Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos (Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS) -- This marks the third consecutive season in which the No. 1 playoff seeds in each conference advanced to the Super Bowl. This is noteworthy, because this is the first time that's happened since the NFL started naming "top" playoff seeds back in 1975.
This is also just the second Super Bowl ever to pit the No. 1 scoring offense (Panthers at 31.3 points per game) against the No. 1 defense (Broncos, 283.1 yards per game). The last time this happened, it didn't turn out so well for the No. 1 scoring offense. In Super Bowl XLVIII, the Seattle Seahawks' No. 1-rated defense manhandled the Broncos' No. 1-rated offense in a 43-8 dump trucking.
Peyton Manning was on the wrong end of that Super Bowl bashing, and returns to the game's grandest stage for what might be his final NFL game. Manning -- who took the Indianapolis Colts to two Super Bowls, winning one -- is the first quarterback to take multiple teams to the Super Bowl multiple times. He would be the first to win a Super Bowl with two different franchises. Kurt Warner won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams, returned to the Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals, but was defeated. Craig Morton took the Dallas Cowboys to their first Super Bowl, and then took the Denver Broncos to their first Super Bowl, but lost both times.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, like Manning, was a No. 1 overall selection in the NFL draft. This also marks a Super Bowl first, with two former No. 1 overall draft pick quarterbacks facing off. Newton and Manning represent the fifth Super Bowl matchup pitting starting quarterbacks from the same college conference. Newton went to Auburn, Manning went to Tennessee, and both schools are in the SEC. This is the third time in Super Bowl history two quarterbacks from the SEC squared off ... the others being Super Bowl XI: Ken Stabler (Alabama) vs. Fran Tarkenton (Georgia); Super Bowl XLI: Peyton Manning (Tennessee) vs. Rex Grossman (Florida). This is the first time that starting quarterbacks from the same conference squared off in consecutive Super Bowls (Super Bowl XLIX, Tom Brady of Michigan vs. Russell Wilson of Wisconsin).
That is about where the similarities end with the two SB50 quarterbacks. Newton was 9 years old when Manning made his NFL debut back in 1998. Manning is 13 years and 48 days older than Newton, who appears to be entering the prime of his career. Newton has an added element to his game, which is the scramble. This season, Newton broke Manning's record for most combined pass and rush yards in a player's first five NFL seasons. From 1998-2002, Manning compiled 21,174 combined pass and rush yards. Newton surpassed that in 2015, finishing with 21,470 yards. Newton's ability to run helped him pass Manning's record. Newton had 636 rush yards this season, which is only 31 yards fewer than Manning has had in his entire 18-year NFL career (667).
One for the history books
Newton is aiming to become the first quarterback in NFL history to win a college national championship, Heisman Trophy, Super Bowl and NFL MVP Award. He can also become just the second player in NFL history to win a college national championship, Heisman Trophy, Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP award and NFL MVP Award. Marcus Allen won the Heisman Trophy in 1981, was on USC's national-title team of 1978, won Super Bowl XVIII with the Los Angeles Raiders and was the game's MVP, and then went on to win the NFL MVP award in 1985.
Great Moments in Air & Ground History
Broncos 36, Panthers 14 (Week 10 of the 2012 season) -- Manning and Newton have squared off just once before, and it happened three seasons ago in Denver. En route to a 13-3 finish that season, the Broncos easily dispatch the Panthers as Newton was sacked seven times -- including once for a safety -- and also threw a pick six. Broncos pass rusher Von Miller was a pest all game long, registering a sack, after which he mocked Newton's touchdown celebrations.
Manning, meanwhile, threw for 301 yards and a touchdown. It was Manning's first season in Denver after 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Manning led the Broncos to the AFC West crown and home-field advantage in the playoffs. However, the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Broncos, 38-35 in a double-overtime divisional playoff thriller. So, it was the Ravens, and not the Broncos, that would go to to Super Bowl glory that season.