Seven months and one day ago from Thursday, the Denver Broncos upset the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium near San Francisco. I was a bit surprised that the NFL decided to stage that same showdown in the annual Thursday night Kickoff Game, but that's the case as the Broncos host the Panthers in a rematch.
The reigning Super Bowl champion is 10-2 in these games since they started hosting them. However, the Broncos did host it in 2013 despite not winning it all in 2012. That's because the Baltimore Orioles were playing the night of the scheduled 2013 opener, so the champion Ravens couldn't host. The Broncos cruised that night 49-27 behind a record-tying game from the now-retired Peyton Manning.
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This is the first time since 1970 that the two Super Bowl participants meet in Week 1 of the following season. The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in Super Bowl IV on Jan. 11, 1970. In Week 1 of 1971, the Chiefs lost 27-10 at Minnesota.
That the Broncos and Panthers play in Super Bowl LI in Houston is +5850 at 5Dimes.
Panthers at Broncos Betting Story Lines
You can win a Super Bowl with mediocre quarterback play. It's obviously not quite as easy, but the 2000 Baltimore Ravens did it with Trent Dilfer under center. Not exactly a Hall of Famer. The 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers did it with Brad Johnson. What did those two teams have in common? Stellar defenses and good running games. So I'm not ruling out the Denver Broncos repeating as Super Bowl champions, but I sure don't see it with 2015 seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian as their starting QB. I can't believe that guy is starting a game before 2016 No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff of the Rams is. Shoot, I can't believe Siemian is starting over Denver's first-round pick this year, Paxton Lynch. I will be shocked if Lynch isn't in there by midseason at the latest.
Siemian didn't exactly tear it up this preseason, going 27-for-43 for 285 yards with a TD and two picks, but he was better than veteran and presumed starter Mark Sanchez, who was released. Lynch had his moments in the preseason but realistically isn't ready yet. I believe an argument could be made that Siemian is the least qualified Week 1 starter for a defending Super Bowl champion in history. And you know who is probably No. 2 on that list? Brian Griese, who replaced a guy named John Elway after Elway led the Broncos to their last title in the 1998 season (going back to back). A retiring Hall of Famer replaced by middling second-year QB from a Big Ten school? Hmm. The 1999 Broncos, by the way, finished 6-10. Clearly that excellent Denver defense is going to have to do the heavy lifting this season. But it largely did last year because the Broncos won the Super Bowl really in spite of Manning, who wasn't very good in his final season. I don't think the Broncos make the playoff this year, however.
Denver will play this game without starting right guard Ty Sambrailo as he's dealing with an elbow injury. Michael Schofield will get the call there. Schofield started every game last season at right tackle but had lost his job at that spot.
Carolina obviously has no quarterback questions with reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton (+800 to repeat). He became the first player in league history with at least 30 passing TDs (35) and at least 10 rushing scored (10) in a season. Newton welcomes back receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who missed all of last year following a training camp injury. In 2014 as a rookie, the former Florida State star caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. Benjamin was limited all preseason with conditioning issues as he attempts to return from his torn ACL and reportedly will play only about 35 snaps in Week 1. Benjamin is +2000 to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Pretty much everyone of note is back for Carolina other than Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, who for some reason was allowed to simply walk away for nothing when the Panthers rescinded the franchise tag on him. I don't happen to think the Panthers will win the NFC again, but they should claim the weak NFC South for a fourth straight season.
Panthers at Broncos Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes, Carolina is a 3-point favorite (-125) with a total of 42. On the money line, the Panthers are -175 and the Broncos +155. On the alternate lines, Carolina is -3.5 (+100) and -2.5 (-150). Last year, the Cats were 5-3 against the spread on the road and 5-3 "over/under." Denver was 4-5-1 ATS and 2-7-1 O/U at home (both including playoffs).
Carolina is 11-5 ATS in its past 16 games overall. It is 2-5 ATS in its past seven in Week 1. Denver is 7-1 ATS in its past eight on Thursday and 7-3-1 ATS in its past 11 in September. The under is 4-0 in the Panthers' past four season openers. The under is 4-1 in the Broncos' past five September games. The under is 3-1-1 in the past five meetings.
Free NFL Picks: Panthers at Broncos Betting Prediction
Denver has the NFL's second-best winning percentage in Week 1 at .666 (Dallas is No. 1 at .673). The Broncos have won their past four season openers. Carolina has won its past two. The Broncos and Panthers haven't played in the regular season since November 2012, a 36-14 Denver win in Charlotte. They haven't played in Denver since 2004.
Maybe the Broncos know something about Siemian I don't, but I'm not buying. I saw that guy play at Northwestern. Give the 2.5-point alternate line and go under the total.
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