Carolina Panthers at Denver Broncos
Thursday, September 8, 2016, 8:30 pm Eastern
Sports Authority Field at Mile High – Denver, Colorado
Opening Line: Denver -2 1/2
Current Line: Panthers -3 (-120)
Opening Total: 43 1/2
Current Total: 41 1/2
Opening Money Line: Panthers -130 / Broncos +110
Current Money Line: Panthers -170 / Broncos +150
For the first time since 1970, the two teams that met in the previous season’s Super Bowl will meet in a rematch in week one of the next season. The Denver Broncos upset the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50 last February. The Panthers entered that game 15-1 and were significant favorites. However, the Broncos used their dominant defense to stymie the Panthers’ explosive offense. It was also the last game of the hall-of-fame career of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning as he retired a couple of weeks after the game.
The two teams meet again Thursday night in Denver as the Broncos raise their third championship banner. Despite playing in Denver, the Panthers are 3 point favorites. Denver leads the series 4-1 against Carolina. This is the first time the teams have played in Denver since 2004.
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The Panthers are coached by Ron Rivera. Carolina led the league in scoring at 31.2 points per game last season. The Panthers averaged 367 yards per game on offense including 224 passing and 143 rushing yards per game. The Panthers were #2 in rushing in the league. Carolina allowed 19.2 points per game and were #6 in the league. The Panthers allowed 323 yards per game on defense including 235 passing and 89 rushing yards per game. Carolina was 92/210 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents were 101/253. The Panthers forced 44 sacks and allowed 33 last year. The Panthers were +20 in turnovers and had five defensive touchdowns last year.
Quarterback Cam Newton was the NFL MVP last year. He completed 59.8% of his passes for 3,837 yards with 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 636 yards on 132 carries with 10 touchdowns. Derek Anderson returns as the back-up.
Running back Jonathan Stewart had 242 carries for 989 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 16 catches and a touchdown. Fullback Mike Tolbert rushed for 256 yards and a touchdown, and caught 18 passes and 3 touchdowns. Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker will also get some carries.
What made Newton’s numbers so incredible last year was he didn’t really have a go to receiver. Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL in the pre-season last year after a brilliant rookie year. He returns and looks to get back to his 2014 form where he had 73 catches for over 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns. Tight end Greg Olsen had 77 catches for 1,104 yards and 7 touchdowns. Ted Ginn, Jr. had 739 receiving yards and caught 10 touchdowns. Devin Funchess, Corey Brown and Ed Dickson will also get plenty of targets. Five defensive players are on the injury report as well as two offensive linemen.
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The Broncos are coached by Gary Kubiak. Denver scored only 22 points a game last season but allowed 19 points a game. The Broncos averaged 356 yards per game on offense including 264 passing and 107 rushing yards. Denver allowed 283 yards per game on defense including 84 rushing yards and 222 passing yards. The Broncos were in the top three in all defensive categories and led the league in total defense, pass defense and points allowed. Denver was 86/238 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents were 85/241. Denver forces 52 sacks and allowed 39 last season. Denver was -4 in turnover but did have five defensive touchdowns.
After Manning retired, Brock Osweiler was supposed to be the starting quarterback. He played in eight games last season after Manning suffered a neck injury. Manning returned for the playoffs, but neither quarterback was that good. The two combined for 23 interceptions. Osweiler surprisingly signed with the Houston Texans though.
So last year’s third stringer Trevor Siemian, rookie Paxton Lynch and veteran Mark Sanchez were locked in a three way battle for the starting job during the pre-season. Sanchez was released and signed by the Dallas Cowboys. Siemian will start with Lynch as the back-up. He is in his second season and has not taken a snap in the regular season.
Running back Ronnie Hillman was released by the Broncos and has yet to sign with a another team. He had 207 carries for 863 yards and 7 touchdowns and also had 24 catches. C.J. Anderson takes over as the feature back after he had 152 carries for 720 yards and 5 touchdowns along with 25 catches. Rookie Devontae Booker was a fourth round pick out of Utah and will get some carries. Andy Janovich is the fullback.
Denver still has one of the top receiving tandems in football. DeMaryius Thomas had 105 catches for 1,304 yards and 6 touchdowns. Emmanuel Sanders had 76 catches for 1,135 yards and 6 touchdowns. Tight end Owen Daniels had 46 catches and 3 touchdowns but was released. He is basically retired as no team has signed him. Virgl Green takes over as the new tight end. Not counting the running backs, no other receiver had more than 22 catches last year. Receiver Bennie Fowler is out with an elbow and Cody Latimer is questionable with a knee injury. Ten players are on the injury report including three offensive linemen and three defensive players.
Carolina is 7-1 ATS on grass, 11-5 overall, 2-5 in week one, and 0-4 in road games.
Denver is 7-1 ATS in Thursday games, and 7-3-1 in September. The under is 3-1-1 in this series recently.
Carolina is saying all the right things about this not being a revenge game but I don’t buy it. Both of these teams have really good defenses and I think this will be a low scoring game. I like the Panhters to win a close game on the road.