Between 1994-2008, it never happened. Now, it’s happened three years in a row.
That would be both No. 1 seeds meeting in the Super Bowl, as both home teams and top seeds in each conference won their respective title games for a third consecutive year.
One was a relative surprise. The other was hardly shocking. However you slice it, we’ve arrived at Panthers-Broncos for Super Bowl 50, two teams linked by nothing expect maybe for one head coach (that would be John Fox).
Denver got here with defense. A defense so formidable it not only lead the league in yards allowed in the regular season, it harassed Tom Brady to a level almost unseen before. Though it’s somewhat unofficial, Denver’s 19 hits registered on Brady were the most since the Ravens knocked down Charlie Frye of the Browns 20 times in 2006.
Undoubtedly, that defense will be needed in Super Bowl 50, because it doesn’t look like anyone can slow down Cam Newton and the Panthers right now. Carolina absolutely obliterated the Cardinals, setting an NFC championship game record with 49 points in a 34-point runaway victory.
While some may have found the AFC result surprising, Denver’s defense was the best in football all year, and coupled with a mistake-free Peyton Manning on Sunday, the result could have been somewhat expected.
There was certainly nothing surprising on the NFC side of things. Carolina was questioned all week about its killer instinct – or lack thereof – because of near-meltdowns against the Giants and Seahawks in recent weeks. The fact is, last week’s divisional round win over Seattle really was a laugher, it’s just that Carolina succumbed to human nature in the second half. There was no such occurrence Sunday against a sloppy Cardinals team and an exceptionally bad Carson Palmer at quarterback.
Carolina opens as a 4.5-point favorite in Super Bowl 50, and yet with two weeks of media overkill, my biggest question is THIS: as the designated home team, what jerseys will Denver choose to wear? Conventional wisdom would say the Orange Crush 2.0 jerseys that they adopted in 2012, but that didn’t work out so well two years ago when they were slaughtered by Seattle.
In 10 of the last 11 Super Bowls, the team wearing the white jerseys have won; in 2005, as the “home” team, Pittsburgh chose to wear its white jerseys after winning three games on the road to get to Detroit. Perhaps Denver will also choose to switch up their uniforms.
A few other things are worth noting with the Super Bowl matchup now set. In a statistic that truly belies the lack of parity in the NFL, regardless of our winner in Santa Clara, the league will extend its own record of having eight different champions over the last eight seasons. And of course, who can ignore Denver’s long, losing Super Bowl history? The Broncos come into this matchup with the most Super Bowl losses of any franchise with five (of course on the plus side, they are now tied for the most appearances with eight).
The early feeling here is that Carolina is too powerful and mighty to fall in the Super Bowl, but I wouldn’t count out the possibility of Peyton Manning winning and maybe riding off into the sunset. The difference between this year’s Broncos and the 2013 team is the defense; the 2013 team had an average defense but all the hype was about an offense that set a record with 606 points. In the end, it was Seattle’s top-ranked defense that stole the show.
It’s not the matchup we expected, but we’ll take it.