The NFL is finally ready to return to the field after more than seven months, and appropriately enough, it all starts with a rematch of the game that ended last season. Denver looks considerably different than the team that defeated Carolina 24-10 back on Feb. 7 to win Super Bowl 50.
The personnel changes for the Broncos go well beyond who is playing quarterback, but it’s probably what's going to get the most attention. But Denver isn’t the only team entering the season with questions or uncertainty at arguably the most important position on the field. New England will have Jimmy Garoppolo and not Tom Brady leading the offense for the first four games. Dallas is turning to rookie Dak Prescott with Tony Romo sidelined by a broken bone in his back, while Minnesota traded for Sam Bradford after Teddy Bridgewater dislocated his knee and tore his ACL in a non-contact injury during practice on Aug. 30.
On the other hand, the Panthers don’t have to worry about their quarterback, as Cam Newton is the reigning NFL MVP. Newton and his team have one goal in mind for this season, and it’s the same for the other 31 teams - get to the Super Bowl.
So can the Broncos mount a strong defense of their title or is this Newton and the Panthers’ year to win it all? The answer to both of those questions is no based on how a panel of Athlon editors and NFL contributors see the 2016 season playing out. In addition to the predicted standings for every conference, our esteemed panelists present their Wild Card (WC) picks as well as the respective conference championship game (CG) matchups and offer their best guess as to which teams will face off at NRG Stadium in Houston on 5, 2017 to determine the recipient of the Lombardi Trophy.