The quarterback matchup in Super Bowl 50 perfectly embodies this group of words: past, present and future. All will be on display in Santa Clara for us to enjoy and make some NFL picks.
Until then, we have the opportunity to break down every facet of the game, including Denver's choice as the 'home' team to wear white uniforms, having lost four times in their regular orange or blue togs.
Besides the best offense vs. best defense angle, nothing will be more discussed than the two quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton.
Manning turns 40 in a couple months and looks the part of an aging superstar who is getting by on guile, intelligence and the remaining talent in the tank. Though Manning talked about returning next season when injured, he reportedly told Bill Belichick after defeating New England, "this might be my last rodeo."
This is not the case for Newton, who has risen up the ranks to be an elite quarterback and likely MVP this season and at 26 in his fifth season, has harnessed his immense and diverse abilities into complete package.
With one QB guaranteed a spot in the Hall of Fame and the other trying to reach those lofty heights, they collide in the present in a very unique duel.
What Cam Newton Brings To Super Bowl 50
Last year, when Carolina was 3-8-1, there were faint whispers Cam Newton was headed on the same career path as RG3, a running quarterback with so-so mechanics, not really built for the rigors of the NFL. However, Newton lead his team to five consecutive victories before falling at Seattle in an Elite 8 encounter.
Though nothing has ever been specifically reported, the super-sized quarterback went to work on improving his game and it has been on display all year, leading Carolina to 17-1 record. The two most noticeable differences to scouts and sharp bettors making NFL picks is his improvement in passing mechanics and pre-snap reads.
Newton is never going to be Aaron Rodgers, with a high completion percentage and his 59.8 percent and 7.75 yards per pass attempt were merely the third-best numbers of his career. However, those hardly tell the story. Newton was more accurate on slant routes, throws in the seam and outside the numbers than at any point of his career, especially when it mattered. It is well known other the TE Greg Olson, not exactly an elite receiving group for the Panthers. He accomplished this with better understanding of defenses, looking off receivers, which allowed them to get open just a little more. This plus outstanding running ability made Newton the NFL's best quarterback this season.
What Peyton Manning Brings To Super Bowl 50
One of the most talked about aspects will be John Elway bringing in Manning and having him go out a winner like he did. They are called 'fairy tales' for a reason, but on occasion they do happen.
Since returning from injury, Manning has been 'cog in the wheel', something he appeared to resist in the first half of the year. You can throw out "The Sheriff's" stats this season, because they are not very good. Though Manning no longer has the same skill set of his younger days, he's a better quarterback today than what he was a couple months ago.
It starts with accepting role and not having to do everything. Since returning, he protects the ball better and though he's seen every defense imaginable, his decision-making has been more decisive and seemingly with greater clarity. The time off with foot injury allowed him to build arm strength and get back to normal mechanics and his passes have less wobble and a few more MPH than previously. Manning has to be very astute and accurate for Denver to engineer upset, but for one day, that is quite possible.
Why Newton or Manning Fail
With how the Broncos pass rush, keeping passers in the pocket, Newton could get jumpy. In the past when this happens, he tends to go back to old ways and passing stance widens and throws just with his arm, which drops velocity and accuracy, which could lead to interceptions.
Carolina can also bring the heat on Manning. The Panthers have a lot of speed and if their front four alone or occasional other pass rusher can get Manning's feet moving, he no longer has the arm strength to drive the ball into tight windows and nobody closes better on below average throws than the Carolina back seven.
What Does This All Mean?
When looking at the NFL odds of Carolina favored by five, a rather convincing case can be made, three of those points in the Panthers favor are in direct correlation to the quarterback position. Will this be the ultimate difference in the game? We will find out on February 7th.