COLUMN: Carolina, Denver likely headed to Super Bowl 50

With AFC, NFC matches set for Jan. 24, four great teams ready to battle for ticket to big game

DJ Jarrett, Sports reporter

DJThere are just two games left until Super Bowl 50: the much-anticipated battles for the NFC and AFC championships.

The NFC features a matchup between Cam Newton, a young quarterback who led the Carolina Panthers to a staggering 15-1 season, and Carson Palmer, a veteran quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals who achieved his first career playoff win this past weekend against Green Bay.

The AFC matchup is one everyone has been anticipating since the Denver Broncos (without Peyton Manning) defeated Tom Brady’s 10-0 Patriots in the regular season. But many people, myself included, are wondering if the Broncos can repeat with Manning in tow and beat Brady’s Patriots to Super Bowl 50.

I think nearly anyone could have predicted who would end up in this year’s championship games. All four teams have been dominant this season, with both the Broncos and Patriots ending with a 12-4 record, the Arizona Cardinals with a 13-3 season, and the Carolina Panthers finishing this season with the best record this year and one of the best records in NFL history: 15-1.

All the teams have their own ways to win, but I’ve never seen a quarterback pose a threat to a defense like Newton since Michael Vick played for Atlanta. He heaves the ball down the field with the accuracy of Brady, coupled with the running threat of a running back. So if the Panthers decide to blitz, Newton will either break tackles and get the first down or find a man open down the field.

Palmer is not someone you think of as a running quarterback, but he can make plays by avoiding sacks and extending plays when he needs to, especially with a vertical threat like Larry Fitzgerald, a veteran wide receiver who is having arguably the best season of his career.

My NFC prediction: The Carolina Panthers get a big challenge while hosting Arizona’s 13-3 squad with their dangerous offensive threat, but still find a way to pull out a late victory. Final score: Carolina 27, Arizona 24.

As far as Brady and Manning go, they are two quarterbacks who will find a way to put the football in the smallest holes and lead their teams to victory. That is, after all, why these two have been to a combined nine Super Bowls, with five wins total, proof positive that these two definitely know how to win football games.

My AFC prediction: I expect this to be a game that revolves around defense. This game will be the 17th in the Brady/Manning matchup. While Brady leads the all-time series 11-5, the series is tied in the postseason 2-2. This will also the be the fourth matchup between the two in a conference title game, where Manning leads the series 2-1. Because both teams have top defenses, I expect this to be a low-scoring game, with Denver on top. Final score: Denver 14, New England, 13.

Ultimately, I think Super Bowl 50 will be a matchup between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, where the defenses come into play again. But with Carolina’s almost unstoppable offense, they will deliver the league’s greatest prize to Jerry Richardson and the Carolina Panthers organization for the first time in NFL history.

GAME SCHEDULE

PATRIOTS VS. BRONCOS

Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
When: Sunday, January 24, 2:05 p.m.
TV: CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Radio: Patriots Radio Network | Broncos Radio Network
Online Streaming: CBS Sports

CARDINALS VS. PANTHERS

Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
When: Sunday, January 24, 5:40 p.m.
TV: FOX
Announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
Radio: Cardinals Radio Network | Panthers Radio Network
Online Streaming: FOXSportsGo

Listen to DJ discuss his predictions

Audio by Matthew Randerson/Staff

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