Bronco busters

Kyle Riviere
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

Things are looking eerily similar for the Broncos as they enter Super Bowl 50 as an underdog.

They're forced to endure flashbacks of the championship game from two years back. That was when they were humiliated by the Seahawks, 43-8.

That Seattle team has many similarities to the Panthers team they'll be facing on Sunday.

Carolina has a great front seven that can get after the passer. They are aggressive and opportunistic on defense--allowing them to feast on other teams' turnovers.

They have a great offensive line and a tremendous rushing attack that goes with it. Last but not least, they have a quarterback that can kill you with both his legs and his arm and can make things happen when the play breaks down in the backfield.

So, are the Broncos in for another drubbing? I don't think so.

I do think the Panthers will win this game. I think they're a better team from top to bottom. However, I don't think it will be the blowout many are making it out to be.

The Broncos are very different from that version that was annihilated by the Seahawks. This season, they have the best defense in the league.

Not only are they ranked third against the run, they have a ferocious pass rush with the trio of Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Derek Wolfe.

The Broncos led the league this year with 52 sacks. They had four sacks alone in their 20-18 victory over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

And with arguably the best cornerback tandem in the league with Aquib Talib and Chris Harris, Jr. and Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward, Denver also has a tremendous secondary. It ranked No. 1 this season in passing yards allowed.

They'll keep the Broncos in the game. Unfortunately for Denver, the Panthers' defense is championship-caliber as well.

Carolina ranks fourth against the run, and they can get after the quarterback as well. They ranked sixth in sacks this season.

Their secondary may not be as balanced as the one in Denver, but they have one of the best corners in the league in Josh Norman.

Linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are also huge in the passing game. The Panthers picked off Carson Palmer four times in their 49-15 thrashing of the Cardinals in the NFC Championship.

The Broncos are going to have a tough time moving the ball on that Panther defense. Their offense is nowhere as good as it was back in 2014.

Peyton Manning is just not the same guy. He has struggled throughout the year, and in two playoff games, the Broncos have only averaged 22 points per contest.

In fact, Denver has only scored 27 or more points in five of their 18 games this season. They ranked 16th in total offense.

I'm much more confident in the Panthers scoring against the Bronco defense than the other way around.

The Denver defense is the best in the league, but they haven't faced an offense as balanced as the Panthers all season.

Carolina has the second-ranked rushing attack in the league behind running back Jonathan Stewart and quarterback Cam Newton.

And through the air, Newton is throwing it better than he has in his entire career. He has a deep threat in Teddy Gin that can take the top off of the defense. He also has and one of the best tight ends in the game with Greg Olsen working the middle of the field.

The Panthers have scored 27 or more points in 15 of their 18 games. Since week three, they have hit that 27-point mark in every game except for their Dec. 27 loss to the Falcons. That was their only loss of the season.

The Denver defense will play well. I don't see the Panthers putting up that many points, but they can't put the clamps on Cam all night. He's going to have his moments.

I can't say the same about Manning. The way he has been playing, I don't like his chances of consistently moving the ball against the Carolina defense.

I'm going with Cam and the Panthers.