Manning vs. Brady XVII is so last week. Now we’re talking about the future of the NFL vs. one of the icons of its storied past. Super Bowl 50 pits sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning against without-a-doubt 2015 MVP Cam Newton in what’s being billed as an “historic” collision of generations. While Newton is gunning (and running) for an unceremonious changing of the guard, Manning is grinding his way to what he hopes will be the perfect end to an illustrious career. Former Denver Broncos All-Pro center Tom Nalen was there to see the end of another all-time great’s career, current Broncos general manager John Elway.

Nalen, who played for the Broncos from 1994-2008, was a cornerstone on the offensive line that helped Denver win back-to-back Super Bowls following the 1997 and ’98 seasons. His first Super Bowl was similar in many ways to this one, with quarterback at the pinnacle of his game, Brett Favre, leading the Packers against Nalen’s Broncos, led by John Elway in his penultimate season. (Favre, of course, had one Super Bowl win under his belt, compared to Newton’s zero at this point.)

Nalen joined Notaro & Big Dee on Mile High Sports AM 1340 to discuss Super Bowl 50 and what he expects from both Manning and Newton in the game that many believe will be another transition from one generation of quarterbacks to another. He says that despite Manning’s advanced age – he’ll be the oldest quarterback to ever start a Super Bowl – there are still plenty of ways he remains a weapon against opposing defenses.

“He’s so smart,” Nalen says succinctly. “If he can help it, he doesn’t take a lot of hits. He has a quick release. The ball’s not coming out like it used to, but he still is able to get the ball out.”

Manning will have to get the ball out quickly against a Carolina defense that registered 44 sacks during the regular season. Even before the ball is snapped, though, is where Manning is most effective. The 18-year veteran is arguably the greatest in league history at reading defenses and making line-of-scrimmage audibles to get the offense into the right play based on the defensive alignment.

“He’s going to get the guys in the correct play,” Nalen says. “You have a novice or young quarterback that hasn’t seen a lot of looks, he’s going to err on the side of caution and keep the play on. It might not be the best situation for the team as a whole when you’re running into a bad look … [With Manning], in the running game, he gets the guys in the right position. In the passing game, the ball gets out. He’s a blessing for those guys.”

While Denver’s aggressive and intelligent defense will try and force the (compared to Manning) inexperienced Newton into bad looks, that won’t happen with Manning. Nalen saw evidence of that against Pittsburgh, one of the smartest defenses in the league.

“Specifically I saw in the Pittsburgh [Divisional Playoff] game, basically flipping the play – and Schofield actually got a holding penalty on the play, which I thought was a terrible call – but I’m watching TV going, ‘He’s going to flip the play because the defensive end walked out on the slot, there’s no one over Schofield.’ And sure enough, that’s what he did. I think he just puts those guys in the best position,” Nalen says.

Denver will need to be in great position, as they’re facing the top-scoring offense in the playoffs – a team fresh off scoring 49 points against the Cardinals in the NFC Championship.

Nalen was asked to compare what differences Denver can expect between Newton and the Panthers versus the team they beat in the AFC Championship, the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady.

“Offensively, with Carolina, they run the ball a whole bunch better,” Nalen believes, “they’re more committed to it. You have a much more dangerous quarterback – it’s hard to say when you’re talking Cam Newton versus Tom Brady – but it’s a whole different animal there. Tom Brady is a statuesque-type quarterback. He knows where the pass rush is going to be, so you have to attack it differently.”

The Broncos were extremely successful attacking from the edges against New England. They should have similar success on at least one side against Carolina, says Nalen, who doesn’t believe the hype the Panthers line has been getting of late.

“Their offensive line has been much-heralded,” he says with some doubt. “You’ve got ‘The Blind Side’ [Michael Oher] at left tackle, and [Ryan] Kalil at center. But the other guys are pretty much unproven. The right tackle [Mike Remmers] was actually cut by the Broncos a few years ago in the first round of cuts during training camp.”

Nalen is confident the Broncos pass rush, which led the league with 52 sacks, will get into the Panthers’ backfield. It’s really a matter of where Newton will be when they get there.

“I think the Broncos pass rush has the ability to get to any quarterback, if he’s in the spot he’s supposed to be. I think Cam Newton provides a whole different type of quarterback, where he’s pretty nifty in the pocket. When he gets out of the pocket he’s able to deliver some punishment,” says Nalen.

Newton is not only an excellent passer both in and out of the pocket, he’s also the most dangerous running quarterback in the league. In 2015 he rushed for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns, both tops in the league by a wide margin. Stopping Newton, Nalen says, is much like stopping Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski.

“Last week everybody talked about ‘How do you tackle Gronk?’ and everyone says ‘Go low.’ I think the same mantra has to be pounded when you talk about Cam Newton,” says Nalen. “I think the guys [have] to go low on him. He’s a big, giant man and to take him down you have to go low on him as well.”

Off the field, Newton has been widely criticized for his on-field celebrations and in-your-face attitude that is a stark difference from the humble and reverent Manning. Newton’s behavior is the polar opposite from what Nalen and his offensive line brethren displayed during their playing days, but he’s come to appreciate how the talented, brazen quarterback fits into the modern NFL landscape.

“I love him,” Nalen admits. “If it’s an act, I fell for it. I think Cam Newton is being Cam Newton. I think his brashness – it’s 2016, these are the athletes – it’s his brashness I think rubs people the wrong way, but I love him. I think he’s genuine and I think he has fun out there. I think that what’s you want out of your athlete. You want them to show emotion; you want them to show that they’re having fun out there playing a kids’ game and not taking it too seriously.”

In fact, Nalen sees some similarities (and some major differences) with Newton and another quarterback who played here in Denver, Tim Tebow.

“I don’t understand the knock on the guy. It seems like he’s a pretty polarizing figure, much like Tim Tebow was. Tim Tebow was this All-American guy, but the guy couldn’t play football. You have Cam Newton, who’s an in-your-face kind of guy, and he backs it up. I don’t have a problem with him. I actually enjoy watching him play. He’s fun. He’s having fun out there.”

Newton has had a whole lot of fun this year, as his Panthers have a league-best 17 wins including the postseason. The Broncos and their business-like approach to this game will look to put an end to it. Manning and the Broncos have much to prove after their 35-point loss to Seattle two years ago. The odds are already shifting heavily in Carolina’s favor more than a week out from the game.

Manning vs. Newton is not so dissimilar to Elway vs. Favre. Green Bay entered that game an 11-point favorite. Carolina currently sits around 4.5-point favorites, with belief that the number will climb to at least 5.5 or 6.0 by game time.

Peyton Manning may be preparing to pass the torch to another generation of players, but like Elway, he certainly has no plans to hand it over to a smiling quarterback in waiting.

Listen to the full discussion between Nalen, Notaro and Big Dee, plus an in-depth look at how the offensive line will factor into this game, in the podcast below…

Catch Notaro & Big Dee every Monday-Thursday from 6p-8p on Mile High Sports AM 1340 or stream live any time for Denver’s largest lineup covering what’s new and what’s next in Colorado sports.