Cam Newton vs. the Broncos’ prolific pass rush
Denver had the NFL’s best pass rush during the regular season, racking up a league-leading 52 sacks behind Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. The unit has been just as dominant in the postseason. Just two weeks ago it likely was the deciding factor vs. the Patriots and Tom Brady, who was under pressure on almost half of his pass attempts. Brady was hit almost 20 times times and sacked on four occasions while tossing a pair of interceptions and finishing with a very un-Brady-like 48-percent completing percentage. Newton, of course, is more mobile and will be playing behind a better offensive line. But if Miller and Ware get loose again, it could be a long evening for the Panthers.
Greg Olsen vs. the Broncos’ safety T.J. Ward
Olsen was the Panthers’ most dangerous weapon in the pass game during the regular season, hauling in a team-leading 77 passes for a career-best 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns. And he’s been just as dominant in the postseason, reeling in 12 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown in wins over the Seahawks and Cardinals. If form holds, Ward (5-10, 200) see a decent amount of time matched up against Olsen (6-5, 253), as will linebackers Danny Trevathon and Brandon Marshall. How Ward, who is nursing a sore ankle, and his teammates perform vs. Olsen could play a huge role in the game's outcome.
Peyton Manning vs. Father Time
Like most people, I enjoy a good fairy tale ending. And watching The Sheriff ride off into the sunset with another Lombardi Trophy in what could be his final game certainly would qualify as one. Sure, Manning looked better against the Patriots than he did against the Steelers. And, by most accounts, he enjoyed a strong week of practice. But the Broncos need to get off to a fast start and seize an early lead because I don’t see Manning leading them back from big deficit. He’s not that guy anymore.
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