NFL Football Picks - Week 1 Season Opener In Carolina's Favor

Panthers Player Luke Kuechly in Super Bowl 50

Thursday, September 8, 2016 5:52 PM GMT

No team has repeated as the Super Bowl champion since the New England Patriots in 2004, and sportsbooks aren't confident on the Denver Broncos accomplishing that in Super Bowl LI. In fact, the champs are 3-point home underdogs on NFL Week 1 odds in a rematch Thursday against Carolina.

Line History For Panthers And Broncos
The Broncos are used to being underdogs against the Panthers as on Feb. 7 at Levi's Stadium outside San Francisco, Carolina was a 4.5-point favorite in Super Bowl 50. Not a surprise considering the Panthers had lost just one game all year entering the Super Bowl and had crushed a very good Arizona team in the NFC Championship Game. Denver, meanwhile, had four losses entering the playoffs and had very close calls in postseason wins over Pittsburgh and New England (in which the Broncos were also underdogs on NFL odds) to reach the Super Bowl.

But Denver QB Peyton Manning was able to ride off into the sunset with a second career Super Bowl ring thanks to a 24-10 upset of the Panthers. Although Manning wasn't the reason Denver won. He completed just 13-for-23 for 141 yards and an interception and was sacked five times. The Broncos had a 194 yards of offense, the fewest ever for a Super Bowl winner.

Denver won because of its top-ranked defense as it held the Panthers three touchdowns below their regular-season scoring average (10 points was the fewest all year) and didn't allow NFL MVP Cam Newton to throw or rush for a touchdown. In fact, Newton was responsible for two Denver touchdowns, with one fumble leading immediately to a Denver TD and a second eventually turning into one. Broncos linebacker Von Miller was the best player on the field and the Super Bowl MVP with six tackles, 2.5 sacks and those two forced Newton fumbles.

 

Must Read - Week 1 Against The Spread Free Football Picks

 

Panthers vs. Broncos Breakdown
To win Super Bowl LI in Houston this February, Denver is just +1700 on football futures odds after losing Manning to retirement. The Broncos didn't just lose Manning but also his groomed replacement, Brock Osweiler. He started eight games last year for an injured Manning and played reasonably well but decided to leave for Houston in free agency. So the new starting QB is 2015 seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian, who has never thrown a regular-season pass. Denver is the first defending Super Bowl champion to start a quarterback in Week 1 the next year with zero career pass attempts. The Broncos also lost a couple of key defensive players in end Malik Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan in free agency.

The Broncos do enter this game with a .655 winning percentage (36-19-1) in season-opening games, the second-best record in the NFL behind Dallas' mark of .673. Denver has won four straight games in Week 1 but those were all with Manning under center. This century, the Broncos have lost their home opener just once and have failed to cover the spread only four times.

Carolina is +950 on NFL futures to win the franchise's first Super Bowl. Since the 1992-93 Buffalo Bills, no team that lost the title game has returned the following year.  The Panthers have no quarterback worries with Newton, who last year became the first player in league history to pass for at least 30 touchdowns (35) and rush for a minimum of 10 (10). Newton welcomes back to receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and nine TDs in 2014 as a rookie before missing all of last season injured. Benjamin's snaps will be limited to about 35 in Week 1 as he gets closer to full health. Carolina's most significant loss from 2015 was Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman.

 

Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos Predictions 2016
The Broncos are clearly tough to beat historically in their home openers, winning 28 of their past 32. But they've never had such a questionable quarterback under center in one. Also, in the past five years Carolina has dominated against first-time starting quarterbacks. Give the points and go 'under' the total as one of the best value football picks in week 1 . Expect a similar score as Super Bowl 50 but in Carolina's favor.

 

NFL Free Picks: Panthers & Under
Best Line Offered: at Heritage 

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