Thirty teams have finished their seasons, and there’s only one game remaining: Super Bowl 50. David Newton and Jeff Legwold look ahead to what Tuesday has in store for the Panthers and Broncos.
Storyline to watch: Ball control. Denver cornerback Aqib Talib said the key to stopping Carolina is stopping the run. Then he was reminded how hard it is to stop quarterback Cam Newton. Talib just as easily could have said getting off the field was key. Carolina averaged 32:02 minutes of possession during the regular season and upped that to 36:08 in the playoffs. In their one loss, the Panthers held the ball a season-low 24:22. A big part of Carolina’s dominance with time of possession is because it has the second-best run offense in the NFL. Talib was right. Denver has to stop that.
Injuries to monitor: Outside linebacker Thomas Davis practiced for the first time on Monday with a protective device over the right forearm that he broke in the NFC Championship Game. He said he will go with that protection unless the trainers come up with a better solution. He didn’t seem concerned, but it will be interesting to watch through the week whether soreness develops as Davis gets in more work.
Stat of the day: More than a dozen. That’s how many times Newton was asked to dab during Monday night’s media session. He dabbed exactly once, and it was a halfhearted attempt. If Newton dabs at least three times celebrating touchdowns on Sunday, the Panthers will have a good chance to win. — David Newton
Storyline to watch: Quarterback Peyton Manning said at Monday’s media night that the seven starts he missed because of a left foot injury may have actually rested his arm, as well. Manning said his arm feels good as the Broncos prepare for the Super Bowl, and his teammates said he’s throwing better than he has since training camp. And Panthers cornerback Josh Norman said he believes defenses make the mistake of underestimating Manning’s arm strength these days but that he won’t. “Especially early in the game, he’ll take a shot,” Norman said.
Injuries to monitor: The Broncos had a short workout at Stanford — their practice home for the week — and their only real major injury issue continues to be at safety. But T.J. Ward said on Monday night he expects to play, and the Broncos continue to have some optimism that Darian Stewart‘s right knee injury will improve through the week, as well. The Broncos did have a minor bus accident on the way back from Monday’s practice, but there were no injuries.
Stat of the day: Manning has consistently talked about his patience as he has returned from his injury. Nothing may be a better indicator of that than the fact he has not thrown an interception in his past 9 Â½ quarters of work since he entered the regular-season finale with just over eight minutes remaining in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Panthers led the league in turnover margin this season at plus-20 and led the league in interceptions with 24. — Jeff Legwold