10 Reasons Why You Need to Watch Thursday’s Panthers vs. Broncos Battle

by Kevin Roberts
on September 8, 2016

Football is officially back on Thursday night, when the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos welcome Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers into town.

It’s set up to be a wild first game of the season, first because the Broncos beat these very Panthers in last year’s Super Bowl, but also because this is a very interesting matchup for many reasons.

There are narratives and story-lines abound in this game, too, giving even the most casual NFL observer plenty of reason to tune into the live action. To get everyone ready for the big game, let’s go over the 10 biggest reasons you won’t want to miss it:

Football is Back!

The stage is set for an intense Super Bowl rematch, but it doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of Denver or Carolina (or neither!). The mere fact that the NFL is back and games matter again is amazing by itself.

Tonight is the first time we can enjoy a meaningful NFL game and this one gets all of our attention in a prime-time setting. It’s possible this could be an ugly defensive battle like we saw in the Super Bowl last year, but we should still see some hard-hitting and big plays.

Even if it’s not the ideal first game (although some would say it is), pro football has returned, and that alone is a glorious thing.

Daily Fantasy Football

Drafting rosters in daily fantasy football leagues – or even regular season long leagues – is about as fun as it gets, and our DFS and season long season kick off officially tonight. If you don’t have a Broncos or Panthers player on your regular season long roster, consider using a few tonight on DFS sites like DraftKings or FanDuel.

Both of the top daily fantasy sites are running some massive contests for the first week of NFL action, and if you can pick the right sleepers you could win some serious cash. Even if you don’t win, fantasy football increases the enjoyment of the game and gives you something to cheer for even if your team is losing or the game gets boring. If you can win some money at the same time, all the better!

NFL Betting

Not a fan of fantasy football? You can still make some big bucks by betting on football games – specifically tonight’s Super Bowl rematch. Bovada lists Carolina (-3) as the mild favorite heading into Thursday’s game, with the over/under sitting at 41.

You can even bet on the Money Line (as well as a slew of NFL props), but neither Carolina (-165) or Denver (+145) are overly attractive straight up bets.

The best play may be attacking the Total or picking Denver to beat the spread. Carolina could very well win this game, but many experts would deem that to be the true upset. The game is in Denver and Carolina’s vaunted defense struggled mightily against the Broncos in last year’s title game.

That could make the Broncos a great bet, as they could keep the game close or flat out win it.

The top Panthers vs. Broncos bet is the Under on the Total, however. Going off of the Super Bowl meeting, these two teams combined for just 34 total points in a 24-10 Denver win. Both defenses are very good, with Denver’s being a good deal better. As good as Carolina can be, we need to consider their matchup and the fact that they’re on the road. Odds are in your favor to hit the Under, which is a solid 41.

We think the Panthers might squeak this one out, but only by a small margin and without many points. Something like a 20-16 Panthers win sounds about right. In that scenario, you could bet on Carolina covering or bet the Under. We’d avoid any unnecessary risk and just bet the Under in a defensive battle.

Trevor Siemian’s Debut

One huge reason why the Panthers are favorite is the evolution at the quarterback position for the Broncos. Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler went to Houston, so now it’s former 7th-round pick Trevor Siemian’s turn to guide the offense.

Siemian is going to be interesting to watch, as we get our first real regular season look at him and what he can do with this offense. Denver seems to believe in him and he does have a great team around him, but two key things are working against him: he isn’t very talented and the Panthers have a strong defense.

Carolina forced Carson Palmer into a whopping six turnovers in the NFC title game last year. So, yeah.

Cam’s Revenge

On the other side is Cam Newton, who previously said he’s done “dabbing”, but is always a colorful personality worth tuning in to watch. The dab could come back out or some new touchdown dance could be created, should Newton find his way through Denver’s elite defense tonight.

Newton is probably the top dual threat passer in the league and one of the best pure quarterbacks, so no matter what, he’s going to be worth watching. He didn’t fare so well against Denver in the Super Bowl and is 0-2 against the Broncos in his career, though, so it’s fair to wonder if he may continue struggling against them.

How Newton fares in the face of a brute defense that suffocated him in the biggest game of his life is without a doubt must-see TV.

Von Miller on the Edge

As exciting as Cam Newton can be, Von Miller is just as fun to watch and was one key reason why the Broncos won a title in 2015. Miller specifically sacked Newton 2.5 times in the Super Bowl and seems to be in his head.

Miller also just got done locking up a new long-term contract with Denver, so for so many reasons it’s going to be interesting to see how he performs in week one.

Kelvin Benjamin’s Return

We get a new face in Trevor Siemian tonight, but we also get the return of a familiar one with Carolina’s #1 wide receiver hitting the field for the first time in a year. Benjamin missed all of 2015 due to a torn ACL and could be slated for a huge comeback year after posting strong numbers as a rookie back in 2014.

Benjamin could be held to a snap count and this matchup isn’t ideal for him at all, but Carolina may need to his size and speed to off-set Denver’s elite defense. Don’t be shocked if he comes up big in the red-zone tonight.

C.J. Anderson Takes Over

C.J. Anderson was a bit disappointing to start last year, as he was a total masher to close 2014 and went into 2015 expecting to be one of the best backs in the NFL. He got off to a sluggish start, though, and it took him until the second half of the year to round into form.

He was a bit of a beast from that point on, however, as he was solely responsible for a huge overtime win over the New England Patriots during the regular season and was again a machine during Denver’s title run. Anderson figures to be featured again in the offense right away in week one, and how he performs could dictate how Siemian and the rest of the Broncos perform.

Denver’s Elite Defense

We touched on Von Miller and his electric play, but he’s just one member of a very deep and balanced Broncos defense. This is a defense that ranked #1 in terms of yardage allowed on defense in 2015, while also terrorizing quarterbacks with a league-leading 52 sacks.

Miller is joined by impressive talents such as DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Derek Wolfe. We could go on listing Denver defensive players, but we just suggest watching them crush heads during the game, instead.

No More Josh Norman

One last thing to watch for in tonight’s Super Bowl rematch? How Carolina’s defense operate without star lockdown cornerback, Josh Norman. Norman fled for the Redskins in free agency and the Panthers didn’t do a great job in replacing him on paper.

Carolina still has probably the best inside linebacker in the game in Luke Kuechly and their strength up front is as good as anyone’s, but losing a shutdown corner could be a problem. Add guys like Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas on the other side, and it’s worth wondering if the Panthers could be busy through the air all night.

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