Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports

Broncos vs. Panthers: First kickoff-weekend Super Bowl rematch in 46 years

The NFL returns with the very rare matchup of a Super Bowl rematch on kickoff weekend. It doesn’t get much better.

Welcome back, NFL. Your fans have missed you.

The last time the NFL had a meaningful game, it was Super Bowl 50, where Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton was dabbed out and Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning was ending his Hall of Fame career by hoisting the Lombardi Trophy again.

This time, the stakes are lower, but the hype is back – for good reason. It’s the first time the NFL’s kickoff weekend features the previous year’s Super Bowl opponents since 1970.

But it’s also the first time a defending Super Bowl champion has opened the ensuing season with a starting quarterback that hasn’t thrown an NFL regular-season pass in his career. Welcome to the big time, Trevor Siemian. No big deal, right? Your counterpart on the Panthers is only the NFL’s reigning MVP.

Here is the capsule for the game every football fan should be watching Thursday night:

  PANTHERS BRONCOS
SERIES LEADER   3-1
STREAKS   3 of past 4
COACHES VS. OPP. Ron Rivera: 0-2 Gary Kubiak: 1-0
LAST GAME 11/11/12: Broncos 36 at Panthers 14. Denver QB Peyton Manning throws for 301 yards & TD. Broncos PR Trindon Holliday has 76-yard PR-TD.
LAST GAME AT SITE 10/10/04: Broncos 20, Panthers 17. Denver QB Jake Plummer passes for 226 yards & 2 TDs. Broncos RB Reuben Droughns rushes for 193 yards.
REFEREE Gene Steratore
BROADCAST NBC (8:30 PM ET):  Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (Field reporter). Westwood One: Kevin Harlan, Kurt Warner, Tony Boselli (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 83 (Car), 81 (Den). XM: 88 (WW1), 226 (Car), 225 (Den). 

2015 STATS

PASSING Cam Newton: 296-495-3837-35 (T2L)-10-99.4 Trevor Siemian (Pre.): 27-43-285-1-2-70.4
RUSHING Jonathan Stewart: 242-989-4.1-6 C.J. Anderson: 152-720-4.7-5
RECEIVING Greg Olsen (TE): 77-1104-14.3-7 Demaryius Thomas: 105-1304-12.4-6
OFFENSE 366.9 355.5
TAKE/GIVE +20 (1L) -4
DEFENSE 322.9 283.1 (1L)
SACKS Kawann Short: 11 Von Miller: 11
INTs Kurt Coleman: 7 (T3L) Aqib Talib: 3
PUNTING Andy Lee (Cle.): 46.7  Riley Dixon (R) (Pre.): 41.9
KICKING Graham Gano: 146 (2L) (56/59 PAT; 30/36 FG) Brandon McManus: 125 (35/36 PAT; 30/35 FG)

GAME MARKS: 1st SB rematch on KO Weekend since 1970 (KC vs. Min).

PANTHERS: Advanced to SB 50…Won division for 6th time (1996, 2003, 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015) last year…QB CAM NEWTON named NFL MVP in 2015. Became only player ever with 30+ pass TDs (35) & 10+ rush TDs (10) in season…RB JONATHAN STEWART had 1,088 scrimmage yards in 2015, 3rd career season with 1,000+ scrimmage yards…TE GREG OLSEN led team in catches (77) & rec. yards (1,104) last season & had 7 TDs. Only NFL TE with 5+ rec. TDs in each of past 8 seasons…LB LUKE KUECHLY led team with 118 tackles in 2015. Since entering NFL in 2012, leads league with 591 tackles. LB THOMAS DAVIS has 816 career tackles, 3rd among active NFC LBs. DE KONY EALY had 3 sacks & INT in SB 50. S KURT COLEMAN has 18 INTs since 2011, tied for 2nd among S (incl. playoffs).

BRONCOS: Won 3rd SB last season…QB TREVOR SIEMIAN makes 1st career start. Broncos are 1st defending SB champ to start QB with 0 career pass att. in season opener…RB C.J. ANDERSON has 5 rush TDs in past 5 at home (incl. playoffs)…WR DEMARYIUS THOMAS led team in catches (105) & rec. yards (1,304) last season. Is only Bronco with 4 consecutive 1,200-yard seasons. Since 2012, ranks 2nd in NFL with 5,787 rec. yards. Only NFL player with 5,500+ rec. yards (5,787) & 40+ rec. TDs (41) since 2012. WR EMMANUEL SANDERS had 1,135 rec. yards last year, his 2nd consecutive 1,000-yard season…Broncos led NFL in total (283.1 yards per game) & pass defense (199.6 yards per game). LB VON MILLER won SB 50 MVP & had 2.5 sacks with 2 FFs. In past 2 (AFC CG & SB), has 5 sacks, 2 FFs & INT. Since 2011, ranks 2nd in NFL with 60 sacks. LB DE MARCUS WARE is 2nd among active players with 134.5 career sacks. Incl. SB, Ware has 7.5 sacks, 3 FFs & FR in 6 games vs. Car. Ware’s teams are 6-0 in those meetings. Since 2008, CB AQIB TALIB leads NFL with 8 INT-TDs.


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