Stop me if you have heard this before. One side of the field you have a legendary quarterback on the last leg of his career that has underwent a drastic drop off in play. On the other side you have a young, athletic, versatile quarterback and a star studded defense that borders on cocky. Okay, well I guess you can't stop me because I am not reading this blog live via periscope, but if you could I think you probably would have interrupted me by now. The Super Bowl matchup we are about to watch in two weeks is as close to the same exact one that we all had to suffer through just two short years ago. Sure, Denver's defense is better, but it would be disingenuous to go without acknowledging that Peyton Manning is decidedly worse.
That's not to say that the result of the biggest football game of the year is already well in doubt. It's not. As the saying goes, any given Sunday. However, the Broncos just had their 'any given Sunday' moment. That game they managed to eek out against the Patriots yesterday? The one where it took the perfect storm for them to reign victorious? The one where the Patriots offensive line put up next to no fight against a formidable pass rush? The one where potentially the best quarterback in NFL history looked as rattled as we have ever seen him? The one where one of the most consistent kickers in the league missed an extra point for the first time all year? The one where Tom Brady failed to get at least 8 points out of three potentially game tying drives in the final minutes? The one where Bill Belichick (yes, that Bill Belichick) made several questionable decisions? The one where everything went right for the Broncos and they were still a successful two point conversion away from overtime? Those games don't happen often. Of course Denver's defense deserves credit for making it happen, but the fact of the matter is that they are going to need to play a whole lot better to beat the Carolina Panthers, and I am just not sure that's even possible.
I understand why people are rooting for Peyton Manning to go out on top. Hell, I wouldn't even be mad if he did. I just have reason to believe that it is unbelievably unlikely. The best thing you can say about Peyton's performance yesterday was that he avoided making mistakes. The Panthers defense is one of the best in the league at creating those mistakes. The best thing you can say about the Denver defense is that they hit Brady about twice as often as anyone else ever has. While he's not necessarily a better quarterback, Cam Newton's mobility makes him far harder to bring down. Do I see a 35 point drudging on the horizon? Probably not. However, I do see a team that has looked mediocre at best offensively versus a team that has looked as close to unstoppable as you can look in the NFL playoffs. If there is anything we know about playoff football it's that defense and quarterback play win championships, and while these defenses are comparable, their play under center is decidedly not. I hope I am wrong, but I think we are facing a probability of ending up underwhelmed come Super Bowl Sunday.
P.S. I feel like this is a pretty common opinion, but I also had two people bet me real life American currency that the Broncos were going to win straight up last night, so what the fuck do I know?