The 2015-2016 NFL season is wrapping up before we know it as only one game remains, the Superb Owl. Many Americans consider Superb Owl Sunday a national holiday. Whether you are in it for the football game, parties, foods, commercials, halftime shows, or some other reason, Superb Owl Sunday probably offers it. Regardless what you think of the teams or game itself, Superb Owl Sunday brings large diverse groups of people together unlike no other sporting even during the calendar year.
This year’s Superb Owl offers an intriguing match up between the Denver Broncos out of the AFC West and the Carolina Panthers out of the NFC South. Before we get into the match up between the two teams, lets go over how both teams reached this point.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos finished the regular season 12-4 and that record was good enough to claim the #1 seed in the AFC. The Broncos came out of the season gates strong as they started their season 7-0 before recieving their first loss against the Indianapolis Colts. The Broncos season was headlined by inconsistent play by their offense and a partial plantar fasciatis tear that caused star Quarterback Peyton Manning to miss 6.5 games. Backup Brock Osweiler shined enough in his opportunities that some critics were beginning to argue that Brock should remain the starter even when Peyton returned. But Osweiler had struggled down the stretch of the regular season and was benched for Peyton Manning in the last game of the regular season against the San Diego Chargers. Arguably the most consistent part of the this Denver Broncos team was their defense. Led by linebacker Von Miller and safety TJ Ward, this defense wreaked havoc all year in every aspect on the defensive side of the ball. The Broncos defense finished the regular season with 52 sacks, 14 interceptions, 5 defensive touchdowns, ranked #1 defense in fewest overall yards per game (YPG) allowed; and ranked #1 in fewest passing YPG allowed. This postseason their defense maybe took a step back but Peyton Manning and that Bronco offense were firing on all cylinders. In the divisional round, they snuck out a win against Pittsburgh 23-16. The Steelers were without leading rusher Deangelo Williams and leading reciever Antonio Brown but somehow kept it close and held a lead for a majority of the game. Going into the AFC championship, the Broncos were a huge underdog as the New England Patriots came to Denver for the 17th matchup between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The Patriots had their way with the Kansas City Chiefs in the game prior while the Broncos struggled to beat a banged-up Steelers team. The Broncos came out strong offensively and their defense was suffocating Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense. Denver was helped out by a missed extra point by Patriots’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski early in the first quarter which led to New England needing a 2point conversion later in the fourth quarter…but they could not convert. Denver advances to Superb Owl with a 20-18 win over New England.
Carolina Panthers: The Carolina Panthers had arguably one of the most surprising seasons by an NFL team that I can remember in years’ passed. Before the season even started, they lost star Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the season to an ACL injury. Every NFL fan and critic (including myself) thought their season was done. I thought at best, they could finish with an 8-8 record. The Panthers have looked invincible in every aspect throughout the whole year. They started off 14-0 until the Atlanta Falcons ruined their perfect season. After that one loss, the Panthers have been playing on an “out of this world” level. At the end of the regular season, their defense finished in the top 6 in average points per game allowed, average YPG allowed, average rushing YPG allowed and not to mention an impressive +20 tunover ratio. That’s not all, their offense also finished with the highest points per game (PPG) average and finished with the 2nd most average rushing YPG. In the playoffs, the Panthers have not even been tested yet. In the divisional round, the Panthers jumped out to a 31-0 lead against the Seattle Seahawks before halftime! The Seahawks scored a couple touchdowns late to make the final score close but the game was well over by then, as the final score was 31-24. In the NFC championship game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Panthers had another huge lead at halftime as they lead 24-7. After halftime, they kept their foot on the gas pedal and scored 25 more points. The final score to that game was 49-15 and the Panthers advanced to the Superb Owl.
The Matchup: This Superb Owl matchup is another #1 defense (Broncos) vs #1 offense(Panthers), which in previous years, advantage goes to the defense. But the big difference in this matchup than the previous similar matchups is that the Panthers have a dominant defense themselves. Cam Newton this season has played on a superhuman type level and is redifining the position of quarterback as we speak. The key reason for his success this year is the play of his offensive line. Not only does the offensive line give him time in the pocket but they also creates lanes for the running game to excel allowing for a well-balanced offense. On the Broncos’ side, they have arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL right now in Von Miller. Pair him along with veteran Demarcus Ware and good interior lineman and linebackers, this Broncos front seven knows how to apply pressure to the quarterback. The X-Factor in this year’s matchup will be the matchup between the offensive line of the Panthers and the defensive front seven of the Denver Broncos. The last 2 games for the Panthers, Cam Newton was barely pressured by the Seahakws and Cardinals. The last game for the Broncos, they were having their way with the New England Patriots makeshift offensive line and were putting a beat down on Tom Brady every dropback. So keep an eye out for that matchup in the trenches. Those guys do not usually get a lot of credit, but whichever team wins the Superb Owl, one of those two groups are going to play a big part in the victory.
So that’s it for my Superb Owl preview. I hope you guys are excited for the many things Superb Owl Sunday brings. Enjoy the party foods, don’t change the channel on commercials, be ready for loud screams, don’t gamble all your money away, and wear clothes you do not mind getting a little dirty. And most importantly, remember it is a Sunday and you will have work, school or both the next day so don’t party to hard. Enjoy your Superb Owl Sundays!
Noah is a dj with KSSU