5 things most likely to cost the Panthers the Super Bowl

Even Cam Newton can have a bad game -- it just hasn't happened very often in recent weeks.

Jeremy Brevard/Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers lost only once this season, in Week 16 to the Atlanta Falcons, so it’s pretty tough to figure out what could undermine them with everything on the line Sunday in the Super Bowl. But every team can be undone, and Carolina is no different. Here are five things that could trip up the Panthers against the Broncos.

1. A BAD GAME FROM CAM NEWTON

3. NOT BEING AGGRESSIVE ENOUGH AGAINST PEYTON MANNING

No one expected the 39-year-old Manning to make it this far after he returned from an injury-driven benching with just two quarters left in the regular season. He’s not nearly what he once was, but somehow the Patriots and the Steelers before them couldn’t force the five-time NFL MVP into a mistake. Given Manning’s limitations in both arm strength and mobility, there simply are plays he can no longer make. The Panthers ranked sixth in the league in sacks and led the league in interceptions. They will be making a mistake if they don’t draw up a highly aggressive game plan that forces Manning into the turnovers he made all season before returning from that injury. This is no time to show undue respect to a future Hall of Famer.

NFL SUPER BOWL CENTRAL

4. THOMAS DAVIS’ INJURY

Is it worse if Davis plays with a recently fractured arm that has about a dozen screws in it or if he takes the day off? The Panthers’ veteran linebacker insists he’ll play Sunday, but it’s hard to imagine that trying to make tackles with one healthy arm won’t slow down the heart and soul of the defense that is Davis and fellow linebacker Luke Kuechly. Davis’ spirit is exactly what you’d expect from a player who earned his first Pro Bowl selection at age 32, but he’ll need to be careful that he’s not hurting more than he’s helping.

5. GETTING BEAT BY BRONCOS’ PASS RUSHERS

Panthers offensive tackles Michael Oher and Mike Remmers are solid but not spectacular, and spectacular might be what’s needed against a Broncos defense that hit New England’s Tom Brady an amazing 23 times in the AFC championship game. Granted, Newton can burn Denver if the Broncos get too aggressive on the edge and don’t stop him from escaping up the middle, but that doesn’t mean the Panthers’ tackles can let the floodgates open. This will be a tough matchup for Carolina, and letting it get lopsided could leave the Panthers with the same result the Patriots got.