When the 2015-16 NFL season ended, the Denver Broncos celebrated as Super Bowl 50 champions while the Carolina Panthers were forced to settle for a disappointing second.
This year the Panthers will be looking for a different outcome and they don’t have long to wait for their Super Bowl rematch because the NFL season opener, as NBC is calling it, is Carolina v Denver: The Sequel (8.30pm ET, Thursday on NBC at Sports Authority Field).
Roster Turnover Creates New Denver Offense
A lot has changed since these two teams met in February, not least the absence of Peyton Manning, who retired from his Hall of Fame career following last season’s Super Bowl winning performance. Replacing him is Trevor Siemian (pictured), who has never thrown a pass in a regular season NFL game but who was the best of the group in the preseason. This shouldn’t exactly inspire much confidence as Siemian’s competition was a rookie and a journeyman veteran who hasn’t been good in at least a few years. Needless to say, Denver’s QB situation is probably among the worst in the league and this is a significant factor when this preview concludes with its betting picks for this opening NFL football game.
Another big change is going to be among the five guys who will be tasked with protecting the rookie QB as only one member of last year’s Super Bowl team is returning. This isn’t exactly a promising situation especially against the Panthers, whose defensive line is bolstered by a strong group, all of whom are back and ready to continue to make an impact.
However, the reason the Broncos won the Super Bowl had almost nothing to do with their QB play and everything to do with their league best defense, of which most of the core is still intact. Leading the way is of course Von Miller, who turned the season’s final game into a coming out party of sorts. Always one of the NFL’s top defenders, Miller stepped up to an entirely new level in the biggest game of his career. He recorded 2.5 sacks, made life a living hell for the Panthers’ passing game and forced a fumble. When the stage was the biggest, Miller shone the brightest and led Denver’s defense to the type of performance fitting of a championship title.
Panthers are Motivated by Revenge
Denver did everything right on defense but the team knows that this time around, it’s a different game and a different Carolina team that will be on the other side of that field. That is not to say that the Panthers makeup is vastly different because it’s not, but the attitude and way the players are approaching the game is. That’s because no one wants to be second best twice.
The biggest responsibility falls on the shoulders of QB Cam Newton, who had a dazzling season last year but wasn’t quite able to put it together in his first ever appearance in the Super Bowl. Perhaps it was nerves or perhaps it was just being outplayed. Either way, Newton has matured since last year and he’ll be looking for revenge against the team that kept him from achieving the ultimate prize.
Offensively, Newton should have a bit of an easier task as he’ll have Kelvin Benjamin back, who missed much of last year due to injury. Expected to be one of the team’s top weapons, the hope is that the highly drafted second year player will be ready to make an impact right out of the gate. He has the talent to do so, now it’s just a matter of him re-adjusting to the offense and getting back to football shape.
Like the Broncos however, Carolina does have some holes to fill namely in the secondary where they let top cornerback Josh Norman leave in free agency. Norman was among the best at his position and now, in his place, the Panthers will be starting a rookie. Adjusting to that position is hard enough as it is without having to worry about two 1,000-yard wide receivers, which is exactly what Denver has in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.
Our Preview’s Carolina Panthers at Denver Broncos Betting Picks Verdict
In a lot of ways for both teams, this game is not a rematch in the traditional sense of the word. The only rematch really is the one between Miller and Newton and that could be one that tells the story of this game. If Miller is able to beat Carolina’s offensive line like he did in the Super Bowl, it could be a long game for the Panthers. If it is Newton however, who gets enough time and more of an open field to be able to use both his arm and legs to best advantage, then based on the offense on the other side of the field, Carolina has the edge.
This game is sure to be competitive and as the opener for the NFL season, there is no better contest to have than one between the two teams who last year fought tooth and nail to be crowned champion. Granted there is a big difference between the Super Bowl and the NFL opener but for the Panthers and the Broncos this game is certainly going to be a tone-setter for the rest of the season and one that both teams want to win. This is especially true as both could be headed toward yet another real rematch come February 2017.
Both teams are incredibly close talent-wise and both have lynchpins that their past and future success is going to be built around. This preview already mentioned them. Denver is now mainly a defensive team and behind Miller, whose Super Bowl performance earned him the right to be the highest paid player in the league, they are still very strong in that regard. They once again could finish among the top of the league in that category. The Panthers meanwhile, are banking on yet another top-5 season from future MVP-hopeful Newton. Given last year’s results, there is no reason to expect a decline from the QB in his prime.
So with those thoughts in mind, our preview’s betting picks are:
- The spread is just three points in favor of the road team. Take the Panthers -3pts to cover that mark @ best betting odds of -115 with BetOnline Sportsbook. It is the same spread with the other top USA-facing offshore sportsbooks but 5Dimes is -120 and Bovada is -135.
- The spread for the total points in the game is at 41.5pts. Take the under 41.5pts, which is @ -110 odds with all of 5Dimes, Bovada and BetOnline bookies.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.