Super Bowl 50: A look at Denver's pros and cons

So no pressure then! Peyton Manning´s performance will have a big say in who wins
So, no pressure then! Peyton Manning´s performance will have a big say in who wins

Denver are underdogs to win Sunday's Super Bowl, but can they defy the odds to take the trophy? Neil Harvey weighs up the pros and cons of backing the Broncos...

"In the regular season, no team gave up fewer yards per pass than Denver. No team conceded fewer yards per rush. Quite simply, nobody did it better."

Overview

They've been highly praised for their defensive play and criticised in equal measure on offense. If Denver play at their best, many believe they'll win this year's Super Bowl. A poor showing though and some are arguing this could turn into a rout. So which Denver Broncos side will turn up on Sunday?


Strengths

1) Stopping their Opponents

As Carly Simon sang in The Spy Who Loved Me - 'Nobody Does It Better' - and at times it really did 'make me feel sad for the rest'. Denver's defense has been so good this season. It´s truly been a joy to watch.

To choose just a couple of examples, when Cliff Thorburn clinched the World Snooker crown, and when George Graham's Arsenal won the league in 1991, they proved that defense alone CAN win major titles. In the NFL regular season, no team gave up fewer yards per pass than Denver. No team conceded fewer yards per rush. Quite simply, nobody did it better.

2) Sacking the Quarterback

Denver's pass rushers are reminiscent of the zombies from 28 Days Later - they're fast and aggressive, and you know that if they catch you, things are going to end badly.

Outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller have become household names and they helped the Broncos to a league-leading 52 sacks during the regular season. And absolutely nobody is safe. Denver caught the great Tom Brady in possession four times during their Conference title game, for a combined loss of -18 yards.

3) Peyton Manning

One of the finest players to ever pick up a ball, Peyton is regarded as one of the best game managers of all time. The Denver offense is far from fantastic, and yet it continues to prove greater than the sum of its parts.

And that's largely down to Manning. Now playing in his 17th NFL season, there's just no substitute for Peyton's vast wealth of experience, which frequently helps spot an opposing blitz, make the defense jump offside, and enables him to switch play-calls at the line of scrimmage. Like a player and coach rolled into one, Manning leads from the front and is the oil that greases the squeaky Denver offense.


Weaknesses

1) Peyton Manning

And herein lies the rub. While he's still brilliant at steering the ship, Peyton's abilities to propel it forward at speed are waning. His arm strength is no longer what it was and when he tries to force the ball deep, the accuracy is not the same. As a result, Manning's had to adapt, and now focuses more on looking for short to mid-range passes.

Peyton can still hurt the opposition, but it now takes longer to do so. And if he fails to offer a deep ball threat, it will allow Carolina's defense to shrink the field. So as much a strength as he is a liability, the performance of Peyton Manning will have a major say in who wins Super Bowl 50.

2) The offensive line

Another concern for Manning is a lack of protection. Denver's O-line lacks experience and has been forced into reshuffles, making consistency difficult. As a result, Manning and Brock Osweiler were hit a combined 97 times during the regular season. That´s more than 50 per cent higher than the number of hits taken by Cam Newton.

The Caroline pass rush will be gunning for Manning, and he lacks the mobility to get away from them. So Denver's QB will stand tall in the pocket and try get the ball out fast. Just exactly how much time his offensive line afford him, will be crucial.

3) Turnovers

Ok, bear with me, because this one is relative. But when you have the number one standout defense in the league, you really expect it to be coming up with plenty of turnovers. And yet Denver's differential for the regular season was a poor -4.

History shows us that turnovers are crucial. Only four times has the team giving up the most turnovers in a Super Bowl gone on to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy. And with New England having narrowly achieved that rare feat last year, an immediate repeat looks highly unlikely. The Broncos won the turnover battle in their two play-off games though and will need to raise their game once again on Sunday if they´re to take the title.

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