We know that the Super Bowl 50 headlines are going to be made by quarterbacks Cam Newton and Peyton Manning. But who are the under-the-radar players to watch out for?
There will be words like ‘Superman’, ‘Gunslinger’ and ‘Hall of Fame’ thrown around like confetti on Sunday, but both players are going to need a great supporting cast if they are going to lift the Super Bowl 50 crown in San Francisco.
There’s no shortage of contenders for both Carolina and Denver, so we asked Alex Ferguson to come up with a Top 5 for both teams….
Von Miller – Miller owned Tom Brady at the AFC Championship Game, sacking him 2.5 times, grabbing an interception, and making five tackles. He was everywhere. The Broncos are going to need him everywhere if they are going to stop Cam Newton either dropping back or on the ground.
Aqib Talib – The talented cornerback will have his work cut out trying to stop either Greg Olsen or Tedd Ginn, but he’s one of the best cover corners in the business, and we expect him to do good things against Newton’s arm.
Demaryius Thomas – Thomas has not had a great season. But then again, no Denver wide receiver really has… because Manning’s play at times has been simply dreadful. He only had two catches against New England, but we anticipate more against Carolina. Or he’ll get used like a Larry Fitzgerald-type character to battle Josh Norman to draw coverage away for…
Emmanuel Sanders – Sanders’ five receptions for 62 yards included a straight-up screamer of a catch that had me on my sofa screaming. He’s going to have to do that against Norman, Kuechly & Co to give Denver a good chance.
Ronnie Hillman/CJ Anderson – You probably think I’m mad putting a running back in here….so I’ve put two. Why? Simple. Denver are going to have to control the clock to beat Carolina. The best way to do that is to have a good day at running back. Anderson and Hillman are very capable of having a few good runs – and easing the pressure on Manning.
Jonathan Stewart – This offence isn’t a ‘pass-first’ offence. It’s a run-first. Witness the fact that Stewart, Mike Tolbert and some guy called Newton ran for 2,282 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. Stewart led the team with 989 yards and six touchdowns on the floor. It gives the Panthers an edge that gives Denver something else to think about.
Greg Olsen – Outstanding pass catching tight end who had 77 receptions, 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season. When Kelvin Benjamin was injured before the season started, the onus was put on Olsen to perform. And my word, he did. Will be as happy to catch the short passes to move the chains as well as the bullets in the end-zone. Talib and Harris had better be on tip-top form stopping this one.
Luke Kuechly – One of the bets of this year’s Super Bowl should be for the ball-snaffling Kuechly to catch his third interception in three games. One of the best linebackers in the game (he had 118 tackles and four interceptions in regular season), he’s a nightmare for any offence.
Josh Norman – Made the headlines this year for his battle with Odell Beckham Jr (and was still making them at Media Day talking about it), but really, Norman’s a terrific corner who can snuff out the best. We think he’ll match up against Thomas.
Michael Oher – He’s the star of ‘The Blind Side’ and he’s gone from being an awful offensive lineman to a Super Bowl left tackle – thanks to Newton’s encouragement. If Denver can destroy his confidence early, then Newton is in more trouble than people expect.