Carolina Panthers (-3) at Denver Broncos (+3)

It is usually scary to lead a column with a confidence pick, as any unfortunate circumstance that produces a loser is highlighted and featured until the rest of the week’s games are played days later. It is even more frightening to lead an entire season with a confidence pick.

The Denver Broncos getting points on Opening Night was one of the immediate picks made during the offseason, and nothing has forced us to alter our thinking.

Denver’s quarterback position has been in shambles for weeks, and the appointment of Trevor Siemian as the man tasked with leading the defending champions feels more like an act of obligation than confidence. After all, the Broncos had to start someone under center.

The ‘someone’ that took the field for Denver seven months earlier was also a relative question mark. Granted, he will walk into the Hall of Fame in a few years, but Peyton Manning’s deteriorated body led the Broncos in the most important game of the season against a squad that finished the regular season with a 15-1 record.

For the past few seasons, the winner of the Super Bowl was granted a nationally-televised home game to open the following year against the team it defeated in the Conference Championship. This year, a direct rematch of Super Bowl 50 will be in place. While the trend does not necessarily relate to Conference Championship rematches, the last three defending champions opened their next season with a win. Then again, each of the previous three defending champions entered the next season as favorites in their Opening Night matchup.

Not Denver.

Even prior to the carousel of quarterback options whirling around Denver, the Broncos were getting points from Carolina. But if the Broncos’ quarterback situation was bad enough to warrant the spread going in Carolina’s favor, why didn’t it go more in their favor? A Broncos’ team that can play within a field goal of the Panthers is a Broncos team that can also beat the Panthers. In essence, we just disproved the value of Denver’s quarterback to its odds for success.

Denver won games in 2015 because of its defense. Admittedly, it might have taken a back step due to a few key losses, but a home game to kick off the 2016 NFL season is more than enough to cover the potential dip that might occur over the next seventeen weeks. Therefore, it won’t matter on Thursday.

Denver keeps the trend alive, wins by a touchdown, and beats the spread.

*Confidence Pick: Denver Broncos +3*