If you don’t pay attention to football at any point in the season, attending a Super Bowl party is a bit like jumping in the middle of a conversation where you don’t speak the language. But you don’t have to be completely lost. Here, a cheat sheet to the biggest football game of the year.
Panthers: Charlotte, North Carolina
Broncos: Denver, Colorado
Panthers: The Panthers joined the NFL in 1995 as an expansion franchise. They reached their first and only previous Super Bowl in 2003 and lost to the New England Patriots — the same Super Bowl infamously known for Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. They lost just one game this season, becoming the sixth 15-1 team in league history. They led the NFL in scoring this season for the first time. The Panthers represent both North Carolina and South Carolina.
Broncos: The Broncos are making their eighth Super Bowl appearance, tied for the most all-time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and Patriots. They won two Super Bowls during the late 1990s while led by quarterback John Elway, who now is the team’s general manager. They lost two years ago to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl played at MetLife Stadium. The Broncos had the top-ranked defense in the NFL this season.
The key players
Panthers: Quarterback Cam Newton is likely to be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for this season. Linebacker Luke Kuechly (pronounced KEEK-lee) leads the defense, and fans often shower long “Luuuuuke” cheers when he makes a tackle, which are not to be confused with boos.
Broncos: QB Peyton Manning is no stranger to anyone with a TV. He’s been one of the NFL’s most visible stars in commercials for years, although he has struggled this year and might be playing in his last game. Von Miller is a standout on defense known for sacking the quarterback.
Why you should root for...
Panthers: They are a team on the rise with a talented quarterback in Newton who could be a big star in the league for many years. Plus, the franchise has never won a Super Bowl, and it’s fun to see fresh champions.
Broncos: This might be Manning’s final chance at winning a second Super Bowl. Known as perhaps the best quarterback ever, Manning is sometimes — perhaps unfairly — knocked for his inability to win when it matters most.
Favored to win
The Panthers are the betting favorites thanks, in part, to a 34-point victory in their last game.