Carolina at Denver Week 1 Free Betting Pick
Just 37 days until the 2016 NFL season kicks off and it does so with about as good of a Week 1 matchup that you could ask for as the Carolina Panthers visit the Denver Broncos in rematch of Super Bowl 50 that was won by the underdog Broncos. But the Panthers are 3-point favorites on opening NFL lines.
Taking a Closer Look at the Carolina at Denver Week 1 Free Betting Pick & TV Info
When: Thursday, Sept. 8, 8:30 PM ET
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
Radio: Carolina / Denver
Opening NFL Lines: Panthers -3 (42)
Carolina vs Denver Historic Betting Trends
In what would prove to be future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning's final NFL game, the Broncos beat the Panthers 24-10 outside San Francisco on Feb. 7 in the Super Bowl. The Panthers committed four turnovers and 12 penalties, missed a field goal attempt and couldn’t keep the Broncos’ ferocious pass rush away from NFL MVP Cam Newton. Fullback Mike Tolbert, who hadn’t fumbled all season, did so twice, turning the ball over once. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who hadn’t dropped a pass all year, dropped two, including one inside the Denver 10-yard line. Just 10 points for a Carolina team that averaged 31.3 during the regular season and 40 during the playoffs. The lone bright spot for Carolina was defensive end Kony Ealy becoming the first player in Super Bowl history to have three sacks and an interception.
Manning became the first quarterback to win Super Bowls with two franchises. A win for Indianapolis in 2007 was the other. Gary Kubiak is the first to win a Super Bowl as player and coach for the same team. Manning finished 13-for- 23 for 141 yards against a strong Carolina defense.
Why Bet Carolina?
Because it has Newton back and the Broncos aren’t even sure who their starting QB will be. Newton isn’t thinking about last season’s Super Bowl loss to the Broncos. Instead, he’s “living in the moment right now. … It’s not about encores, it’s not about looking back.”
Newton has said that owner Jerry Richardson has implored the strong-armed quarterback to improve his accuracy on some of the shorter throws that defenses often concede. Newton is coming off a remarkable season in which he threw for 3,837 yards and a career-high 35 touchdowns and finished with a 99.4 passer rating, which also was a career best. Newton’s 59.8 completion percentage was nearly identical to his career percentage (59.5), a statistic he could boost by connecting on more of the gimme throws Richardson mentioned.
“As Mr. Richardson says, the layups. The gimme throws,” Newton said. “I always ask for brutal honesty from the superior forces that are in my life, from coach (Ron) Rivera to Mr. Richardson to Mr. (Dave) Gettleman and from my father. You hear it often: Yeah, you can throw the comebacks and the digs. But what about the checkdowns and slants and just getting back to the small nuances of the game? That makes big differences.”
The Panthers went 15-1 a year ago in the regular season and will get back a top offensive weapon this year in Kelvin Benjamin. His 2014 campaign was, by any measure, the best in team history by a rookie wideout.
Why Bet Denver?
The Broncos will again have one of the NFL’s best defenses, led by Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, now the highest-paid defender in the league. The Broncos, who led the league in almost every major statistical category on defense last season, came close to a rare trifecta of leading the league in rush defense, pass defense and total defense in the same season — the Broncos led the league in pass and total defense last season and were third in run defense. Sift through those numbers — to go with the fact that even with Malik Jackson (Jacksonville) and Danny Trevathan (Chicago) departed in free agency, the Broncos have all of their Pro Bowl defenders back.
But the focus of camp is on who replaces Manning. Kubiak will not rush the decision, and he will not waver in his stock answer that he is confident the Broncos “will pick the right guy.” After the early work in camp, however, it’s clear Mark Sanchez will have to lose the job before he is passed on the depth chart. Despite Trevor Siemian’s quality work behind center, it looks like only a significant stumble in the preseason would keep Sanchez from starting the Broncos’ regular-season opener. Still, he’s 18-25 since leading the New York Jets to those long ago AFC Championship Game berths and has posted 57 TD passes against 71 turnovers since 2011.
Whomever the QB is, the Broncos have a good group of receivers. Kubiak says that in his 32 years in the NFL he’s never seen this much depth or deftness at wide receiver. Coaches are excited about the leaps being made by holdovers Bennie Fowler, Jordan Norwood and Cody Latimer, all of whom stepped it up in the playoffs and are now vying for the No. 3 receiver job this summer.
The Broncos appear set to feature four new starters on the offensive line since their Super Bowl 50 victory. One spot still to sort out is right guard, where rookie Connor McGovern is competing with Ty Sambrailo.
My Free Pick
I wouldn’t recommend betting against Denver at home very often but I do like Carolina on NFL odds to get a little payback.