Week 1 - Denver Broncos vs Carolina Panthers

The NFL season kicks off with a rematch of the Super Bowl when the defending champion Denver Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. Each team lost key pieces in the off season as Peyton Manning retired from the Broncos and the Panthers rescinded Josh Norman’s franchise tag allowing the Washington Redskins to sign him to a long term deal. Denver also let Brock Osweiler sign with the Texans while Charles “Peanut” Tillman retired leaving the Panthers to rely on three rookies to lead their secondary.

Reigning MVP, Cam Newton, returns to a Panthers offense that led the league in scoring last year with over 31 points per game. Newton threw for 35 touchdowns and over 3,800 yards. Also returning is Kelvin Benjamin who missed 2015 due to an injury but had over 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie in 2014. Tight End Greg Olsen led the team with over 1,100 yards to go along with 7 touchdowns. Devin Funchess is a second year receiver who has impressed in the pre-season and will have a bigger role in the offensive this year. Defensively, the loss of Norman is significant as he was in the race for Defensive player of the year last year. Every week Carolina relied on him to shut down the opposing teams top wide receiver and they no longer have that weapon. Their defense did however have 5 sacks and forced Denver into 3 turnovers in the Super Bowl.

The Denver Broncos were forced to sign veteran backup Mark Sanchez after the loss of their top 2 quarterbacks. Sanchez was released last week and Denver will go with rookie Trevor Siemien to start the season. Siemien was the Broncos 7th round pick in the 2014 draft out of Northwestern University and has only 1 NFL completion for -1 yards. Fortunately for the Broncos they have the leagues top rated Defense and led the league last year in sacks with 52 and total yards allowed per game with 281. Super Bowl MVP Vonn Miller joins pro bowl corner back Aqib Talib to lead a defense that allowed the Panthers to score only 10 points and commit 4 turnovers in last years Super Bowl.

The Panthers are 19-1 in their last 20 regular season games and finished last season 13-6 against the spread. The Broncos went 15-4 last season including 9-6 against the spread. The Broncos defense had 7 sacks in the Super Bowl for a loss of 68 yards and allowed Newton to complete only 18 of his 41 pass attempts. The return of Kelvin Benjamin gives Carolina another offense weapon they didn’t have in the Super Bowl. His presence will take some pressure off Tedd Ginn Jr. who led the team with 10 touchdown receptions last year to go with 739 yards. Carolina is a 3-point favorite despite being on the road for this game and will be looking to avenge their Super Bowl loss.

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