Why we stand a chance

For lack of a better title, I couldn’t help but immediately get reminded of Super Bowl 48, which I’ll try to avoid talking about for my sake of sanity: You have an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object again. Only this time, the Broncos are the immovable object and the Panthers are the unstoppable force.

In 2013, the Broncos offense averaged just over 39 points per game in the regular season. The 2015 Carolina Panthers offense averaged just over 31 points per game in the regular season, with their last 5 games averaging close to 37 points ignoring the 13-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. For comparison’s sake, the 2013 Seattle Seahawks averaged 26 points per game and the 2015 Broncos averaged 22 points per game.

Meanwhile on defense, the 2013 Broncos allowed 25 points per game while the 2015 Panthers allowed 20 points per game. The 2013 Seahawks allowed 14 points per game and the 2015 Broncos allowed 18 points per game.

In case I lost anyone, here’s a breakdown of differentials:

Team Offense Defense Difference
2015 Broncos 22 18 4
2015 Panthers 31 20 11
2013 Broncos 39 25 14
2013 Seahawks 26 14 12

We can talk about statistics all we want, but they don’t cover the entire story. Sure, the differential between average points per game and average points per game allowed are different, but how many playoff caliber teams did the Broncos play verses the Panthers? Let’s put this in perspective:

Top 10 defenses for 2015 based on points per game include: Seattle, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Denver, Minnesota, Carolina, Arizona, Houston, New York Jets, and New England. The Broncos played Cincinnati, Kansas City (2x), Minnesota, and New England. These games averaged 23.4 points for Denver. Who was 11th and 12th, then? Pittsburgh and Green Bay – also on the Broncos schedule.

The Panthers only faced Houston and Seattle. In those games, the Panthers scored 24 and 27, less than their average points per game (31). We’re all well-aware of what the scores were during the playoffs, but both Seattle and Arizona undoubtedly appeared off their game until the second half. Barring we face the same fate as they do and start off strong, we have an opportunity to win.

What we can’t deny is the powerhouse that is New England and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams were 3rd and 4th in points per game, respectively. If we want to list the top 10 offenses of this year by average points per game, we have: Carolina, Arizona, New England, Pittsburgh, Seattle, New York Giants, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Kansas City, and Washington.

The Panthers have faced New Orleans (2x), Seattle, Washington, and New York Giants and scored an average of 25.5 points per game against these teams. The Broncos faced New England, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Kansas City (2x) for an average of 25.6 points per game. Both teams are evenly matched when facing an offensive power in the regular season.

Now that we’ve outlined the opposing teams to similar teams faced, let’s recalculate the differential:

Team Offense Defense Differential
Broncos 23.4 25.6 -2.2
Panthers 25.5 26.8 -1.3

Strangely enough, the numbers appear much closer with the Panthers having a little edge. The Panthers haven’t faced a defensive line remotely close to as dominant as the Broncos nor have the Broncos faced a quarterback as quick as Cam Newton. Ultimately, the game will come down to these keys:

  • Make the Panthers one-dimensional like we did against New England. If we can stop the run, the Panthers will be forced to throw every down. When you face the top defense on passing plays, bad things happen (see 2 INT’s verses Patriots).
  • Contain Cam Newton. Super man is fast and can run if he doesn’t see any receivers open. The defensive line will need to get to him as fast as we got to Tom Brady and possibly have a spy on him the entire game.
  • Establish the running game. The Broncos couldn’t get many yards against New England, but persistence prevailed as CJ Anderson had a large run yet again when we needed it.
  • Finish in the redzone – the ongoing issue of all season.

One more thing before I conclude this. SportingCharts.com has a comparison of the two teams. Look closely at the passing yards per game for the two teams keeping in mind the quarterbacks both the Broncos and Panthers have faced:

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We have Peyton Manning, who has nearly returned back to his formal self after an abysmal start to the season, and is known to dissect defenses. We stand a chance.