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Carolina Panthers @ Denver Broncos
Thursday, September 8, 2016
Super Bowl 50 was played six months ago. We all remember how that turned out. Denver’s defense turned in what was truly a performance for the ages, pummeling Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers had come in looking unstoppable. They were stopped. In the ensuing months, the Broncos have lost key players (Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler, Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan and more), have decided to start a quarterback who has never thrown a path in the NFL and weathered a long contract negotiation with Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. Are they a worse team than they were when they ended the 2015 season as champions? That remains to be seen. What their offense can do remains to be seen (and le us not forget that, as much as we love Peyton, he wasn’t PEYTON last year). What their record will be remains to be seen.
What doesn’t remain to be seen is how good their defense will be. It will be good. Hell, it will be great.
The key to the game is Denver’s defense (and Von Miller) versus Carolina’s offense (and Cam Newton). It is a fact that the two games that Newton has played against the Broncos have resulted in him amassing a 11.1 quarterback rating. It is a fact that the Denver defense steamrolled Newton in 50. It is a fact that he’s never beaten Denver. If the Broncos can have a similar effort against Newton Thursday night to what they put on him in February, Denver has a great chance to win this game, no matter what the offense can do. This is Newton vs. Miller. Whichever of these guys plays as if he’s the best player in the NFL will hand his team the win.
He’s Trevor Siemian. He’s taken one snap in the NFL. He’s never thrown a pass. He’s succeeding Peyton Manning. He’s the starting quarterback of the World Champion Denver Broncos. Quarterback is the most important position in all of sports and Denver has a big question mark at the position. However, if Siemian can limit his mistakes, can get his offense into the right plays and can help get the running game and play action game going, he should be able to hold the position, hold off rookie Paxton Lynch and hold the fort for the Broncos. By all accounts Siemian is smart. He’s got a very good arm. He’s got the starting gig. If he keeps it all season, the Broncos will be in the playoff conversation all year long. If he doesn’t play well Thursday, Denver will likely lose to the Panthers and the “start Lynch” talk will ramp up.
I’ve gone back-and-forth on this game for weeks. I have felt that the Panthers would come in and win as their motivation to avenge, in some fashion, their Super Bowl loss would be too much for Denver to overcome. Alternately, I’ve felt Denver would win as the Broncos’ defense looks as good as last year’s version and the team has much to prove, especially as many if not most national pundits have them missing the playoffs this season. Back-and-forth. That’s likely how the game will go. I believe it will be a close game. It will be hard fought. It will be fun.
It’s the first game and difficult to pick, but I will go with the home team – a team that rarely drops its home opener – to start the season 1 – 0.