Carolina Panthers @ Denver Broncos - Mile High Field
Just 7 months after the Broncos stunned the Panthers in Super Bowl 50, the teams meet again at Mile High Stadium in what is an explosive opening to the NFL season for 2016. Cam Newton was swamped by Denver's high octane defence on the way to a shocking 24-10 loss to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50 after coming into the game as heavy favourites. While Carolina will be intent on dishing out some revenge here, Denver are notoriously difficult to beat at their raucous home field.
After winning their 3rd Super Bowl in franchise history plenty has changed in Denver this off-season. The retirement of Peyton Manning came as no surprise, the future Hall of Fame Quarterback riding off into the sunset with a 2nd Super Bowl victory. What did come as a surprise was the Broncos decision not to pay up to keep Brock Osweiler. The Broncos have turned to unknown 2nd year quarterback Trevor Siemian who has never had a snap in a regular season before. It is a stunning situation really for a Super Bowl champion. The Broncos will be heavily reliant on Von Miller and company on the defence producing another dynamic performance if they are to keep pace with Carolina in the season opener.
Cam Newton may never get over the ghosts of the 7th of February if the Panthers can't get back to the Promised Land this season. Newton took all before him with an MVP season before being completely out of sorts in the Super Bowl. He was heavily scrutinised for being a loser after the game and it will be interesting what type of reaction Newton will come up with on Thursday night. With the return of Kelvin Benjamin at wide receiver after he missed most of 2015 Newton has another weapon to throw to in a team that is relatively intact offensively. The Panthers did lose Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman and veteran Charles Tillman to retirement.
Verdict - It is not often a Super Bowl Champion opens the season as a 3 point underdog at home, however it is little surprise here. Denver's quarterback situation is staggering really and I think Siemian is in for a rough opening night against Carolina's rough riders. I think Cam Newton might just be a man on a mission here and will put in a far more confident and assured performance. I expect Denver's defence to keep this game tight in the first half but I think the Panthers will be too strong. Panthers by 12 in a relatively low scoring game.