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Denver Broncos open title defense against Carolina Panthers

Some thought it may be Brock Osweiler and Houston, but it's Cam Newton and the Panthers who come Mile High on Sept. 8.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bring on the Super Bowl rematch.

Most predicted that the Denver Broncos would open the 2016 season against the Houston Texans and a certain former quarterback. No doubt it would have made for great TV and even better drama.

Alas, the NFL schedule makers didn't agree. Instead, Brock Osweiler and the Texans will come to the Mile High City for a Week 7 matchup on Monday Night Football. Wonder what the Las Vegas oddsmakers will make the line for Osweiler getting benched in Denver again.

The schedule makers thus decided to go with the Carolina Panthers and make Cam Newton's life even more miserable. Who knows, he may dive on a loose ball this go-round.

Or the NFL thinks Newton and the Panthers will get their revenge on the Broncos. The disrespect of the Super Bowl champs has already started, and this time from the league office in New York.

It is a bit surprising the NFL went with the Super Bowl rematch so quick in the season. It's the first time since 1970 (Kansas City and Minnesota) that the previous season's Super Bowl teams will meet in the opener. The news was first announced by the Charlotte Observer.

For the most part, save for the players who return from injury and older players who moved on, the Panthers will look the same as they did in Super Bowl 50. Carolina does get a key offensive weapon back in receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

The Broncos, at least on offense, won't look anything like they did on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif. C.J. Anderson, Matt Paradis, Max Garcia, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Virgil Green will return. That's it. New quarterback, tackles, right guard, starting tight end and Denver will utilize a fullback this season.

The Broncos will look the same on defense, minus two starters, and that's bad news for Newton. The Panthers will try to change things up on offense, but what they do well is run the football. And even with the return of Benjamin, Denver still has all of the No Fly Zone back.

Not to mention DeMarcus Ware, Shaquil Barrett, Shane Ray and Newton's worst nightmare, Von Miller.

Miller and the Broncos defense could spoil the two most recent games Newton and Carolina play.

Any team that was scheduled to come into Mile High to open the season faced a massive challenge. But the fact it's the Panthers adds to the intrigue.

No doubt Carolina will come in highly motivated and have the next five or so months to prepare for that Denver defense that shut its offense down in the Super Bowl. It could add a few wrinkles Wade Phillips may not expect or prepare for. It could find creative ways to use Benjamin. The Panthers will have to find a way to neutralize the Denver defense. They at least have to try and slow it down.

Carolina will want to return the favor to the Broncos. Give them a taste of what the Super Bowl was like.

What will make it tough for Ron Rivera and his defense is they have no idea what the Denver offense will look like come Sept. 8. There's a new offensive line, new quarterback who may not even be on the roster yet and an attack more based on the Gary Kubiak system.

Good luck trying to plan for an offense that isn't even set yet, and you'll have no film on.

Yet another advantage for the Broncos.

That's on top of a banner-raising ceremony to celebrate the three Super Bowl wins, a new season where optimism reigns supreme, at home in Mile High and against the team the Broncos defeated to make it all happen.

It's tough to win in Denver anyway, but this is the first time in 16 years Broncos Country has the chance to celebrate a Super Bowl champion.

Rest assured, the Rocky Mountain Thunder will shake the region. What will make that night even sweeter is a pristine orange sunset right as kickoff is about to happen.

I won't predict a blowout.

I won't even say the game will follow the Super Bowl. Too much is unknown at this point. As referenced earlier, there's still over five months until this game happens. There's still the draft, organized team activities, June minicamp, training camp and preseason.

There's also that minute detail of the quarterback situation, but no one pays attention to details anymore.

What I am saying is Newton and the Panthers are walking into a hornet's nest naked with no bug spray, and not even a dab will help.