The Panthers will be in Denver on Thursday night to kickoff the NFL season. Much has changed for both teams as prominent players left and questions arise towards the 2016 season.
Peyton Manning retired and after bringing in Mark Sanchez the Broncos have decided that Trevor Siemian will be their new quarterback. Siemian, a second-year player from Northwestern University, has never thrown an NFL pass. The Broncos will probably focus on the running game to take the pressure off of their young quarterback.
The Panthers had the sixth ranked defense overall last year and the fourth-ranked rushing defense giving up just 88.4 yards on the ground per game. Siemian will have to make plays get a Bronco win and it is difficult to see the Panthers letting the Broncos move down the field and spoil their revenge for losing last years Super Bowl.
The Panthers lost their Pro-Bowl Cornerback in Josh Norman after they rescinded their franchise tag making the four-year player a free agent. Norman signed with the Redskins and has repeatedly been beaten on long pass plays by DeSean Jackson in training camp, illustrating that Norman may have been a product of the defensive scheme of Head Coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. The Panthers did not seem too concerned losing Norman and believe their system can produce a viable replacement.
There have been big losses by both teams, however, a big addition from 2015 is the return of Kelvin Benjamin to the Panthers. Benjamin, a second-year wide-receiver, had an outstanding rookie year racking up 73 catches for 1,008 yards and 9 touchdowns. The wideout is a large target reminiscent of both Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson of the Bucs. Benjamin will spread the field and with tight end Greg Olson the Panthers will have a dynamic duo in the passing game.
The Panthers should be improved on offense with the return of Benjamin and if the defense can make up for the departure of Norman they should open the season with an impressive win on the road in Denver.