On Feb. 7, 2016, the Denver Broncos upset the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium outside San Francisco. What better way to start the new NFL season exactly seven months later than with a rematch in the Mile High City? It’s the first time since 1970 there has been a Week 1 rematch of the previous year’s Super Bowl. Denver is a rare home underdog for this one on Sports Interaction NFL odds.
Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos
Point Spread: Panthers -3 Over/under: 41.5 Date: Thursday, Sept. 8, 8:30 p.m. ET Location:Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
Had Carolina won the Super Bowl, it would have been considered one of the best single-season teams in NFL history thanks to a 15-1 regular-season record. The Panthers were 4.5-point favourites over the Broncos, but Carolina’s offense had major trouble with that top-ranked Denver defense. The 10 points scored were a season-low for a team that averaged 31.5 during the regular season. Newton was just 18-for-41 passing for 265 yards and an interception. He also lost two fumbles, which both led to Denver touchdowns.
While it’s unlikely the Panthers go 15-1 again, they are -250 favourites to win another NFC South title, -556 to return to the playoffs and have a wins total of 10.5 that’s tied for the highest in the NFL. However, Carolina is tied for third on the Sports Interaction odds to win the NFC title at +550. Green Bay (+350) and Seattle (+400) are ahead of the Panthers — even though Carolina beat both teams last year, doing so twice against the Seahawks.
The Panthers are largely back intact but for two exceptions. The top addition is receiver Kelvin Benjamin. He caught 73 passes for 1,008 yard and nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2014 but missed all of last season following a training camp injury. The defense lost Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman to the Washington Redskins. Carolina could have kept him on a one-year franchise tag but opted to rescind that offer and spend the money elsewhere.
Carolina covered the NFL betting spread in five of its eight road games last year.
The Broncos won that Super Bowl really in spite of quarterback Peyton Manning, who was just 13-for-23 passing for 141 yards and an interception. The Broncos’ 194 total yards offense were the fewest ever by a Super Bowl winner. The reason Denver won that game was the play of outside linebacker Von Miller, who had six tackles, 2.5 sacks and those two forced fumbles by Newton. Miller was deservedly named Super Bowl MVP.
While Miller is back and was made the NFL’s highest-paid player this offseason, Peyton Manning retired. His shocking replacement is Trevor Siemian, a seventh-round pick out of Northwestern in 2015 who hasn’t thrown a regular-season pass. He could well be the most unlikely Week 1 starter ever under center for a defending Super Bowl champion. Most believe it’s only a matter of time before the job is handed to 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch. The Broncos are going to have to be carried most likely by their defense as they were last year.
The defending Super Bowl champion is 10-2 in these NFL Kickoff Games. One of those losses came at the hands of the Broncos in Denver in 2013. The Ravens were defending champions, but that game had to be played in Denver due to a scheduling conflict with baseball’s Orioles.
Denver covered four of 10 home games last year, including playoffs.
Panthers vs. Broncos Prediction
Carolina is taking a huge lean, and I often tend to bet against the public when that’s the case for a home underdog. But the Panthers’ defense is nearly as good as Denver’s and Newton is miles better than Siemian. So give the points — before it gets to 3.5 — and go under the total.
Check out the rest of our best picks against the spread in NFL Week 1 action!