The mind can do crazy things in a two-week window, with first impressions yielding to outside-the-box ideas that can veer dangerously toward #hottaek territory. And while MDS may have made his own Super Bowl pick not long after the participants were locked in, I’ve spent much of the last two weeks going back and forth, knowing that whatever I predict the opposite surely will happen. Again.
Regardless, the job requires the picks to be made. Fortunately, the job doesn’t require the picks to be accurate.
Our conflicting Super Bowl picks appear below.
MDS’s take: The talk about this game will center around the quarterbacks, and that’s where the Panthers have an enormous advantage. Cam Newton is the MVP of the NFL. Peyton Manning, a five-time MVP, is a shell of his former self. When we talk about why the Panthers are favored, it starts with how much better Newton, at age 26, is than Manning, at age 39.
Where the Broncos have an advantage is the possibility that their pass rush can be the one to consistently both bring pressure to Newton to keep him from throwing downfield, and contain him to prevent him from making plays with his legs. If there’s any defense in the NFL that can keep Newton in check, it’s the Broncos’ defense.
And yet even if the Broncos’ defense plays well against the Panthers’ offense, the Broncos’ offense may struggle to move the ball, which will put the Panthers in good field position and make it almost impossible for Denver to keep Carolina off the scoreboard. That’s how I see this game playing out: A battle of field position that the Panthers ultimately win.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 27, Broncos 20.
Florio’s take: I’m getting sick of saying, “We should have seen it coming.” Whether in recent Super Bowls or Denver’s playoff run, we fall in love with the favorite and the underdog finds a way to win and we say, “We should have seen it coming.” For a change, I want to see it coming before it happens.
I want to envision before it happens that the Broncos have developed and executed a ball-control game plan, with running back C.J. Anderson adding significantly to the 72 yards gained in each of his team’s two postseason victories. I want to envision before it happens quarterback Peyton Manning milking the clock on every snap, chewing up large chunks of the 40-second play clock and shortening the game. I want to envision before it happens the Panthers offense stuck on the sideline and frustrated as the Broncos dink and dunk their way down the field. I want to envision before it happens no turnovers from the Broncos, specifically no snaps whizzing by Manning’s head on the opening drive of the game. I want to envision before it happens Manning playing better than he has all year, combining full health with the abandon that comes from playing each game as if it’s his last because this one, with a win, undoubtedly will be.
I want to envision before it happens a defensive effort orchestrated by coordinator Wade Phillips, who has coached in the NFL for decades and never has been crowned a champion. I want to envision before it happens Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Malik Jackson, and Derek Wolfe chasing and harassing Cam Newton more than he has been chased and harassed all year. I want to envision before it happens Denver not giving tight end Greg Olsen a free release from the line of scrimmage, either by roughing him up with linebackers or putting cornerback Aqib Talib on him, one on one. I want to envision before it happens Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby blanketing Ted Ginn and Corey Brown like they did Green Bay’s receivers, the night Aaron Rodgers inexplicably generated fewer than 80 passing yards. I want to envision before it happens one of the team’s starting safeties not pulling a Rahim Moore and badly misplaying a critical deep throw.
I want to envision before it happens the Sheriff standing under falling confetti, soaking up one last time the sights and sounds of a football stadium immediately after a big game. I want to envision before it happens said Sheriff ambling off the field with a silver trophy tucked in his back pocket, and the Panthers vowing to be back again soon to get one of their own, because they will be.
Ultimately, I want to envision before it happens everyone else saying, “We should have seen it coming” and me, for once, saying, “I did.”
Florio’s pick: Broncos 26, Panthers 23.