Last Week: 2-0
Panthers @ Broncos
Like Peyton Manning, this is my last game. I cannot imagine enjoying football without Peyton Manning.
This year was already a bitter taste of what is to come. The State of Quarterbacks in the NFL is pathetic. When healthy, Manning is still in the better half of those who “play” the position. For fuck sakes, we live in a world Johnny Manziel has been handed the reigns to an NFL franchise—before they finally realized his raging alcoholism. The problem is that Peyton Manning has only been healthy for a handful of games. Even that is relative since we’re talking about a man who cannot feel his fingers.
Yet, Peyton made the necessary throws against the Patriots while the Denver defense buried Tom Brady in his own ineptitude. Don’t give me any bullshit about New England not being healthy. Brady had the necessary weapons, but he was clearly flustered and incapable of making rudimentary decisions. If the positions were reversed, everyone would have been talking about Manning. Tom Brady embarrassed himself. It’s amazing how the tables are turned when one team has the superior defense. For the duration of his early career with the Colts, Manning played with truly horrendous defenses that refused to employ anyone over 300lbs on their line until Booger McFarland. It’s just unfortunate that it took the last year of his career for Peyton to finally have an all-world defense supporting him. Let’s never forget that Manning is 3-1 against Brady in AFC Championship Games. But I guess playoff records only matter when it supports the crafted narrative propping up Tom Brady. And Tom Brady has the luxury of heaving the football to the trained polar bear the Patriots employ at TE that they’ve named Gronkowski—easily and unarguably, the most dominant player currently in the NFL.
Everyone is picking the Panthers in this Super Bowl.
The case is simply that the Carolina Panthers are a better version of the Seahawks with a superior QB in Cam Newton—the second-most dominant player currently in the NFL. Pressuring an overrated Tom Brady is one thing, but good luck tackling Cam Newton when he’s bigger than most of Denver’s defenders. Oh, and Carolina will definitely design runs for Cam too. Not only do the Broncos have to sack Cam, but they also have to stop him from just running whenever he thinks a play is broken. The Super Bowl against Seattle went to shit early for Denver. In order for the Broncos to make this a competitive matchup (unlike the NFC Championship Game against the Cardinals), Denver needs to score first and sit on an early lead like they did against New England. While most have focused on Manning, I think the offense will be good for a few scores. The Broncos need to run the ball effectively, which is troublesome considering Gary Kubiak’s insistence on involving Ronnie Hillman—who looks like an 8th grader on a field with men when he tries to run between the tackles. Denver needs C.J. Anderson to dominate carries and act like a bowling ball plowing through Carolina’s defense. With Manning throwing less than 30 times, that’s the conservative game plan the Broncos must utilize.
Defensively, Denver’s ability to keep it close relies on stopping Greg Olsen.
Rob Gronkowski mauled the smaller defenders Denver tried to hang off him. Gronk shook them aside whenever he wanted. Greg Olsen and his third leg could swing the game for the Panthers rather easily. The Broncos just don’t have anyone to glue on Olsen for the whole game. While Aqib Talib and Chris Harris should cover Carolina’s receivers on the outside, all Cam needs to do is slide around (with the threat to run) and find Olsen in the seam a few times. There’s a reason the Panthers are the heavy, prohibitive favorite. Carolina nearly ran undefeated through the season.
But I have to have hope. In his final game, is there enough magic left in Manning’s arm?
Every time Manning throws the ball—even on the fucking sidelines—Peyton noticeably grimaces like he’s being stabbed in the shoulder. It doesn’t look good. The passes aren’t pretty, but Peyton can still burn someone the caliber of Cortland Finnegan. If the Broncos treat Josh Norman like Richard Sherman (avoiding him whenever possible) and account for Luke Kuechly on every play, I can envision a scenario where Peyton might have a chance to thrive rather than merely survive.
Does the old man have enough left for this game?
Win: Denver Broncos