The NFL returns Thursday night with the Denver Broncos hosting the Carolina Panthers in a rematch of Super Bowl 50 to kick off the 2016 season.
The Panthers are bringing back most of the same team that went 15-1 in the 2015 regular season.
Reigning MVP quarterback Cam Newton should help Carolina put up stellar numbers offensively again — a task made easier by talented wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin’s return to the lineup after missing all of 2015 because of major knee surgery.
The Panthers’ defense was elite last season and it should be good in 2016, as well. However, there are two factors that could impact that.
One is the departure of All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, who signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent. The other is turnover differential, which Carolina excelled in last season but isn’t always sustainable from season to season.
The Broncos lost a few guys from their stellar defense, but Super Bowl MVP Von Miller is back at linebacker and the secondary still is loaded with talent.
Denver’s offense will be led by quarterback Trevor Siemian, who has never thrown a regular-season pass. The second-year pro is taking over for Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, both of whom departed from the Broncos in the offseason.
The latest betting spread for this game is Broncos +3, according to OddsShark.
The Panthers were 13-6 against the spread last season, while the Broncos were 9-7-3. Both of those records include three playoff games.
Prediction: Panthers win the game and cover the spread.
Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images