DAN SALOMONE: Fact - As our fearless leader and head of Giants Entertainment Don Sperling likes to point out, our first-hand accounts as infants really carry a lot of weight when talking about the 1986 and 1990 Giants. So it’s only going to add more fuel to his fire when we all go with “fact” for this one. But look, Tuck is the only player in NFL history with multiple sacks in multiple Super Bowls.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Justin Tuck didn’t have one impressive performance in the Super Bowl, he had two. In Super Bowl 42, he collected six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the first half alone and his encore performance in Super Bowl 46 was just as impactful as he sacked Tom Brady two times again, among his three tackles, and also helped forced a safety in the first quarter after he hit Brady while he was in the end zone, leading to an intentional grounding penalty. The Giants defensive line as a whole deserves a lot of credit for the team knocking off the Patriots twice but if you were to pick one player in particular to separate from the group, there’s no question it would be Justin Tuck. His four sacks are second to Charles Haley (4.5) for most career sacks in the Super Bowl. To put that in perspective, it took Haley five games to collect 4.5 sacks, Tuck nearly accomplished that feat in just two contests. The bigger the stage, the bigger Tuck’s play/production. There are other notable Giants defensive performances in Super Bowl history but none that top Tuck’s consistency.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - Super Bowl XXI. Phil Simms. 22-25, 268 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions. One of the best performances in Super Bowl history by any player on any team. This requires no further explanation.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - This was Eli Manning’s stat line in Super Bowl 46: He completed 30 of his 40 pass attempts for 296 yards and a touchdown. It was a solid performance and he helped orchestrate yet another late game rally against the Patriots. With that being said, Phil Simms’ offensive clinic in Super Bowl 21 was as close to perfection as you’ll get. He set a Super Bowl record by completing 22 of his 25 pass attempts, including ten in a row in the second-half, for 268 yards and three touchdowns, ran for 25 yards and orchestrated five scoring drives in the second-half out of six possessions. The Giants scored 24 unanswered points during one stretch and put up a Super Bowl record 30 second-half points. Manning won two Super Bowl MVP trophies at the expense of the Patriots but Simms’ performance is arguably the greatest Super Bowl MVP performance of all-time.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - The Broncos weren’t supposed to beat the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game either, but they found a way. Like the Patriots, the Panthers have a more complete and balanced team than the Broncos in terms of offensive and defensive balance. Cam Newton, despite not having elite skill position players around him, has led the top scoring offense this year. The Panthers defense brings pressure and forces a lot of turnovers. The Broncos offense has trouble scoring. There’s no getting around that.
Maybe I’m in love with the fairy tale ending, or I just want Peyton Manning to go out on a high note. I don’t know. What I do know is that my gut tells me the Broncos are going to find a way to win this game. The defense will have to hold the Panthers to under 24 points. The Broncos will probably have to score a defensive or special teams touchdown, or at the very least have some short fields. They HAVE to win the turnover battle. I think the Denver pass rush gets to Newton and I don’t think the secondary allows the Panthers receivers to get free. Give me the Broncos and the Sheriff riding off into the sunset.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - The Panthers remind me a lot of the 2014 Seattle Seahawks, who coincidentally beat up the Broncos in Super Bowl 48 43-8. Both Carolina and Seattle showcase mobile, versatile quarterbacks, strong running games, opportunistic defenses who have a knack for getting to the quarterback and game changing special teams. If you were to compare the three facets of the Panthers and Broncos, I’d give the edge to Carolina in offense and special teams and, to me, the defenses are essentially a wash. The Panthers had the number one scoring offense in the regular season (avg 31.2 pts) and it hasn’t slowed down in the postseason regardless of the caliber of the opposing defense.
Seattle was number one in scoring defense (allowed 17.3 pts) this season and Arizona tied for seventh (surrendered 19.6) yet Carolina scored 31 and 49 points respectively against both teams, clearly much higher than the season averages. The Broncos defense is very aggressive and was first in total defense and fourth in points allowed this season. Despite the impressive resume, if Carolina could solve two defenses in the top ten in the league then why would they have major problems with another one in that ballpark. On offense, Denver has struggled to run the ball consistently throughout the season and especially in the playoffs. The Broncos are going need to get that ground game going not just to provide balance on offense but to also slow down the Panthers pass rush which has eight sacks in two postseason games. This game could come down to Peyton Manning’s arm and, if that’s the case, I think it plays right into the hands of the Panthers defense which has nine takeaways and two touchdowns in the last two games combined.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - If the Panthers win, the MVP will be Cam Newton. Since I’m picking the Broncos, I’m going a different direction. Peyton Manning will be fine in this game, but his biggest job will be to protect the football and avoid the type of mistakes that give the Panthers easy points. I’m going with DeMarcus Ware. A future Hall of Famer, a great player and guy off field, is getting his first chance at a Super Bowl. Despite the fact he had some issues playing the zone-read against RG3 a few years ago, I think he has a monster game. Ware has the size and power to bring Newton down, and I could see him forcing a turnover or two in the game.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - Seven of the last nine Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks, three of which have the last name Manning. When Peyton Manning is playing in this game and he isn’t even the frontrunner for the league MVP -- Cam Newton is -- it’s more than a safe bet to go with a quarterback on this one.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Since I’m picking the Panthers to win the game I think, just like we saw two years ago at MetLife Stadium with Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith, a defensive player is going to win Super Bowl MVP and I’d lean toward Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, who is on a tear this postseason. He’s led the Panthers in tackles in each of their last two games, has returned an interception for a score in each of the last two contests and is arguably the most versatile linebacker in the game. Peyton Manning and the Broncos are going to have to keep close eyes on him throughout Super Bowl 50 or else he’ll have another monster performance highlighted by hardware.