The Super Bowl 2016 rematch opens the new NFL season, but when the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers run onto the field at the Sports Authority Field at Mile High, it will be the team that lost the championship game last season who will start as the favourites.
As good as the Broncos were in the Super Bowl, the new season comes with a lot of ifs and very few certainties. With Peyton Manning retired, Denver will begin the season with a raw quarterback, a seventh round pick from 2015. Trevor Siemian has been given the unenviable job of taking over from the future hall of famer, with the man from Northwestern given the nod ahead of the first round pick of 2016 Paxton Lynch.
How he copes against the team that went 15-1 in the regular season in 2015 remains to be seen, but if Siemian comes out smelling of roses in the end, Broncos might just have a gem of a quarterback in their hands. It is a big if, though, even if the Denver defence, the one that won them the Super Bowl against the Panthers, remains quite strong.
Led by Von Miller, fresh from signing a new contract, the Denver Broncos defence will look to terrorise Cam Newton and co., much like they did back in February, even if the star linebacker is expecting a completely different game.
"I think you could use a lot from that game, but you'd be fools to think that they're going to run the same plays," Miller said. "I think that we could use some things that we didn't do well and some things that they did well and we think that they're going to try and attack us in those areas."
The Panthers are a lot more settled than the Broncos and that could be the difference in this season opener. With Newton coming in with a point to prove after struggling in the biggest game of them all, Carolina will look for another near-flawless regular season campaign, and a win against the reigning champions will be the perfect start.
"A lot of people want to make it a rematch," Newton was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. "It's not a rematch. It's just our next opponent."
Newton might want to play down the importance of this NFL season opener, but there is little doubt that the Carolina Panthers camp will have revenge on their minds. If they can trump the Broncos defence, that revenge very well might end up being theirs.
Where to Watch Live
The opening game of the 2016 NFL season -- Carolina Panthers vs Denver Broncos -- is set to begin at 8.30 p.m. ET (6 a.m. IST, 1.30 a.m. BST next day). Live Streaming and TV information is below.
India: TV: Sony Six/HD and Sony ESPN/HD. Live Streaming: Sonyliv.
USA: TV: NBC. Live Streaming: NBC Sports Live.
UK: TV: Sky Sports 1. Live Streaming: Sky Go.
Canada: TV: TSN 1, TSN 3, TSN 4, TSN 5. Live Streaming: TSN TV.
Australia: TV: ESPN. Live Streaming: Foxtel.