50th Super Bowl: Manning's Broncos face Newton's Panthers

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Peyton Manning Reflects on Special Season

Peyton Manning is the only five-time MVP in NFL history, one of the faces of the league and, at 39, the oldest starting quarterback to lead a team to the Super Bowl.

Slowed by age and injury, he is no longer the record-breaking passer he once was. Most folks figure Manning's fourth Super Sunday appearance will be his last game as a pro.

Cam Newton is at the opposite end of his career, just 26, making his debut in the big game. He also is expected to earn MVP honors for the first time, part of a new breed of dual-threat QBs as good at running as they are at throwing.

SEE MORE: Newton, Panthers rout Cardinals for NFC title

For the next two weeks, until Manning's AFC champion Denver Broncos (14-4) play Newton's NFC champion Carolina Panthers (17-1) for the Lombardi Trophy in Santa Clara, California, on Feb. 7, most of the focus will be on the two quarterbacks who were No. 1 overall draft picks 13 years apart.

"Oh, wow," said Newton, whose Panthers opened as 4-point favorites with most bookmakers. "Playing 'The Sheriff.'"

That is a reference to Manning, who is 1-2 in past Super Bowls. He won a championship with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, lost with the Colts in 2010, and lost again with the Broncos in 2014.

SEE MORE: Manning, Broncos squeeze by Patriots

But this is a different version of Manning.

Yes, he's still as good as anyone at diagnosing defenses and changing things up - or appearing to, anyway - at the line of scrimmage.

Yes, he's still out there yelling "Omaha!"

"He most certainly is a Hall of Famer," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

But Manning is not quite as capable as he was, once upon a time, when it comes to putting the football exactly where he wants it, especially on deep routes.

This has hardly been a record-setting season for Manning - or, until now, one worth remembering. Overall, the bad far outweighed the good, including one game with a passer rating of 0.0, 17 interceptions to only nine touchdown passes in the regular season, being sidelined for six weeks with a series of injuries, getting relegated to backup duty in the NFL for the first time, and vehemently denying a report linking Manning's wife to the banned drug HGH.

PANTHERS ARE HEADED TO SUPER BOWL 50:

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Panthers NFC champs 2016
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50th Super Bowl: Manning's Broncos face Newton's Panthers
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers runs with the ball in the second half against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Darren Fells #85 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball for a touchdown as Kurt Coleman #20 of the Carolina Panthers attempts to tackle him in the fourth quarter during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers runs with the ball in the second half against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers runs with the ball in the second half against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers scores a touchdown in the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates with Mike Tolbert #35 after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates scoring a touchdown in the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Chris Clemons #29 of the Arizona Cardinals tackles Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers in the second half during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Patrick Peterson #21 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts in the second half against the Carolina Panthers during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Kevin Minter #51 of the Arizona Cardinals tackles Greg Olsen #88 of the Carolina Panthers in the second half during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Carson Palmer #3 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts in the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates with teammates on the sideline in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates with teammates on the sideline in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers is doused with Gatorade by Charles Johnson #95 and Cam Newton #1 after the Carolina Panthers defeat the Arizona Cardinals with a score of 49 to 15 in the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers hugs with Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals after the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers defeated the Cardinals with a score of 49 to 15. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: (L-R) Luke Kuechly #59 of the Carolina Panthers, Greg Olsen #88, Cam Newton #1, and Charles Johnson #95 celebrate defeating the Arizona Cardinals with a score of 49 to 15 to win the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Greg Olsen #88 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates defeating the Arizona Cardinals with a score of 49 to 15 to win the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after defeating the Arizona Cardinals with a score of 49 to 15 to win the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after defeating the Arizona Cardinals with a score of 49 to 15 to win the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates defeating the Arizona Cardinals with a score of 49 to 15 to win the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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"My role has been different and my contributions are different," Manning said. "But I'm fortunate and grateful that I have the opportunity to contribute still, in some way. And it's a great honor to be going back to the Super Bowl."

Here are some of the other story lines for the 50th Super Bowl, which will be Denver's record-tying eighth and Carolina's second:

BRONCOS ARE HEADED TO SUPER BOWL 50:

27 PHOTOS
Broncos AFC Champs 2016
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50th Super Bowl: Manning's Broncos face Newton's Panthers
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Quarterback Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos runs and gains 11 yards and a first down in the third quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2015. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots reacts after a play in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Tom Brady (12) of the New England Patriots throws a pass in the fourth quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2016. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Quarterback Tom Brady (12) of the New England Patriots gets sacked by outside linebacker Von Miller (58) of the Denver Broncos in the third quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2015. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Julian Edelman (11) of the New England Patriots gets hit by Shiloh Keo (33) of the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2016. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Quarterback Tom Brady (12) of the New England Patriots gets disrupted by linebacker Shane Ray (56) of the Denver Broncos in the third quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2015. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Quarterback Tom Brady (12) of the New England Patriots is sacked by outside linebacker Von Miller (58) of the Denver Broncos in the third quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2015. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Darryl Roberts (28) of the New England Patriots lets the ball go through his hands for an incompletion in the fourth quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2016. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos throws down field in the fourth quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2016. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) of the New England Patriots gains 12 yards and a first down in the third quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2015. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Logan Ryan (26) of the New England Patriots bats a pass away from Demaryius Thomas (88) of the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2016. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on late in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos takes the field in the fourth quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2016. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) of the New England Patriots gains 9 yards in the third quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2015. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Quarterback Peyton Manning (18) of the Denver Broncos yells during the fourth quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2015. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Jordan Norwood (11) of the Denver Broncos reaches for an overthrown ball in the third quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2016. (Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots walks off the field after being defeated by the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots speak after the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots speak after the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots speak after the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos walks off the field after defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots speak after the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and father Archie Manning walk off the field after defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos walks off the field after defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: The Denver Broncos cheerleaders celebrate after defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: General Manager and Executive Vice President of Football Operation for the Denver Broncos John Elway holds up the Lamar Hunt Trophy with former Bronco Terrell Davis after defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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SUPERMAN: Newton threw for 335 yards and two TDs, and he ran for 47 yards and a pair of scores, leading Carolina past the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in the NFC title game Sunday night. It was the type of dynamic performance he put in all season, the sort of promise he showed while winning a Heisman Trophy in college at Auburn. "I keep saying it: We're not finished. We're not finished," Newton said.

MILLER TIME: Broncos linebacker Von Miller was terrific Sunday, getting 2 1/2 sacks and an interception in a 20-18 victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC title game. "I wanted to do it for Peyton," said Miller, who was injured and missed Denver's loss to Seattle in the 2014 Super Bowl.

DOMINANT DEFENSES: Both of these teams excel at defense. The Broncos led the NFL with 52 sacks and allowed a league-low 283.1 yards per game, then made life difficult as can be for Brady on Sunday, knocking him to the ground over and over. No one forced more turnovers than the Panthers, and only five clubs gave up fewer points (the Broncos were one, naturally). Against Arizona, Carolina produced seven takeaways.

CAROLINA'S STARTS: If the Panthers are able to get off to the sort of start they've made commonplace lately, they might not even give the Broncos a chance to make a game of it. In their two games this postseason, Carolina outscored its opponents 55-7 in the first half. That includes leads of 17-0 after one quarter and 24-7 after two against Arizona. "We wanted to start fast," Newton said. "We wanted to keep the pressure on."

INJURIES: Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said he broke his right forearm against Arizona - "I knew something was wrong," he said - but sounded like someone who plans to play in the Super Bowl. The Broncos, meanwhile, lost both of their starting safeties - T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart - to injuries during Sunday's game.

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