Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Condotta breaks down Sunday's Super Bowl matchup between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.

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Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Condotta breaks down Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers:

Grand finale or another Super disappointment for Manning?

This game features about as interesting of a contrast in quarterbacks as possible. First is age — Denver’s Peyton Manning, who turns 40 in March, is the oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl, and Carolina’s Cam Newton, 26, is among the youngest (23-year-old Dan Marino in 1985 was the youngest). Then there’s style, and we don’t just mean the manner in which they celebrate. Manning is as one-dimensional as can be, but Newton is redefining what it means to be a dual-threat QB. The 245-pound Newton has been one of the game’s most dangerous running quarterbacks since entering the NFL. But he has steadily improved as a passer, especially in the pocket (he has a 24-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio since Nov. 8, including playoff games). Simply put, Newton is playing as well as any QB in the NFL, and some have judged Manning to have had the worst season of any quarterback who has started a Super Bowl (a 9-to-17 touchdown-to-interception ratio for the season, for instance). So will it be validation for Newton? Or one final coronation for Manning? Many expect him to retire after this game, and a victory would put him in the rarefied air of QBs who won two Super Bowls.

Carolina’s blind side vs. Denver’s sack attack

Unlike in 2013, when Manning was the Peyton Manning of old and led a high-powered offense into the Super Bowl (before it was shut down by the Seahawks 43-8), it is the defense that has carried Denver to this one. Among Denver’s many impressive defensive numbers in 2015 are an NFL-high 52 sacks, including 11 by Von Miller and 7.5 by DeMarcus Ware, the primary edge rushers (though one real key is the multitude of rushers the Broncos can bring, with five defenders having at least five sacks this season). Denver also led the NFL this year in quarterback pressure, on 35 percent of pass attempts (Seattle was next at 33 percent). Ware and Miller will be a huge test for Carolina left tackle Michael Oher (the real-life subject of The Blind Side movie) and right tackle Mike Remmers. The two were regarded as the weak link of Carolina’s offense much of the season but have played well in the playoffs, including allowing Newton to be hit only once in a divisional win over the Seahawks. But Newton’s size and mobility make him more challenging to bring down, and Carolina’s variety of zone-read plays are designed to keep hard-charging ends off balance. It will be a battle of brains as much as brawn.

Turnovers and tight ends

Two more numbers about this game are hard to avoid — Carolina’s turnovers, and the success of Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. First, turnovers. It almost seems too obvious to even mention. Still, consider that the team with the fewest turnovers has won 45 of 49 Super Bowls (thanks to for that stat). Sure, sometimes those numbers were padded when a team that was trailing began throwing it every down, etc. But when the clock strikes zero Sunday, whichever team has fewer turnovers also is likely to have more points. Consider further that Carolina led the NFL this year with a plus-20 turnover margin something that has continued with a whopping plus-eight in its two playoff wins (including plus-two against the Seahawks). Now, tight ends. According to Pro Football Focus, only one NFL team had more of its receiving production this year come from the tight-end spot than Carolina — the Titans got 41 percent of their receiving yards from tight ends, with the Panthers second at 32 percent. Much of that was due to Greg Olsen, who ate up the Seahawks in two games this season with 13 catches for 208 yards (of the Panthers’ passing total of 430 against Seattle). Denver was almost done in by Rob Gronkowski’s eight receptions for 144 yards in the AFC Championship Game. Olsen essentially is the next-best thing.