Panthers ready to play this Super Bowl Sunday

This is a National Football League matchup that was just waiting to come alive.

On one side, you have the surging Carolina Panthers with only one loss to their name on the season. On the other side, you have a Denver Broncos team out to prove their Super Bowl worth.

Both teams have come a long way this season. The Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning, who some think could potentially be playing in his final season, just stampeded the New England Patriots in the American Football Conference Championship.

The Panthers have only one loss so far this season coming off of a dominating performance in the National Footall Conference  Championship over the Arizona Cardinals behind quarterback Cam Newton.

“I am not a Panthers or Broncos fan, but I do really like Peyton Manning,” said local football fan Jeremy Aufrance. “I think he plays the game the way it should be played.

“That being said, I guess I’ll pull for the Panthers. They have a vicious defense and an offense that can put up points.”

Newton and the Panthers have come a long way over the past couple of seasons. They started out as underestimated underdogs but now are at the level of proven contender.

Nevertheless, it is crystal clear to many that even though Newton and the Panthers have had the best year of their existence, the ultimate test is going to be against Manning and the Broncos. Now that Newton knows that he is going up against the man who he calls “The Sheriff,” can he step up to the challenge?

“Although I’m a bit biased, I think the Panthers will win, but it will be fairly close,” said Panthers fan Cary Gentry. “I believe the Panther’s offense is better than the Broncos, and the Panther’s D is on par with Denver’s.

“In addition, I think they will pressure non-mobile Peyton Manning and come out on top by a touchdown.”

Prior to Newton, the Panthers have made a Super Bowl appearance in 2003 where they lost to the Patriots. Since then people have felt they were watching a lost franchise even when Cam finally made his debut with the Panthers.

It was a common opinion at the beginning of his career.

However, the franchise grew in large part thanks to hires made by team owner Jerry Richardson, who hired current head coach and former Super Bowl XX winning linebacker Ron Rivera in 2011 and current General Manager Dave Gettleman in 2013.  Since 2013, the team has managed to clinch the NFC South Division each year, showing that they have the potential as Super Bowl contenders.

“I firmly believe the Panthers will win the Super Bowl,” said junior Austin Seibert in an email interview. “They have the better offensive line, they have the better running game and their defense has been playing outstanding in the postseason led by (linebacker) Luke Kuechly and (saftey) Kurt Coleman.

“Of course this year’s (Most Valuable Player) Cam Newton will have a big impact on the game, and I believe he will lead the Panthers to a Super Bowl 50 victory.”

Will the Broncos ride to what many think would be an upset victory, or will they wind up being left in the dust like many Panthers opponents were this year as they claim their first Super Bowl in franchise history? Is it the year of the Bronco or the year of the Panther?

While many are pulling for the hometown Panthers, there are still some hoping for a Broncos victory.

“Although I think the Panthers were doing very well, I’m afraid I’m going to have to pull for the Broncos,” said Assistant Professor of Education Studies Anna Pennell.

Tune in to CBS at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7 to learn the outcome.