Posted 01/26/2016 at 04:27 PM
There will certainly be a lot of comparisons between Super Bowl XLVIII and next week’s Super Bowl 50 matchup for the obvious correlation between two Peyton Manning led Broncos teams heading into a matchup with an up-and-coming NFC squad with an opportunistic defense. There are some similarities in the matchup but the biggest commonalities are not the ones most people are making. The eventual Super Bowl champion 2013 Seahawks team looks a lot more like the 2015 Denver Broncos than the 2015 Carolina Panthers.
The 2013 Broncos team was an offensive machine, leading the league in scoring (like the 2015 Panthers) by a wide margin and being by far the top offensive team in terms of total yardage (actually producing 90 more yards per game than this year’s Panthers team and nearly 102 yards per game more than the Broncos this season). It was the 2013 Seahawks that had a limited offense (18th in the league in total offense, Denver is 16th this season) and a quarterback that brought some question marks with his ability to move the ball downfield through the air, often settling for check downs and working with conservative play calls. It was also the Seahawks that had the league’s best defense in many areas (like the 2015 Broncos) with Denver’s defense this season allowing about 10 more yards per game than Seattle’s league-leading 2013 squad.
That 10 yard gap is actually about the same production average gap between Carolina’s offense and Denver’s offense this season despite the great contrast in the perception between the offensive ability of these teams. Carolina’s scoring led the league with an incredible turnover margin being a huge factor with the Panthers scoring almost nine more points per game in the regular season compared with the Broncos, but facing just five top 12 yards-per-play defenses this season while Denver has faced 10 such teams. Denver actually had one more defensive touchdown than Carolina in the regular season despite the focus on Carolina making big game-changing plays as the Panthers also had defensive scores in each playoff game.
Cam Newton’s unique ability to excel in 3rd down and red zone situations will be the key area that should decide the Super Bowl. Denver won the AFC Championship by getting big 3rd (and 4th) down stops vs. New England while holding the Patriots to just one short-field touchdown until the final seconds of the game produced a second end zone strike. The Broncos will need to get those same big stops and leave Graham Gano to lead the scoring for the Panthers rather than Newton.
The Denver team that was ambushed by Seattle in New Jersey two years ago had a very mediocre defense that allowed 73 more yards per game and nearly a touchdown more per game than this year’s Denver squad as there are very few similarities between the two Super Bowl defenses for the Broncos. Carolina’s defense this season statistically falls right in between those two Denver units and falls nowhere near the numbers of the 2013 Seattle squad that they are drawing comparisons to, that team allowed just 14.4 points per game and fewer than 274 yards per game.
When looking at the season team statistics a better comparison might be last season’s Super Bowl with the Panthers and the 2014 Patriots being a much better comparison and this season’s Broncos team featuring very similar yardage and scoring numbers to last year’s Seahawks team. Super Bowl XLIX was one of the best in recent years and a game that could have gone either way as the Patriots incredibly emerged as 28-24 victors, overcoming a turnover deficit with an edge on 3rd downs being a big area of success. Best of Luck and on to this week’s slate…