the chains moving and he is clutch as Carolina has given its fans four-game winning drives this season.
I do not think the Panthers will need a game-winning drive this Sunday. But it is nice knowing Newton is fully capable of doing so if needed.
And that is why I like Carolina to capture its first Super Bowl.