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Super Bowl set: Manning, Broncos vs. Panthers

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Posted at 5:21 AM, Jan 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-25 05:21:19-05
Peyton Manning is the only five-time MVP in NFL history, one of the faces of the league and, at 39, the oldest starting quarterback to lead a team to the Super Bowl.
 
Slowed by age and injury, he is no longer the record-breaking passer he once was. Most folks figure Manning's fourth Super Sunday appearance will be his last game as a pro.
 
Cam Newton is at the opposite end of his career, just 26, making his debut in the big game. He also is expected to earn MVP honors for the first time, part of a new breed of dual-threat QBs as good at running as they are at throwing.
 
For the next two weeks, until Manning's AFC champion Denver Broncos (14-4) play Newton's NFC champion Carolina Panthers (17-1) for the Lombardi Trophy in Santa Clara, California, on Feb. 7, most of the focus will be on the two quarterbacks who were No. 1 overall draft picks 13 years apart.
 
"Oh, wow," said Newton, whose Panthers opened as 4-point favorites with most bookmakers. "Playing `The Sheriff."'
 
That is a reference to Manning, who is 1-2 in past Super Bowls. He won a championship with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, lost with the Colts in 2010, and lost again 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!"
 
"He most certainly is a Hall of Famer," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.
 
But Manning 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.
 
This has hardly been a record-setting season for Manning -- or, until now, one worth remembering. Overall, the bad far outweighed the good, including one game with a passer rating of 0.0, 17 interceptions to only nine touchdown passes in the regular season, being sidelined for six weeks with a series of injuries, getting relegated to backup duty in the NFL for the first time, and vehemently denying a report linking Manning's wife to the banned drug HGH.
 
"My role has been different and my contributions are different," Manning said. "But I'm fortunate and grateful that I have the opportunity to contribute still, in some way. And it's a great honor to be going back to the Super Bowl."