A Super Bowl rematch is on the horizon, but fantasy owners with stock in Broncos and Panthers skill players have to prepare themselves for low outputs. The first game of the NFL season will be about defense, but viable fantasy options still exist. Let's have a look at what Thursday night's game provides as fantasy leagues get under way.
Demaryius Thomas’ average draft position suggests fantasy owners are concerned with a Broncos offense that could look nothing like the powerhouse it was in 2013 or 2014. While 2015 suggests they won’t air it out as well, Thomas is still an elite talent who should be fed targets. He is an elite WR2 option with WR1 upside despite a tough matchup.
Everyone saw what the Denver defense did to Carolina in February, and they have every bit of the potential to do it again. Even in a less than favorable matchup, this defense needs to be in fantasy lineups everywhere.
C.J. Anderson lumbered his way to a disappointing 2015 campaign, but fantasy owners shouldn’t be so quick to hold a grudge. The Broncos leaned heavily on him from Week 17 through the Super Bowl, never giving him fewer than 16 touches in his final four games. Anderson’s matchup doesn’t suggest much of a ceiling, but potential volume puts him squarely in RB2 territory.
Perhaps no one on the Broncos offense suffered from Peyton Manning’s 2015 dropoff more than Emmanuel Sanders, but he quietly ranked as fantasy’s No. 18 wide receiver. Now, with Trevor Siemian under center, don’t be surprised if the Broncos skew to a run-heavy offense that cuts into Sanders’ targets. There’s potential for a big game with Sanders every week, but it’s a bit of a gamble against such a great Panthers’ defense in Week 1.
Trevor Siemian shouldn’t get any consideration in leagues of any format for Week 1, and should remain stashed only in leagues that start two quarterbacks.
Cam Newton remains a stud, even though he faces a defense that demolished him in the Super Bowl. It will likely be his toughest matchup of the season, but fantasy owners who invested a high pick in Newton basically have to ride or die with him.
Greg Olsen is Newton’s safety net, and though it’s likely a low-ceiling contest for the veteran tight end, fantasy owners still aren’t going to find much better at the position. Olsen remains a solid TE1 who still has a chance of cashing in with a touchdown.
Though the Panthers' defense will have its hands full with an elite receiving corps, it deserves starting consideration against a young quarterback making his first career start.
It’s a tall task asking Jonathan Stewart to run on 2015’s third-ranked rushing defense, one that still boasts few weaknesses. But volume could still be there even in a game that has the makings of a low-scoring slugfest. Stewart is an uninspiring flex option for Week 1, but even against a tough defense, this is a game script that ought to favor him.
Kelvin Benjamin will be on a snap count and face an imposing secondary, and it remains to be seen how Devin Funchess fits into the script even after an encouraging summer. Because of the poor matchup, Funchess’ owners can afford to wait and see how his usage plays out before penning him into lineups. Olsen remains the only attractive fantasy option among the Panthers’ pass catchers for Week 1.