If you’re among those who seem bothered by the enthusiasm and choreography of Cam Newton’s on-field expressions of joy, you better keep your remote control handy.
I think you’re going to see a lot of them by the time the confetti flies at Super Bowl 50.
With all the respect due to Peyton Manning’s historic career, and Denver’s outstanding defense, the Newton-led Carolina Panthers will win — perhaps even in a runaway.
Any number of statistics support Carolina’s consideration as a moderate favorite (5.5 points), not the least of which was the Panthers’ imposing 15-1 record of consistent excellence in the regular season.
But I don’t have to look back further than the Jan. 17 game against the Seahawks for a stunning example of the Panthers’ ability to dominate a game. Carolina needed only until the middle of the second quarter to take a 31-0 lead over the two-time defending NFC champs.
Seattle fought back with 24 points in the second half, but that first-half avalanche against one of the best defenses in the modern NFL era seemed proof that the Panthers could handle anybody in the league.
Further evidence arose the following week in the 49-15 win over Arizona in the conference championship game.
That’s an average of 40 points in two playoff games against top-5 defenses. Denver’s defense is really good. So maybe it can hold the Panthers to 30.
Newton will be the most compelling player in the game. He’s no longer just a physical force, but a full-service quarterback. He’s not just powerful, but willful, too, a fiercely competitive leader.
Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will construct a defense to challenge him. But Newton may be at the point where he’s just impervious to scheming. Stop the run, he’ll pass; stop the pass, he’ll run. You can pick your poison, but it’s lethal in either form.
The blueprints for wins over Seattle and Arizona should remain valid against the Broncos.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson had a great season (34 touchdowns, eight interceptions), which was much better than Manning’s ( nine TDs, 17 INTs). But the Panthers forced Wilson into two interceptions.
Arizona’s Carson Palmer had a great season (35 TDs, 11 INTs), much better than Manning’s. But the Panthers intercepted Palmer four times.
In the meantime, Newton completed 35 of 50 (70 percent) against Seattle and Arizona while being sacked just once in each game.
It’s hard to imagine, then, that Manning will be immune to the problems caused by the Panthers defense.
The Denver defense, ranked No. 1 in total yards this season, is vastly superior to the one involved in the 43-8 defeat to Seattle in Super Bowl 48.
But Manning? He was coming off a statistically stunning season in 2013, with 55 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions. That was the team whose offense barely registered against the Seahawks.
The Carolina defense of this season, with a plus-20 turnover ratio, matched the margin of the Seahawks unit that stymied Manning the last time.
If big games are about maintaining tight custody of the football, consider that the Broncos were minus-4 this season.
Manning will be made more vulnerable if Carolina gets off to what has become a customary rocket-like start. The Panthers outscored Seattle and Arizona by a combined 55-7 in the first halves of their last two games.
Grabbing an early lead will force Manning to pass, and allow the Panthers to focus solely on getting after him.
It’s foolish to ignore the possibility that Manning, as one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in history, can somehow summon a last gasp of greatness, and his teammates will be suitably inspired to pull off the upset.
That would be a terrific story. And a fitting reward for a spectacular career.
But it’s far more likely that the Panthers simply will do what they do, be who they are, and run away with it just like they have in recent weeks.
Panthers 30, Broncos 17.