The Panthers led the NFL in scoring and will face a Broncos defense that was the NFL's best. Super Bowl 50 will be all about matchups.
The NFL-leading Carolina Panthers offense will face the ultimate test when they meet the stingy Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
Outside of a lacklustre second half against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional playoff game, the Panthers have played the six best quarters of football this postseason.
They jumped out to a 31-0 half-time lead before holding on for a 31-24 win over the Seahawks, and then rolled past the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC championship with a 49-15 victory.
Here is a breakdown of the Panthers' strengths, weaknesses and key injuries as they prepare to take on the Broncos at Levi's Stadium.
Carolina do a lot of things well with a dominant defense led by a stout front seven. But the Panthers led the NFL in scoring this season, something they would not have been able to do without an unheralded offensive line.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has consistently praised his O-line, saying he would not be in a position to be the NFL MVP without the play of tackles Michael Oher and Mike Remmers, guards Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell and centre Ryan Kalil. They also helped the Panthers lead the NFC in rushing this season. That group will have to play well against a Broncos unit that led the NFL in sacks and ranked number one in total defense.
The Panthers were sixth in the NFL with 44 sacks, led by 11 by defensive tackle Kawann Short. The defensive line is aggressive and opens things up for a Panthers linebacking group led by Luke Kuechly that is among the NFL's best. Running the ball could be tough for both teams with the Panthers ranking fourth in rush defense and the Broncos third.
Ron Rivera's coaching staff also deserve a lot of credit for cultivating an environment that allows players' personalities to flourish.
If the Panthers have a weakness, it is depth at cornerback and receiver. Josh Norman has emerged as one of the NFL's premier shutdown cornerbacks, but season-ending injuries to Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere led to the Panthers signing free agents Cortland Finnegan and Robert McClain.
The result has been an inconsistent secondary that got lit up by the Seahawks in the second half of the divisional playoff game, though it played well against the Cardinals. The Panthers have had second-half let-downs on multiple occasions this season and cannot afford a collapse after half-time against the Broncos.
While Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is not playing at the level that led him to win five MVP awards, he can still pick apart a defense if given time. The Broncos might be able to exploit the Panthers DBs with their excellent tandem of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
Linebacker Thomas Davis, who was selected for the Pro Bowl for the first time in 11 seasons, could be limited after breaking his right forearm in the NFC championship game.
Davis insists he will play despite the broken arm, and defensive end Jared Allen could be limited after missing the NFC championship game because of a broken foot.
The Panthers have other minor injuries, but Rivera said Wednesday there are "no real concerns."
Short, Kalil, defensive end Charles Johnson and fullback Mike Tolbert are all dealing with knee injuries. McClain and running backs Fozzy Whittaker and Jonathan Stewart are nursing sore ankles.