In what’s been a less than ordinary year for quarterback Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos’ legend can silence critics once and for all – in Super Bowl 50.

By William Chase

It’s been a wild ride for Peyton Manning. Injured, benched, backing up Brock Osweiler, the Al Jazeera report that Manning might have used HGH, and all back in time for the playoffs and into Super Bowl 50 against the Carolina Panthers.

It what appears could be his final game, Manning can answer his critics with one last hurrah, adding to his sure Hall of Fame legacy.

Like John Elway before him, he can ride off unto the sunset, a second Super Bowl title to his name, and against a team that’s favorite to win, this time against the Carolina Panthers, like John did against the Green Bay Packers in 1998.

When people talk of Peyton Manning, you usually hear that he’s among the best to ever play the game, one of the smartest to dissect defenses.

He’s not the Peyton Manning of old, but the wiser Manning is going to be in his third Super Bowl, second with the Broncos. After the trying year he’s been through, everything has the chance to culminate in the ultimate storybook ending.

Though one of the best historically, Manning’s 2015 numbers (nine touchdowns, 17 interceptions) are what you would you expect from a quarterback who’s getting ready to watch the Super Bowl instead of start one.

His 17 interceptions are the second worst in the league, and his qb rating of 67.9 brings up the rear…And he only started nine regular season games.

But here we are, where one game makes or breaks everything.

“My arm is what it is, my arm feels OK” Manning said. Though that sounds less than inspiring, the 39-year-old is more than capable of putting together enough drives and points that, along with his Broncos stifling defense, may be enough to contain Cam Newton and the Panthers.

Though the strengths of this matchup falls squarely on the Broncos defense versus the Panthers offense, both among the best in the NFL respectively, all eyes will be on Peyton, in what could perhaps be the last time we get to see him play.

That fact isn’t lost on anyone.

Even though his parents and brother, Cooper Manning, say they don’t even know for sure what is going to happen concerning Peyton’s future, everything seems to lead up to the possibility the end is near.

Per Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports on Archie Manning talking about his son’s potential retirement:

“It’s been a 18 good years. I don’t know what is going to happen.  I promise you we haven’t talked about it. You just savor. It’s a special day.”

Though 2015 has been ugly to Peyton Manning, and in watching Manning, winning the Super Bowl would silence all of the critics. Forget the past postseason failures, the disaster in Super Bowl 48 against the Seattle Seahawks, the benching this season in which Manning backed up for the first time since college.

Regardless of what happens Sunday, Manning is going to be enshrined in Canton one day, but a second Super Bowl would be all the more satisfying, considering the way the season has played out.

No doubt, a loss would only add fuel to the critics’ fire on Peyton Manning. That he can’t win the big games.

Never mind that he has one Super Bowl victory, in which he was named MVP in the 2007 game against the Chicago Bears, and that he has led his teams to the playoffs, among the more consistent stretches across the league.

Last game or not, win or lose, Manning is one of the best that has ever played. If the Broncos defense can come up with one more giant stop, it’s rather appropriate. Even if one were to say it carried Manning to a final win, when after all these years, Peyton has carried his teams through countless battles.

No matter what. One of the best that ever played.

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William Chase is editor at Elite Sports NY, and has been featured on such prominent websites including Bleacher Report. William is also currently the Marketing & Media Relations Intern for the Augusta GreenJackets.