Denver has a good defense, but not great, and certainly not good enough to stop Carolina quarterback Cam Newton in the 50th Super Bowl, at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., in two weeks.
The Broncos played well Sunday and it was a great pleasure watching them tear into the carcass of New England quarterback Tom Brady. Almost as much fun was seeing Denver's defensive backs, mainly safety Darian Stewart, light up those little munchkin receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola after short receptions.
But Newton brings an added dimension to the quarterback position. There have been signal-callers — like Steve Young, Fran Tarkenton and Steve McNair — who ran out of necessity, and others, like Seattle's Russell Wilson, who took it further with some designed runs.
Newton, however, is a threat as both a passer and runner, and unlike the others, he just doesn't give a damn who he has to fly over to win the championship.
There used to be a theory in the NFL that a quarterback could only win a Super Bowl from the pocket. It became even more popular because it was an excuse for some NFL executives not to sign African-American quarterbacks. But Wilson changed that and Newton might become the prototype.
It will be hard to find another one with his size (listed at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds), agility and speed, but the template is out there. The only obstacle for Newton is Newton. Hopefully, he doesn't implode before the sport's biggest game.
The endorsements are well earned after turning in a Most Value Player-type season in 2015. The Superman pose and the extra dabbing after touchdowns are no concerns, either, but the towel-waving, mugging and team photo before the NFL championship game had ended gets excessive.
It's going to be interesting to see how he handles the Big Game. There will be some who will point out that he has been in the spotlight before, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2010 and the national championship game with Auburn on Jan. 10, 2011.
The Super Bowl is different. This one NFL game is on the world's stage, and now the new guard, Newton, has to challenge the old guard, Peyton Manning, aka, The Sheriff.
Barring an injury to Newton or him succumbing to pressure, Denver won't win.
The Broncos had the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense during the regular season, allowing 83.5 rushing and 221.1 passing yards per game, and they also registered 52 sacks. They beat some of the league's top quarterbacks this season in Brady (twice), Philip Rivers (twice), Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger.
But five of those six wins were in Denver, where all visiting teams struggle with the altitude. Plus none of those quarterbacks, with the exception of Rodgers, moves like Newton, who can throw from the pocket or on the run. He puts pressure on a team's run defense, especially on the perimeter.
And when Newton turns the corner, he goes into beast mode because the smaller defensive backs want no piece of him. On a third-and-9 Sunday, late in the third quarter against Arizona, Newton ran an option to the right. He outran a cornerback to the outside and then ran over the safety for a first down. On the next play, Newton ran a powerhouse sweep escorted into the end zone by two running backs for a 12-yard touchdown.
That's just too much. During the regular season, Newton rushed for 638 yards, passed for 3,837 and accounted for 45 touchdowns (passing and rushing combined). The Broncos have two outstanding pass rushers in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, and Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe can get pressure, too, but Carolina's offensive line is better than New England's.
The Broncos hit Brady 20 times Sunday. Carolina gave up just 33 sacks during the regular season.
The Panthers also play strong defense. They had four interceptions and forced three fumbles against Arizona. They shut down one of the best receiving corps in the league, led by Larry Fitzgerald.
The Panthers will be a problem for Manning, who is just a game manager now. Even though Denver held New England to only 18 points on 14 possessions, the Patriots still had a chance to win at the last second because the Broncos offense stalled.
It wouldn't be a bad ending if Denver and Manning won. That's a great story. It's nice to see heroes ride off with a championship like John Elway and Ray Lewis.
But Newton is entering his prime. The new wave of quarterbacks has arrived: just faster, stronger and bigger. And they aren't afraid to run around or over people.