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    Fun with QBs (02/03/16)

    By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
    Fun with quarterbacks – the Super Bowl impact of Manning and Newton.

    The Broncos and Panthers will meet in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday. The game in Santa Clara will likely be decided by the performance of the two most important players on the field. Peyton Manning, the elder statesman, versus Cam Newton, the next great quarterback.

    Newton is likely to be named league MVP and is the favorite to win his first Super Bowl. The Panthers dual threat quarterback is as good at running the ball as he is at throwing it. Manning is the only five time MVP winner but as the oldest quarterback to start the Big Game, his record setting days are behind him.

    In a matchup between Superman and the Sheriff, which quarterback prevails? After 50,000 simulations, Carolina tops Denver 57 percent of the time by an average score of 23-20.

    How would that projection differ with a change at quarterback?

    (Note: Before going cross-eyed thinking about how or why these situations could occur, instead don't worry about this sort of thing and just enjoy yourself!)

    Osweiler for Manning

    The Broncos would not be where they are today without Brock Osweiler, who led the team to four wins while Peyton Manning rested a foot injury. Osweiler completed a better percentage of his passes (62 percent) for more yards-per-attempt (7.2) than Manning this season and critically limited his turnovers (just six interceptions to Manning's 17). Osweiler's competent play at quarterback has some wondering which player gives Denver the best chance to win the Super Bowl.

    Though Osweiler may be the quarterback in waiting, the iconic Manning still gives the team the best chance to win. If Osweiler were the starter, Carolina wins 61 percent of the time by an average score of 23-18.

    Anderson for Newton

    There is no quarterback controversy in Carolina. Derek Anderson has attempted just six passes all season. It is unlikely that we see Cam's backup in the Super Bowl, other than on the sideline. Of course stranger things have happened, if Anderson were to start that would be great news for Denver, though not as easy a win as many would expect.

    Anderson is a capable replacement who started two games last season for Carolina (both wins). In a Super Bowl that Anderson starts, Carolina loses 53 percent of the time but by less than a field goal on average (21-19).

    Battle of the Backups

    What events would have to transpire to see both Osweiler and Anderson in the big game? Poor performance (Manning) or injury (Newton), either way this is a Super Bowl no one wants to see. Still, if the backups were to start Denver would prevail. Osweiler would defeat Anderson 51 percent of the time by an average score of 19.3-18.8.

    2013 Peyton for 2015 Peyton

    The future Hall of Fame quarterback smashed NFL records in 2013. Manning set new marks for touchdowns and single-season passing yards. Peyton was excellent just two seasons ago and now he has seemingly fallen off a cliff. Could 2013 Manning, the offensive weapon we will remember long after he retires, carry Denver to the Super Bowl?

    Flipping this year's version of Peyton for the one we saw in 2013 would result in a victory for the Broncos over the Panthers 59 percent of the time (average score 26-22). A fully healthy Manning, with all his abilities, plus a historically elite defense would make Denver a clear favorite.

    Blaine Gabbert for Cam Newton

    Back in 2011, Carolina used the first overall pick in the draft to select Cam Newton. At the time, Newton was a controversial selection. Many experts wondered whether another quarterback would be a superior choice.

    Cam Newton vs. Blaine Gabbert was The Great Debate. It sounds ludicrous now but at the time NFL executives did not know which prospect would make the better quarterback.

    Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel interviewed 24 draft decision makers, mostly general managers and scouting directors, in the three weeks leading up to the 2011 NFL Draft. Of those he interviewed, almost half said they wouldn't take Newton in the first round. Even more said they thought Newton would be a bust. The consensus top pick instead was Gabbert.

    Carolina sidestepped a landmine by selecting Newton over Gabbert and is now the Super Bowl favorite. Without Cam the Panthers aren't in the Super Bowl but what would happen if Gabbert were starting Sunday instead of Newton?

    Denver would win 53 percent of the time (20-18).

    After all of this analysis (we hope you enjoyed these hypothetical scenarios), Manning is worth about two points to the Broncos in the Super Bowl and Newton is worth roughly five points to the Panthers. Those totals might seem low but that is because both signal callers are going up against great defenses, therefore there are fewer scoring opportunities. Also, both backups are decent, again lowering the impact of Manning and Newton.

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