The Week 1 matchup between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos features a rematch of last season’s Super Bowl. We've got the fantasy projections courtesy of numberFire.
Quarterback Cam Newton comes into the 2016 season with something to prove. Number one, he’s got to prove that the statistics he managed to rack up last season were no fluke. Secondly, the Panthers as a team have to prove they can make it back to the Super Bowl in February and end up on the winning end of the scoreboard. Using his legs to rush for 10 touchdowns and his arm to throw for 35, while also tossing a career-low 10 interceptions, means Newton is entering his prime years. A matchup against a tough Broncos defense on the road isn’t the greatest way to start the season for Cam’s owners, but he will have revenge on his mind, which is going to motivate him.
Perhaps another reason for Newton’s owners to be optimistic about the outlook for both his first game and the 2016 season is the return of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin tore his ACL in training camp last season, and while it’s difficult to sit out a whole year and come back, the good news is he had quite the rookie campaign in 2014. He may start the year on a limited snap count, but rest assured Benjamin has all the talent and ability to finish with another 1,000-yard season and double-digit touchdowns. He will be up against a proven secondary in Denver, but he is the Panthers’ No. 1 offensive weapon.
Odds are there aren’t too many people who picked Trevor Siemian in their fantasy draft. Nevertheless, he was more impressive than veteran Mark Sanchez during the preseason and thus has earned himself an opportunity. His first NFL start, especially against the stout defense of the Panthers, likely means a difficult time for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Thomas enjoyed some of the best years of his career catching passes from surefire Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, but now his statistics may suffer as his quarterback goes through growing pains. The good news for Thomas is that he won’t have to deal with Josh Norman, so seven or eight catches and a yardage total near 100 isn’t out of the question.
If it turns out Siemian struggles in the early going against the Panthers, it may mean an increased reliance on the running game, which should benefit owners of C.J. Anderson. Anderson finished last year with just five rushing touchdowns and 720 yards. Those numbers don’t necessarily make him worthy of a top pick in fantasy leagues, but the one thing he did have going for him last year was a solid 4.7 yards-per-carry average. He burst onto the scene two seasons ago, but ever since then he’s been threatened by teammates for carries. This year will be different as the Broncos don’t possess as much depth in the backfield. Add that to the potential struggles of an unproven quarterback, along with the potential for a more conservative game plan, and Anderson could surprise some fantasy owners in 2016.