Below, The National's Sportsdesk offers its predictions for Sunday's Super Bowl 50 to determine whether the Carolina Panthers or Denver Broncos will be NFL champions:
Thomas Woods, Sports Editor
Super Bowl winner: Carolina Panthers. This is a team that has lost just once all season in a bizarre defeat to an Atlanta Falcons side they thrashed 38-0 two weeks previously. If the defences of Denver and Carolina basically cancel each other out then this game will be decided by offence. I’ll pick Cam Newton, the dynamic running quarter-back over Peyton Manning, a legend who has been awful for most of the season.
Predicted score: Carolina 31 Denver 10
Predicted MVP: Cam Newton. When he runs for his second rushing touchdown of the night, there won’t be any doubt.
Rob McKenzie, NHL writer
Super Bowl winner: Denver Broncos. What is Carolina’s weakness? Their wide receivers are average. So trust your cornerbacks, contain but do not big-blitz Cam Newton, and let Von Miller freelance. On offence, do anything to throw the Panthers off balance: go hurry-up; have a handful of designed runs for Peyton Manning; mix your formations (eg, two tight ends or two running backs).
Predicted score: Denver 14, Carolina 13
Predicted MVP: Von Miller. Because he is the variable that Carolina cannot turn into a given.
Aaron Gray, NFL writer
Super Bowl winner: Carolina Panthers. The hype has been mounting around Cam Newton and his ability to take over a game. That hype is over. It is now fact. But the reason the Panthers win this game is because of their defence. The pass rush against Peyton Manning will be stifling, which will force one of the greatest quarterbacks the game has ever known to either scramble (not his strong suit) or force the ball into tight holes against a heady secondary. Turnovers will decide the game and send Manning into retirement after yet another Super Bowl setback on his resume.
Predicted score: Carolina 28 Denver 10
Predicted MVP: Luke Kuechly. Odds are it will be Newton but I’d like to see Carolina linebacker Kuechly. The team’s leader in tackles has a nose for the ball and may just come up with that game-changing interception or forced fumble.
Kevin Jeffers, Online editor
Super Bowl winner: Denver Broncos. No part of me can pick against Peyton Manning, even though he’s closer to Trent Dilfer than Peyton Manning at this point. Luckily, like Dilfer, he has a Super Bowl-calibre defence behind him. Cam Newton hasn’t seen a pass-rush like Denver’s all season, and I think Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware give him fits. In a low-scoring slugfest, Peyton retires with his second Super Bowl ring.
Predicted score: Denver 16, Carolina 13
Predicted MVP: Von Miller. I think he disrupts Carolina’s world, with a sack and a pick.
Jonathan Raymond, Online editor
Super Bowl Winner: Carolina Panthers. Consider, for a second, just how thoroughly the Denver defence terrorised Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC championship game. How fast, how strong, how smothering. How decisive. Now consider that they won that game – barely – by two points.
The Panthers have a menacing defence in their own right. Not quite as good, but still very good. And they have Cam Newton. They scored 49 points against the Cardinals to win the NFC championship.
If two great defensive teams are paired against each other in Super Bowl 50, only one great offence will be standing alone on the field in Santa Clara. It belongs to the Carolina Panthers.
Predicted score: Carolina 20, Denver 9
Predicted MVP: Cam Newton. A defensive leader like Luke Kuechly or Josh Norman may deserve it, but if indeed the Panthers score their points, it will be through his excellence, and he will be rewarded accordingly.