4. Carolina’s magical season vs. John Elway‘s vision
Though it took a solid month and a convincing win against the Seahawks in Seattle for the rest of the football world to take the Panthers seriously, by Week 5 of this season Carolina had made one thing clear–this was their year. Week after week the Panthers kept winning and the dream of an undefeated season was slowly becoming a reality. Sadly for the Panthers and their fans, Dan Quinn spoiled their perfect season in Week 16 as the Falcons handed them their first loss. But if this team can come away with a win on Sunday, that loss won’t matter. If they win this game, they will have completed what was one of the most magical seasons in the NFL in recent memory.
Name a super bowl-winning team in the last decade that won as many games and had as much fun as the Carolina Panthers did this season. You can’t. Whether you like the dancing and the sideline group photos or not, the Panthers won a lot of games this season and they had a lot of fun while they did it. If they cap it off with a super bowl victory, it would make one heck of a storybook ending.
A Broncos super bowl win on the other hand, would cap off a vision that general manager John Elway had three years ago after his team lost to the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. A vision that featured Peyton Manning as a game manager, leading a run-heavy offense and backed by a homegrown, tough defense. Now, that vision has been realized–the additions of DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward has turned this defense into the league’s best and they’re the reason they’ve made it this far. Manning is far from the record-setting quarterback he was just two years ago, but he’s still one of the league’s best game managers under center.
The offense runs through C.J. Anderson on the ground, but when needed Manning can air it out to Demaryius and Emmanuel down the field. Firing John Fox and completely changing this team’s philosophy wasn’t a popular decision at first, but if they win on Sunday, Elway’s complete makeover would have been worth every bit of criticism he received.