Super Bowl 50  

 

Final Super Bowl 50 thoughts: On Peyton Manning, Cam Newton

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SAN FRANCISCO -- What a treat!

The host city of Super Bowl 50 has been fantastic, and the buzz has been incredible. Hosting "Schein on Sports" on radio row has been outstanding, with shows filled with amazing guests, from Marcus Mariota to Jim Harbaugh to Roger Staubauch. The fans have flocked to Super Bowl City for "Inside the NFL," "NFL Monday QB" and "That Other Pregame Show" on Showtime and CBS Sports Network.

After a week of breaking it down and building it back up, here are my final thoughts heading into Super Bowl 50, Schein Nine style:

1) What Peyton Manning has done is truly amazing

The fact that Peyton Manning is playing in Super Bowl 50 is a minor miracle. Frankly, it's one of the great accomplishments of his legendary career.

Think about it. I surveyed former players on radio row all week long, and the idea that it was over for Manning when he was benched after throwing four picks against the Chiefs in Week 10 was more than just conventional wisdom. It was practically fact. Consider an anecdote shared by Manning's former teammate Brandon Stokley, who was at that game in Denver. Stokley said he felt "sad" watching it, and he thought that was it for his iconic friend. The former receiver said Manning could barely walk in the days leading up to the game, and that Manning should have skipped it -- but that the competitor in him wouldn't let him.

That Manning, who finished the regular season with the second-most picks (17) in the league despite playing in just 10 games, didn't throw a single interception against Pittsburgh and New England in the playoffs is incredible. Manning has accomplished a lot in his legendary career. This is as impressive as anything. This takes his legacy to another level, regardless of what happens on Super Bowl Sunday.

2) People are saying the right things about Cam

I wrote after Championship Sunday that Cam Newton is the best player in the NFL and the face of the league. And the conversation about that topic became blazing hot. But I'm happy to say the ridiculous chatter about Newton's on-field celebrations died down as the week moved along. Consider what Falcons defensive back Desmond Trufant told us on CBS Sports Network: "If you have a problem with the dancing, stop him."

Perfectly said, Desmond.

3) John Elway, master architect

John Elway is a top-five all-time quarterback -- and he's currently a top-five NFL executive. That's pretty heady stuff.

Elway's former Broncos teammate and current ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth told me that he expected this, because Elway is a "grinder." I love that word choice.

The Denver general manager's fingerprints are all over this team, from the wooing of Peyton Manning in 2012 to the construction of a top-flight defense in the wake of the Broncos' loss in Super Bowl XLVIII. But the real stamp was having the guts to rightly part ways with former coach John Fox. The move to Gary Kubiak paid off ...

4) Props to Gary Kubiak for his QB whispering

... Not least in the way Kubiak handled the quarterback position this season, for which he deserves much credit. With his legendary starter unable to contribute, Kubiak turned to Brock Osweiler, and the Broncos proceeded to go 5-2 in his starts and secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC. If Denver hadn't locked down home-field advantage, this team wouldn't be in Super Bowl 50.

5) The Panthers' O-line gambles paid off

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I blasted the Panthers in the offseason for going with Michael Oher and Michael Remmers at left and right tackle, respectively. Nailed it! Or not.

Oher was cut by the worst team (Tennessee), and I thought Carolina was nuts to sign him. However, as NFL Network's Marshall Faulk explained, Oher being reunited with his old offensive line coach from Baltimore, current Panthers line coach John Matsko, was key. Remmers, meanwhile, was a Rams practice-squad player. Now, of course, they're mauling people, having physically dominated the previous NFC champs (the Seahawks) and what is, in my opinion, the most talented team in the NFL (the Cardinals). I expect Oher and Remmers to make an impact on Super Bowl Sunday.

6) An opposing RB sees a Carolina vulnerability

Personally, I think the Panthers' defensive line is underrated, and I love the matchup against the Denver offensive line. But Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin, who has seen Carolina a lot, wasn't exactly buying it. While raving about Luke Keuchly and the Carolina defense, Martin said, "You can run a bit on the Panthers' defensive line and find some holes." Martin racked up 106 rushing yards and a touchdown along with 37 receiving yards in a Week 4 loss to Carolina, but recorded just 48 yards on 15 carries in Week 17. Though the Panthers ranked fourth against the run in 2015, the free-agent-to-be predicted strong games from the Broncos' backs.

7) Meet Denver's other defensive monsters

Broncos defensive linemen Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe don't get the credit they deserve for being beasts, but they can disrupt the rhythm of an opposing offense. Jackson finished 2015 with five sacks and seven passes defensed, while Wolfe chipped in 5.5 sacks of his own. They're the perfect complements to the great pass-rushing duo of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.

8) There's more than one way to challenge a QB

NFL on CBS analyst Trent Green brilliantly explained to us why Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips can't use the same strategy on Newton that he did to such great effect on Tom Brady in the AFC title game, in which a historic plan and execution led to 17 hits landing on Brady.

Still, I think Cam will be tested by the best corner combo in the NFL in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.

9) Your next Super Bowl champions are ...

I think Super Bowl 50 is going to be epic, a fierce defensive battle. Ultimately, though, Carolina will be carried by Keuchly, and Cam will be dabbing on the postgame dais. The Panthers will win, 23-16.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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