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2016 NFL Kickoff: Broncos vs. Panthers Preview

2016 NFL Kickoff: Broncos vs. Panthers Preview

For the first time in NFL history, a rematch of the previous year’s Super Bowl will happen during week 1. Some big names that played when these two faced off in February are gone but the core of both teams remains mostly intact. With the Peyton Manning era now over, the Broncos will look to unknown Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian to help get them back to Super Bowl this season. Another big name gone from this rematch is All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman. His presence will definitely be missed in this game against one of the better receiving duos in the league in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Both teams have matchups they’ll look to exploit and those will play an immense role in who gets the victory Thursday night.

Key Matchups:

Panthers D-Line vs Broncos O-Line

The Panthers dominated the Broncos offensive line in their last matchup. Standout DE Kony Ealy played out of his mind and had 3 sacks to go along with two forced turnovers. This year the Broncos are starting a completely new O-line. With not much experience playing together and arguably the best front four in football on the opposing side, Siemian could be facing a rough first start. Nothing shakes a quarterback more than constantly getting hit and if the Broncos offensive line is anything but great, Siemian should expect to see a lot of Panthers jerseys hovering over him for most of the game.

Sanders & Thomas vs. Panthers Rookie Corner Backs

If Trevor Siemian is going to have any success in this game it will be a result of Emmanuel Sanders & Demaryius Thomas taking advantage of the inexperience facing them. Although Siemian has never attempted a regular season pass in the NFL, he knows Panthers rookie corners James Bradberry and Daryl Worley never defended a pass in the NFL either. Siemian also knows that he has two 1,000 yard receivers on the outside and he should look to them early and often. Panthers Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott will probably blitz often to start the game so it will be important for Sieman, Sanders & Thomas to find a rhythm quickly.

Von Miller vs. Cam Newton

Reigning league MVP Cam Newton has repeatedly downplayed the season opener as just another game. However, we know he’s been haunted by his performance in the Super Bowl all offseason. I’m sure he’s had his share of nightmares about Von Miller as well. Miller stripped sacked Newton twice back in February and both resulted in touchdowns. Even if Miller has another great game Thursday night, it’s hard to imagine Cam Newton having a game similar to the one he had in the Super Bowl. With Newton and Miller being the two best players on the field (sorry Luke Kuechly) in Thursday’s game, whoever outplays the other may be the deciding factor on which team wins the game.

X-Factors:

Field Position

The Broncos and Panthers have two of the best defenses in the league and it won’t be many 80-90 yards scoring drives happening on Thursday night. The Super Bowl was an ugly defensive battle with plenty of 3 and outs. Much of the same should be expected for the rematch. Punt and kick returns will be also crucial because the game may come down to who starts their possessions with the shorter field.

Kelvin Benjamin

Benjamin missed last season’s Super Bowl and his presence on the field in this game changes the look of the Panthers offense. Benjamin’s return opens up opportunities for fellow receivers Devin Funchess and Tedd Ginn. He also makes it tougher to stop TE Greg Olsen which the Broncos did a great job of back in the Super Bowl. The Broncos secondary is still pretty good so we should get an early look at the potential Benjamin’s return will have on the Panthers’ offense this season.

Prediction

The Carolina Panthers defense is just too good to lose to inexperienced quarterback in his first start. It should be a defensive struggle throughout but the Panthers will revenge their Super Bowl loss.

Final Score: Panthers 23-17

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2016 NFL Season Preview: San Francisco 49ers

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