Week 1: Carolina Panthers @ Denver Broncos

Panthers -2.5? It seems way too easy. The Manning era is over and the Broncos won’t make the playoffs, but it doesn’t mean they don’t win week 1.

1) Peyton Manning was a shell of himself & we all know that everything was set up to give him the Lombardi. He had nothing to do with the Super Bowl win. Mark Sanchez or Trevor Siemian will be much better QBs in week 1 than Peyton was last season.

2) Panthers have no secondary, huge matchup problems against Sanders & Thomas. They might start rookies Zack Sanchez and James Bradberry at two of the three CB slots. Even Mark Sanchez should throw Sanders and Thomas open against them. Broncos are likely going to put their QB into max protection or PA sometimes to cover these huge OL problems.

3) Kelvin Benjamin hasn’t played a snap in a Football game since January 2015. In 2015 Cam Newton was put into max protection on so many plays and he was able to torch bad secondaries on one of the worst schedules. That didn’t work out in the Super Bowl when Wade Phillips sent one extra defender from coverage to rush Newton. With Kelvin Benjamin back, the Panthers need to spread out their guys more to get Benjamin into open space or good 1on1 matchups. If Von Miller is back, Cam Newton will face almost the same pass rush as he did in the Super Bowl but with less max protection, otherwise the same game will happen again. This time Newton has to read coverages more and more. Considering Talib plays, it’s still the same secondary from Denver. This isn’t necessarily a better matchup than it was in February.

4) Home field advantage. This game is played in Denver, Colorado, where the Broncos are 33-7 since 2012 and their defense has given up 17.6 PPG last year DESPITE Peyton “Noodlearm” Manning throwing 1TD to 8INT in five games. The Panthers were an average road team on a poor schedule. Down the stretch, they could have easily gone 0-3.

Panthers -2.5 is the sexy pick, but I don’t think the outcome will be sexy for Panthers backers. People who lean Broncos might wait, because the line should pop to 3 at some point.

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