Carolina (15-1) at Denver (12-4), 8:30 p.m. on NBC. They meet again. When we last left Carolina and Denver, they were squaring off in Super Bowl 50 (L for those that are lovers of the Roman numbers). For the Panthers, it was not a good day that Sunday afternoon in Santa Clara.

For the Broncos, it was their chance to come back to the top of the NFL mountain.

Cam Newton’s still around. As for Peyton Manning? He’s ridden off into the sunset with the Lombardi Trophy in hand. It’s round 2 and this time, it’s the season opener for both teams.

This time, the hunters become the hunted.

It’s a Super Bowl rematch and this time, there’s NO Peyton involved. Cam’s still around but this time, it’s Trevor Siemian under center.

A new era is taking shape in the Mile High City.

America… are you ready for some football?

The 2016 season begins with the NFL’s annual primetime kickoff game as the opener on NBC will feature the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos hosting the Carolina Panthers in a rematch of Super Bowl 50. The game marks the first Super Bowl rematch played on Kickoff Weekend since 1970 (Kansas City vs. Minnesota). The Broncos enter the game with a .655 winning percentage (36-19-1) in season-opening games, the second-best record in the NFL (Dallas, .673, 37-18-1). Denver aims for its fifth consecutive victory on Kickoff Weekend, while Carolina looks to extend its season-opening winning streak to three.

Carolina and Newton “pounded” their way to Super Bowl 50 winning the NFC South for 6th time (1996, 2003, 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015) last year. Newton was named NFL MVP in 2015 and became only player ever with 30+ pass TDs (35) & 10+ rush TDs (10) in season and Newton had another weapon in RB Jonathan Stewart, who had 1,088 scrimmage yards in 2015, 3rd career season with 1,000+ scrimmage yards. Panthers TE Greg Olsen led team in catches (77) & rec. yards (1,104) last season and had 7 TDs. Only NFL TE with 5+ rec. TDs in each of past 8 seasons…LB Luke Kuechly led team with 118 tackles in 2015. Since entering NFL in 2012, Kuechly leads league with 591 tackles.

Denver won their 3rd Lombardi last season with Peyton under center. This time? It’s going to be QB Trevor Siemian, who makes 1st career start. The Broncos are 1st defending SB champ to start QB with 0 career pass attempts in season opener RB C.J. Anderson has 5 rush TDs in past 5 at home (including playoffs), while WR DeMaryius Thomas led team in catches (105) & reception yards (1,304) last season. Is only Bronco with 4 consecutive 1,200-yard seasons. Since 2012, Thomas ranks 2nd in NFL with 5,787 receiving yards and is the only NFL player with 5,500+ receiving yards (5,787) & 40+ rec. TDs (41) since 2012. Teammate WR Emmanuel Sanders had 1,135 rec. yards last year, his 2nd consecutive 1,000-yard season… The defending Super Bowl champs led the NFL in total (283.1 yards per game) & pass defense (199.6 yards per game). On the other side of the ball, it was the defense that got Denver through as LB Von Miller won Super Bowl 50 MVP and had 2.5 sacks with 2 FFs. In the past 2 post season games, (AFC Championship
Game and Super Bowl) Miller has 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and an interceptions and since 2011, ranks 2nd in NFL with 60 sacks. LB De Marcus Ware is 2nd among active players with 134.5 career sacks. Including the Super Bowl, Ware has 7.5
sacks, 3 FFs & FR in 6 games vs. Carolina Ware’s teams are 6-0 in those meetings. Since 2008, CB Aqib Talib leads NFL with 8 INT-TDs.

Denver leads the regular season series 3-1 and have outscored the Panthers 100-61. Carolina’s lone win in the series came in the Tar Heel State in 2008 by a 30-10 final, while Denver’s last win in the regular season came in the Mile High City in 2012 by a 36-14 count. It was the meeting in Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara that drew the attention of the nation, with Denver taking a 13-7 lead with them to the locker room at the intermission and shutting down Newton and the Panthers 24-10. Although they outrushed Denver 118-90 and Newton outpassed the Peytonicus 265-141, Newton was sacked six times in the contest and picked off once, while the Panthers fumbled the pigskin three times in Santa Clara.

As far as third down tries? Neither club did anything to write home about, with Carolina going 3 of 15, while Denver was not much better at 1 of 14. Carolina did win the battle of the clock, keeping the ball out of Denver’s hands for 32:47, while Denver kept the pigskin for a mere 27:13.

The oddmakers like Carolina as a 3 point favorite and the over/under in this one is 41 1/2. Both numbers do make sense. Denver was the hunter last year. This year, they’re the hunted but they start the 2016 campaign in good order and win at home and cover the 3.

Weather: Partly sunny with a high of 86 degrees.

REFEREE: Gene Steratore

Injury Report

Carolina
DOUBTFUL: S Dean Marlowe (Hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Vernon Butler (Hand), LB Aaron Klein (Back)

Denver
OUT: WR Bennie Fowler (Elbow)
QUESTIONABLE: C James Ferentz (Knee), TE Jeff Heuerman (Ankle), T Tyler Sambrailo (Elbow)

BROADCAST: 8:30 p.m. on NBC: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (Field reporter). Westwood One: Kevin Harlan, Kurt Warner, Tony Boselli (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Carolina), 81 (Denver). XM: 88 (WestWood1), 226 (Carolina), 225 (Denver).

Broadcast, injury report and officials information courtesy the National Football League and NBC, odds courtesy Don Best, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel.

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