By Flint Wheeler

The NFC champion Carolina Panthers will face the AFC champion Denver Broncos on football’s biggest stage after defeating the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots, respectively, in their conference championship games Sunday. Carolina dismantled the Cardinals in every phase of the game, and the Broncos took down New England in a close finish.

In the NFC Championship Game, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and also rushed for 47 yards and two more scores. He set an NFL record as the first player to pass for 300 yards and rush for two scores in the same postseason game.

In the AFC, the Broncos’ defense outlasted New England quarterback Tom Brady, who despite being hit a season-high 20 times managed to pull within a two-point conversion of tying the game and sending it to overtime before Denver cornerback Aqib Talib broke up the final pass to Julian Edelman.

Super Bowl 50 will take place Sunday, February 7, at Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, in Santa Clara, CA.

Carolina has the game’s biggest offensive weapon in quarterback Cam Newton, but Denver will counter with arguably the best defender in the contest, linebacker Von Miller.

Cam Newton… Von Miller… where have we heard those names paired before? Oh, yeah, the 2011 NFL draft, when they were the first two picks, in that order. Few drafts have begun with that kind of 1-2 punch, but the 2011 edition went much deeper than that, with the first round positively littered with studs Let’s take a look back, shall we?

  1. Panthers: Cam Newton (QB, Auburn)
  2. Broncos: Von Miller (LB, Texas A&M)

Cam Newton threw for two touchdowns and ran for two others, and Carolina’s big-play defense stifled Arizona’s top-ranked offense in a 49-15 romp Sunday for the NFC championship.

The NFL’s new top man at quarterback — Newton is an All-Pro this season — will lead the Panthers against five-time MVP Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl in two weeks.

It will be the first Super Bowl for Newton and the second trip to the big game for the Panthers (17-1), who lost to New England 12 years ago. Denver, of course, has made a habit of going to Super Bowls, reaching it for a record-tying eighth time.

Carolina’s D was destructive. It forced six turnovers by Carson Palmer — special teams got one — as the Cardinals (13-4) allowed their most points this season.

Earlier in the day the Denver Broncos beat the Patriots 20-18 in a thriller that nearly went the other way at the last second.

With less than 90 seconds on the clock, Brady connected with All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski on a deep downfield throw that later set up a touchdown between the two. However, it was all for nothing, as Brady’s attempt at a two-point conversion was bobbled and eventually intercepted with about 12 seconds left on the clock.

New England had to go for 2 after Brady’s 4-yard touchdown to Gronkowski because Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point in the first quarter, snapping a string of 523 straight makes.

Vegas has the opening line at Panthers -4.5. However, as I am writing this I see it going to -5. Panther money is coming in fast and heavy. My pick – Panthers win going away. 32-17.