The NFL is opening the 2016 season on Thursday, September 7th. Yes. It’s almost here. One day away. As Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton pointed out, this isn’t another Super Bowl, it’s week one. The Denver Broncos won the last matchup with subpar QB play by an aging Peyton Manning. The question of the day is can they do it again with Paxton Lynch placeholder Trevor Siemian under center? Probably not.
This game isn’t going to be about matchups.
The setup for the game is eerily similar to last seasons Super Bowl. The Broncos offense is in game management mode. “Don’t lose the game” is the marching orders given the offense. As before, Denver must rely on it’s defense to win the game and that’s something they are uniquely qualified to do. After all, it worked out pretty well for them last time and the cast of players is largely the same.
Tap the breaks just a bit. “Largely” the same is not “the” same. On one side of the ball all-world trash talker and All-Pro CB Josh Norman is now in Washington. On the other side of the ball all-world man-about-town QB Peyton Manning has retired. One team is missing an extremely valuable part. The other is missing it’s soul.
Though difficult, the Panthers should be able to overcome the loss of the superior play making abilities of Mr. Norman. It starts up front with their incredibly deep and talented defensive front which got stronger in the last draft. They also added more CB talent and have the reputation for “coaching up” the position. There will be plays Norman will be missed but the team should be able to counter and make the difference. The Panthers should be fine.
However you don’t easily over come the (now gone) leadership, vision, experience, confidence, boldness and savvy Peyton Manning took with him. You miss it. A lot. Once gone it changes everything you do. In the huddle WR Demaryius Thomas no longer is able to look into the sage eyes of his QB and KNOW Manning will somehow make the play. Knowing Peyton is going to make the play, conversely so must he, because no matter what is going down today you are NOT going to be the player that let Peyton Manning down. That “call to arms” is now gone. The entire team knows Siemian isn’t Peyton Manning. Heck, Siemian knows it. As a team they have to find a new way to fight for that last inch. Playing at Mile High is always a big advantage, but games are won and lost in the mind.
Finding a “winning formula” in the NFL is tough. Finding a new one is double tough. The Panthers also have the motivation of having lost in thelast Super Bowl. That either makes you or breaks you. However the same can be said of losing a Hall of Fame QB.
We will find out which team has a stronger mental makeup Thursday night at 8:30 PM EST.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over