Photo from Chris Creamer/nj.com
By Nick Kalantzopoulos
This Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, friends and family will come together to eat wings and pizza, laugh at commercials and listen to the biggest concert of the year, not to mention watch the championship game of pro football.
The Denver Broncos will take on the Carolina Panthers, pitting the number one seeds of both the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC) against each other to determine a world champion. Kickoff will take place in Santa Clara at 6:30 p.m., beginning what will surely be the biggest television event of the year, and perhaps ever.
Media from all over the country are hovering towards California this week to cover the big game. Here are 10 storylines that are sure to come up:
10. Newton and Rivera Making History
Casual sports fans may have heard the recent news that the Buffalo Bills hired the first full-time female assistant coach in the National Football League. What people may not know, however, is the cultural significance of the game this Sunday. Cam Newton and Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers are primed to become the first minority starting quarterback-head coach duo in Super Bowl history. In the NFL, the staring quarterback and head coach are a franchise’s two most important assets, and the Panthers have two of the best.
9. The Brady vs Manning Conversation
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been going at it for about 15 years now, and have grown into two of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. Tom Brady seemed to have clinched the “Who’s better?” debate last year when his team, the New England Patriots, defeated the Seattle Seahawks to earn him a fourth Super Bowl ring.
However, when Peyton Manning’s Broncos beat Brady’s Patriots last week in the AFC Championship Game, the debate has been circling around again. Manning’s legacy would be greatly strengthened with a second Super Bowl win, and there is a good chance he would go out into the sunset afterwards. More on that later.
8. Are the Panthers Somehow Underrated?
The Panthers are overwhelming favorites to win on Sunday, and have been blowing out teams all season. They have had one loss all year, and it was to their division foe, the Atlanta Falcons, in a 20-13 game during Week 16 of the Regular Season. If they beat the Broncos in Super Bowl 50, they would finish 18-1, one of only four teams ever to do so.
The other three are the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 2007 New England Patriots. The 2007 Patriots were the only one of the three to get their one loss in the Super Bowl, so with a win, the Panthers would be in a club with only 2 others.
There has been no talk, however, about whether or not the Panthers are one of the best teams ever. In an interesting historical twist, the Panthers Offensive Coordinator is Mike Shula, the son of Don Shula, who was the Head Coach of the 1972 Miami Dolphins. That Dolphin team went 14-0 and won the Super Bowl. They are still the only undefeated Super Bowl-winning team. Will the Panthers join them amongst the great teams ever?
7. The Denver Bronco Defense
For perhaps the only year in his career, Peyton Manning is not the focal point of his team. The Broncos are instead led by their defense, who led the league in passing yards allowed, total yards allowed and were 4th in scoring defense.
Wade Phillips, the Defensive Coordinator of the Broncos, has led them all year, with notable players such as corners Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, and linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, all of whom made the Pro Bowl this season. Two-time Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward also anchors the back of the Bronco unit. This vaunted defense hit Tom Brady a total of 23 times in the AFC title game. Cam Newton and the Panthers have much to prepare for.
6. Prop Bets
The Super Bowl is not just about the game itself. Among the lesser-known customs of the big game are prop bets, bets on seemingly unimportant or random occurrences during the game. For example, some of the things that will cause money to be spread around on Sunday are what side the opening coin toss will land on, what the color will be of the gatorade poured on the winning coach, what Coldplay’s first song will be during the Halftime show and how long the national anthem will be.
5. The National Anthem
Speaking of which, the singer of our country’s most famous song has yet to be named. According to one of the aforementioned prop bets, the favorite is Adele. If the British pop singer is chosen, she would have a lot to live up to. Actor, singer and “Frozen” star Idina Menzel sang last year and did an incredible job. Whoever is chosen, the goal of course is to not emulate the debacle that was Christina Aguilera’s performance in 2011.
4. The Commercials
Many of the viewers spend their time conversing during game-time and quiet their friends in-between. The reason? Those memorable commercials.
They have been funny, interesting and lately, outright depressing. The Super Bowl is the most-watch television event of the year, and that leads to high advertisement prices. The total amount of ad-spending for commercials for the first 50 Super Bowls has reached $4.5 billion. In fact, the average cost for just 30 seconds of ad time is $4.8 million this year. This type of money leads to plenty of anticipation.
3. The Golden Halftime Show
Since this will be the 5oth Super Bowl, the NFL has made sure that the halftime show will be the biggest ever. Coldplay will headline the show, and will be assisted by two of the performers from the previous three years, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. The show is sure to be a smash, and who knows, maybe we will see the return of Left Shark?
Cam Newton, the quarterback for the Carolina Panthers is the hands-on favorite to win the MVP for the Regular Season. He is perhaps the face of the new wave of athletic, multi-faceted quarterbacks that are taking over the league as stationary quarterbacks such as Brady and Manning are slowly leaving the NFL. Nicknamed “Superman,” Newton has also changed the way quarterbacks are received off the gridiron, adding dancing routines with his teammates and group photos to his repertoire. He also makes sure that a scoring football always ends up in the hands of an adolescent Panthers fan. He has grown into a polarizing figure in the league, but there is no doubt that his mere presence is great for the NFL.
1. Peyton Manning Going Out in Style?
Peyton Manning was drafted 1st overall in 1998 to the Indianapolis Colts. He has since won a Super Bowl, played in two others, won a record five MVP awards, made 14 Pro Bowls, holds both the single season record for touchdowns (55) and passing yards (5477) and holds the career passing touchdown total (539).
He is regarded as the best regular season quarterback in NFL history, and is in the discussion for the greatest overall quarterback ever. However, Manning is 39 years old, and off of four neck surgeries that led to his departure from the Colts to the Broncos in 2012. He is also coming off his worst statistical season.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether Manning will retire after the Super Bowl, win or lose. He added fuel to the fire when he was picked up by a microphone and said that it “might be (his) last rodeo” to Bill Belichik, the head coach of the New England Patriots, at the 50-yard line at the conclusion of the AFC title game last week.
This “Brady-Manning” era has been one that the NFL had not previously seen, one like the NBA has not had since Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird retired. All fans under the age of 25 do not have a memory of the NFL before Manning roamed the field.
John Elway got the opportunity to win as the 39-year-old starting quarterback of the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII, and retire into the sunset. He currently works as General Manager and Executive Vice President of Football Operation for the Broncos. The biggest storyline of Super Bowl 50 will be whether or not his current employee can repeat the feat.
Prediction: Panthers win, 24-19.