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Five Things To Watch: Panthers vs. Broncos

1. WHO STARTS FASTER? Carolina stormed out of the gates in its two postseason victories, racing out to a 31-0 lead against Seattle and a 34-7 advantage against Arizona.

Starting fast against Denver could be the first step toward the Panthers' emerging victorious in Super Bowl 50.

It certainly won't be easy against the Broncos' top-ranked defense, but quarterback Cam Newton and Carolina's top-ranked offense proved its potency against two of the NFC's stingiest defensive units en route to Santa Clara.

And an early deficit could spell trouble for the Broncos, who are built for a more low-scoring, defensive battle.

2. CAM'S RUNNING: Denver has a fearsome pass rush, headlined by Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, but Newton's mobility could be the difference maker.

If the Broncos' edge rushers fly upfield, Newton has the athletic ability to quickly escape. And if Denver continues to employ man coverage, that could lead to big gains on the ground with defenders' backs turned.

The Panthers will also use Newton in the designed run game. With no next game, Newton's number will be called as much as necessary. "No holds barred," as Rivera put it.

"We'll have him do things that we want him to do for us and give us the best opportunity to win," Rivera said.

3. PRESSURING PEYTON: Carolina would love to replicate the pressure they put on Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer in the NFC Championship, but it's a challenge against Peyton Manning.

The legendary quarterback has never been one to escape pressure with his legs, but Manning's pre-snap reads and his tendency to get the ball out quickly for short completions combine to frustrate defenses.

"He gets the ball off, I think, the second fastest among all quarterbacks," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "So it's important that you have some guys inside that can win."

Kawann Short, who led all defensive tackles with 11 sacks in the regular season and added two more in the playoffs, will be counted on to disrupt the interior.

The rest of the D-line knows they must fire off the snap and win individual battles to make Manning as uncomfortable as possible.

"Peyton is going to do everything possible to try and slow us down, and we're going to have to step up to the challenge," defensive end Charles Johnson said.

4. DAVIS' EFFECTIVENESS: Team captain Thomas Davis has ensured everyone that he will play in his first Super Bowl despite breaking his arm in the NFC Championship.

But the question remains: how effective will the Pro Bowl linebacker be?

After practicing with a cast all week, Davis and his teammates don't expect a drop-off of any kind. The heart and soul of this Panthers team will be flying around, playing with the ferocity he's known for.

"The emotions are going to be running high. The adrenaline is going to be flowing through everybody that's on the field, because this is why you play the game," said Davis, who is listed probable. "You play for an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl, and we have that right now."

5. BATTLING BRONCOS DBS: All year long, the Panthers wide receivers have fought for respect. After torching the highly regarded Cardinals' secondary, they now face arguably the best unit in the league.

Aqib Talib and Charis Harris, Jr. form one of the best cornerback duos and the Denver safeties provide a physical presence.

There will be plenty of opportunities for one-on-one matchups, and Newton, as he has all season, will trust his wideouts to make plays for him.

"They have long, rangy guys that are capable of creating turnovers by either stripping the ball or intercepting it," Newton said of the Denver secondary. "For us, we just have to be on our Ps and Qs and run precise routes and throw precisely in their secondary to be effective."

View photos from the Panthers final practice at San Jose State.

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