Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart, left, runs around Denver...

Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart, left, runs around Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan during the first half of Super Bowl 50 Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. Credit: AP/ Matt Slocum


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Panthers by 3; O/U: 41 12

Panthers 35, Broncos 10.

That was my pick for Super Bowl 50. Ah, if only Von Miller could’ve hit my right hand as I was about to submit that column. Like Cam Newton, I didn’t want to talk after the game. But now there’s a clean slate, and this season kicks off the same way the last one ended, with this matchup.

Carolina is a three-point favorite on the road, and for good reason: 1) Carolina has Newton while Denver has Trevor Siemian (who?), a second-year quarterback who never has thrown an NFL pass; 2) The Panthers get back their best receiver, Kelvin Benjamin. He had 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie before sitting out last season with an injury; 3) Motivation factor. Yes, winning a Week 1 game wouldn’t count as revenge for losing a Super Bowl, but it would sure feel good to beat that team in their building.

As great as Denver’s defense is, and as difficult it is to play against them in Denver (see: Tom Brady in last year’s AFC Championship Game), I think Carolina is the right play here. Newton is poised for another MVP-type season now that Benjamin is back, and I think he can make enough big plays with his arm and legs to get the win. Siemian is a complete mystery, and until he shows what he can do, I wouldn’t place any trust in Denver’s offense.

If you like over/unders, the Broncos are a team I would target often for under plays. They’ll have trouble scoring, and win with defense. Expect a lot of 17-13, 13-10 kind of games. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game finishes under 30, with Carolina winning a 17-10, 14-9 type of contest.

The pick: Panthers


TOM ROCK: Panthers


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