Well, here we are. The 2017 NFL season has officially begun, and we are all one step closer to crowing a new champion. The Panthers start their season in a matchup with the 49ers. The odds have the Panthers favored by a meager 5 points, but I don’t think things will be quite as close. Here are a few key points to watch in this season opening matchup.

Cam Newton vs. The San Fransisco Defense

I know it sounds like the title of a western, but this is were week 1, and probably all weeks, should begin and end. Cam has some bouncing back to do if he wants to prove that his 2015 season was no coincidence, and he needs to start right away. I expect him to come out look for his “scary weapons” early and often. How those weapons perform, and how Cam’s health holds up, are the only things to question about the offense at this point.

McCaffrey vs. Bowman

Sure, there’s more to the ‘9ers D than NaVorro Bowman, but he’s the most integral part of it. He is the anchor up front just as Kuechly is. And while the two may be fighting for the “best linebacker” award on Sunday, I expect to see Christian McCaffrey meet Bowman a few times. He has already proven his ability to evade, and the test that Bowman offers will be a good early season metric.

Panthers DBs vs. Brian Hoyer

This one is easy. Hoyer isn’t going to blow any one away; never has. The young DBs on the Carolina side should look to be opportunistic here. If they can capitalize on those opportunities they will make short work of the San Fransisco offense.

Finally, even though the 49ers are so far removed from their semi-recent dominance, they aren’t quite pushovers. I expect their defense to show up, but I also expect a sizable win for the boys in blue and silver. Most importantly, with the season finally underway, we can finally enjoy an exiting, hard fought game. The first of many.

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