Super Bowl 50 pits the Carolina Panthers against the Denver Broncos. I believe that the Panthers are the superior team of the two, but that does mean they will easily steamroll the Broncos by just showing up. The glory at stake for both quarterbacks is Peyton Manning is hoping to end his career as a Super Bowl champion and Cam Newton hoping to cement his status as a top QB in the NFL. For the respective franchises, they are hoping to shake off a loss in their previous Super Bowl trip with the Broncos getting flat out embarrassed by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII and the Panthers losing a closely contested game to the New England Patriots on a last second field goal by Adam "Clutch" Vinatieri. On paper, this game heavily favors the Panthers.
In this game, I believe it will come down to which running game performs better. That's an area where the Panthers have the advantage with a Top 5 RB in Jonathan Stewart and the league's best rushing QB. The two styles cannot be further different with Gary Kubiak running a horizontal zone-blocking scheme vs. Ron Rivera running a downhill power blocking scheme. In order for either team to stop the run, it's going to come down to linebacker play. That matchup also favors the Panthers, although Denver's ILB are solid players they aren't as good as Luke Kuechly. Both defenses are nightmarish against the pass but can be taken advantage a bit in the run game.
The passing game should easily favor the Carolina Panthers on both sides of the ball. They have a blueprint on how to slow down the Broncos offense thanks to the defensive performance turned in by the Patriots defense in the AFC Championship Game. The Panthers defense has to take away the timing routes on the boundary with press coverage to slow the release of the receivers and be able to drop their linebackers deep enough to take away the slant and in-cut routes. The Broncos offense has one achilles heel and that's their offensive line, especially inside. The Panthers have very good inside players with the aforementioned Kuechly and defensive linemen Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. If those three have a big game, it's a long day for Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos have to disrupt Greg Olsen but at the same time keep a deep safety to prevent long completions to Ted Ginn Jr. I have to imagine they'll try a similar game plan with him as they did with Rob Gronkowski in the first 58 minutes of the AFC Championship Game. The Broncos have to be able to get pressure with their Front 4 because single coverages favor Carolina on deep passes. With a strong running game, the Panthers should have opportunities to try play action passes down the field. It's going to be much tougher to defend the Panthers passing game because Newton's ability to be a factor as a rusher almost forces the Broncos to bring safety T.J. Ward into the box.
Overall, I'm predicting 30-17 Panthers. The margin of error for the Broncos is almost too perfect to predict and there is too much talent in Carolina's Front 7 for the Broncos to handle. I think the Broncos will have early success in the game on offense while they can still run the ball, but Carolina will do a double score (FG going in, TD coming out) to push the lead to double digits and force the Broncos to pass in the 2nd half. That will result in turnovers and short fields for Carolina, who will take advantage of that with two 4th quarter FGs to salt away the game.