After four weeks slugging it through a pre-season that seemed far too long, football returns for real on Thursday evening! The opening game of the NFL campaign is always highly anticipated, especially as it features last year’s Super Bowl match-up. Last season ended with the Broncos stifling the Panthers to win the title and they’ll host Cam Newton and his Panthers squad squarely focused on exacting some revenge to begin 2016. Though the teams are the same, a couple of big changes are surely going to come into play on Thursday night.
For starters, Peyton Manning has retired from the position of Broncos’ quarterback. In will be the inexperienced Trevor Siemian from Northwestern who will surely have his hands full with a dangerous Panthers’ front seven. On the other side of the ball, Cam Newton will look to build on last year’s MVP season with some new toys as he welcomes stud receiver Kelvin Benjamin back from a year-long injury. Benjamin and Newton had great chemistry in 2014, but going against this tough Broncos’ D will pose a huge test for the duo.
This game promises to be an exciting and thrilling affair, loaded with all kinds of storylines to start off 2016. It’s always nice to enter Sunday of Week 1 with a thicker wallet, so read on below for a full game prediction and analysis!
Panthers vs. Broncos Betting Odds:
Carolina Panthers -3 (-120)
@ Denver Broncos +3 (+100)
Over 41.5 (-110)
Under 41.5 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Panthers vs. Broncos Pick:
Both of these teams have great defenses. As was seen in February’s Super Bowl and will likely be the case Thursday evening, defense will play a huge part of this game. One of the key omissions from Carolina’s line-up this season is undoubtedly within their secondary and the loss of Josh Norman. Norman chased the money and bolted to Washington instead. Though the Panthers are a tad weakened in that area, don’t expect the youngster Trevor Siemian to be able to take advantage.
A key for Carolina and an area where they should experience some improved success will be the pressure generated from their front seven. It is an excellent group and one that will be able to rattle Siemian in this big opening affair. While Siemian should evolve into a serviceable starting QB in this league, this type of spot may be asking a bit much for the youngster. Look for the likes of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis to wreak havoc on the young QB and force him into some mistakes and rushed passes.
Cam Newton did struggle during Super Bowl 50, there’s no secret about that. He did however get away from playing ‘his’ game. On Thursday night expect more plays designed to involve Newton – specifically designed run plays that will really test the Broncos’ stop unit. It’s a formidable group, no doubt – but the Panthers and Newton have a lot more to offer than they showed last time these teams met. Newton now has another elite WR threat at his disposal with the return of Kelvin Benjamin, and paired with Devin Funchess – that’s good enough to pose difficulty to any secondary crew.
Look for Carolina to have learned from their lessons in Super Bowl 50 and exact some revenge to begin their 2016 campaign. While it certainly will pale in comparison to winning a title, the Panthers will roll out a new gameplan designed to test the Broncos’ defense and pressure their rookie QB Trevor Siemian. Expect Carolina to run the ball a bunch more and not abandon it like they did last time. Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton should get plenty of looks and at the very least keep Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware out of the backfield affecting the pass rush. Also, expect Newton to throw the ball up more to his wideouts to test Denver’s secondary. Funchess and Benjamin are big and physical and should be able to do some damage on Thursday night.
Even though Peyton Manning really was a shell of his former self at the end of last season – he didn’t make many costly mistakes due to his smarts and experience. Denver’s new QB isn’t blessed with those traits and as a result look for the Panthers to force Siemian into many uncomfortable spots on Thursday night. Though the public are hammering Carolina in this opening game, look for these adjustments to give them the edge against the Broncos.
PICK = Panthers -3 (-120)