On Feb. 7, 2016, the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers will take the field in Santa Clara, California, with each side hoping to be bathed in champagne by the end of the night.
Coined the “Golden Super Bowl,” Super Bowl 50 already has a few easily identifiable storylines that’ll smatter the headlines in the days before kickoff. Can the experience of the Broncos counteract the youth of the Panthers? What tricks does the aging Peyton Manning have up his sleeve as he tries to keep up with the ever-electric, uber-athletic Cam Newton?
While no one knows exactly how the dominos will fall until the clubs play their first down in two weeks' time, what we do know is that Super Bowl 50 will be incredibly unique, no matter who comes out on top. Even down to its name -- the NFL nixed the game's typical Roman numerals in honor of its semicentennial anniversary -- this year’s iteration of the championship bout has some of the most eyebrow-raising footnotes in recent memory.
So as we all wait for next month's pregame coin toss, here are 17 tidbits that show just how truly special this year’s matchup is.
1. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is currently tied in first with Brett Favre for career quarterback wins (199). If this ends up being Manning’s final year in the NFL, a Super Bowl win would just put him over the top.
2. This will be the only time in NFL history that the game’s two starting quarterbacks were the No. 1 picks in their respective drafts.
3. Eighteen-year vet Manning is the first signal caller ever to lead multiple franchises to the ’ship multiple times.
4. Newton is 26. Manning is 39. That’s the greatest quarterback age difference in Super Bowl history.
5. Super Bowl 50 marks the first time that a given draft's first two picks will go head to head in the February Classic (Cam Newton and Von Miller, 2011).
6. Both the Panthers’ Ron Rivera and the Broncos’ Gary Kubiak dethroned the same guy -- John Fox -- to earn their respective head coaching positions.
7. While Carolina went 15-1 in the regular season, just two of the six past clubs that notched at least 15 pre-playoffs victories went on to win the title: the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the 1985 Chicago Bears.
8. On Feb. 7, Denver’s Kubiak will become the only NFLer to have played and coached for the same squad in the Super Bowl.
9. If the MVP race goes as expected and the Panthers claim the title, Newton will become the first signal caller in history to have brought home the Heisman, National Championship, NFL MVP and Super Bowl trophies.
10. Carolina has a chance to go 18-1 this year. Only a few teams in NFL history have done so, and Panthers coach Ron Rivera just happened to be on one of those clubs (the 1985 Chicago Bears).
11. If we include the postseason, the Panthers currently have a .500 all-time record (175-175-1). If they do manage to win it all this year, the Santa Clara victory would bump the franchise up to a winning record for the first time since 1998.
12. When the team steps on the field in February, Carolina will be the first NFC South franchise ever to play in more than one Super Bowl.
13. Assuming that he does indeed start next month, Manning will have had the bleakest regular-season TD/INT ratio (nine touchdowns, 17 interceptions) of any starting signal caller since the 1970’s. Vince Ferragamo of Super Bowl XIV beat him out, having tallied just five touchdowns to his 10 interceptions back in 1979.
14. Manning’s 9:17 marker does, however, match the second-worst TD/INT ratio in league history. While trailing Ferragamo, his 0.53 matches Bart Starr’s dismal stat from the 1967 regular season.
15. Newton -- known as a dual-threat quarterback -- will be the first QB ever to enter the Super Bowl having tallied two rushing touchdowns and over 300 passing yards in a single game. Newton pulled off the feat in Sunday's NFC Championship game.
16. Ronald Reagan was president -- and Cam Newton wasn't yet born -- the last time a Heisman-winning signal caller played in the Super Bowl. It was January 1984 and Jim Plunkett was competing in Super Bowl XVIII.
17. After going 7-8-1 in 2014, Carolina is the first team in 12 years to clinch a Super Bowl berth just one season after putting up a sub-.500 record. The last squad to do so? The Panthers in 2003.
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