Manning, at 39, will be the oldest starting quarterback in the Super Bowl against Newton and the NFL’s highest-scoring offense in 17-1 Carolina.

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Today’s NFL is all about the quarterbacks, so perhaps it’s fitting that the 50th Super Bowl features a matchup between Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos and Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers.

At 39, Manning — the only five-time MVP in history and one of the faces of the league — is the oldest starting QB to lead a team to the big game. Most folks figure his fourth Super Sunday will be the last time he dons a helmet.

“Oh, wow,” Newton said. “Playing the sheriff.”

Newton, meanwhile, is part of the new guard. He is expected to be honored as the MVP for the first time — fans chanted those three letters during the NFC championship postgame ceremony — and he’ll be playing in his first Super Bowl.

Carolina (17-1) ran away with a 49-15 victory over the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC title Sunday night, after Denver (14-4) edged the New England Patriots 20-18 in the AFC.

“There’s no question, this is a sweet day, this was a sweet victory,” Manning said. “To me, this victory sort of is a great example of what this entire season has been like. It hasn’t been easy.”

The Feb. 7 game at Santa Clara, Calif., will be the Broncos’ record-tying eighth Super Bowl appearances — they won twice in the late 1990s — and the Panthers’ second.

Carolina opened as a four-point favorite with most bookmakers.

Manning, of course, will get much of the attention over the next two weeks.

He is 1-2 in past Super Bowls, winning a championship with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, then losing with the Colts in 2010, before losing with the Broncos in 2014.

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!” But he 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.


• Dallas quarterback Tony Romo expects to have surgery to strengthen his left collarbone this offseason, sources confirmed.

• New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, San Francisco wide receiver Anquan Boldin and New Orleans tight end Benjamin Watson are the three finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

• The Minnesota Vikings have added former Browns head coach Pat Shurmur to their coaching staff, a team source confirmed. It is unclear what role Shurmur will hold.