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The Denver Broncos Are Embracing Their Underdog Status

The Broncos open the season as home underdogs. It's a feeling they know well and embrace.

When the NFL released the 2016 schedule, slating the Denver Broncos to face off against the Carolina Panthers in a rematch of the Super Bowl, it raised the profile of the season-opener significantly. Now that we are just days away from opening night, the odds makers in Vegas have placed the hometown Broncos as three-point underdogs to a Carolina team that returns 18 starters from the title game last February. 

Everyone knows that the Denver team that is taking the field on Thursday night will be significantly different from the one that stepped foot in Santa Clara and took home the Lombardi trophy. Gone are key 2015 starters like Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, and Brock Osweiler.

Add to those departures the retirement of all-time great Peyton Manning and it becomes easier to see why this year’s team, while still the defending champions, aren’t being favored against a still formidable Panthers team. On Sunday, the topic of conversation revolved around Denver's underdog status. Pro Bowl corner Aqib Talib down-played it 

“We don't really look at that and we don't really worry about it," Talib said. "You can say that it's extra motivation if you want, but I don’t think we need extra motivation. We've waited long enough so we're ready to go.”

People keep pointing to the Super Bowl as a case study the Broncos can utilize to take down the Panthers again this Thursday. Talib still has his notes handy. 

“You can take a lot," Talib said. "I kept my notes from last year, so it's pretty much a lot of the similar stuff, a lot of the same offense. As far as game planning, you can take a lot from what we did preparing for the Super Bowl.”

For safety T.J. Ward, being an underdog comes as no surprise. The Broncos were consistently underestimated throughout their storied 2015 campaign. 

SOUND OFF: As SB Champs, Should Denver Be Underdogs To Carolina? Join The Conversation In The Forums!

“It’s not surprising," Ward said. "We were pretty much underdogs every game last year and we walked away hoisting the trophy. It really doesn’t matter. I think we work well as underdogs.”

Chris Harris, Jr. doesn’t put much stock into what the prognosticators and experts are saying about the Broncos, nor do his teammates. Sunday, he was quick to jokingly thank the media.

“We just thank y’all," Harris said. "We thank the media, thank ESPN, everybody who keeps doing that. Keep giving us extra motivation, we love that.”

On the offensive side of the football, tailback C.J. Anderson was in agreement with Ward and was indifferent about what side of the point spread Denver would be on to start the year. He was also quick to mention that it wasn’t as big a deal to the team as it is to the fans. “We’ll probably be underdogs Week 1, underdogs Week 2 and so on," Anderson said. "We’re fine, we’ll be the underdogs.”

The opening game for any team has several storylines and this will be no exception. With so much uncertainty at the quarterback position, it stands to reason that that Denver would open up as slight underdogs to Carolina.

With that in mind, the attitude from last year to this year hasn’t changed much — the players don’t seem to give it much weight. The team as a whole is much younger than the championship-winning one but the mindset is the same — point spreads don’t win games. Getting it done on the field does. 

When the Broncos take the field on Thursday night, Denver's team complexion will be different than the one that faced the Panthers last year. But the pervasive “us against the world” mentality that the team embraced and ran with last year, looks to still be alive and well.

It’s easy to get emotional and feel disrespected when credit from the national media isn’t being given. But these Broncos are far too experienced to let it get the best of them. 

It's reminiscent of what guard Keith Bishop said in the 1986 AFC Title game against Cleveland. With Denver being down late in the fourth quarter and staring down a game-tying drive that would need to go 92 yards, Bishop looked at men facing him in the huddle and uttered the famous words, “we got’em right where we want them”.

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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