Welcome to Depression Monday.
Drudging through your seemingly endless workday, nursing a nagging headache, the realization washes over you: With the Super Bowl over we must wait 213 days for the next meaningful NFL game. Yuck.
Instead of dwelling on that disgusting fact, let's look forward to the start of the season -- skipping over the endless debates over rookie potential and free agency speculation.
Let's break down top three choices:
Yes, the Super Bowl wasn't the most entertaining game in the history of football, but the Kickoff game is as much about marketing for the NFL as it is about the game. The Panthers remain a great story, with a tremendous defense and a superstar quarterback. Despite the free flowing lava-hot takes about Cam Newton in the post-Super Bowl aftermath, the NFL's MVP remains on pace to be the face of the NFL.
The underlying plot line of Newton's redemption story and the divisiveness that spawns wherever he goes will only add to the intrigue to generate higher ratings.
Even if Manning walks away, as expected, the Broncos showed promise under Brock Osweiler (assuming John Elway can keep him in Denver), which included beating the Pats. Promoting a budding Brady-Osweiler rivalry would be quite fine with the NFL. The in-game chess match between the Broncos pass rush -- which dominated the Super Bowl -- and a Patriots offense line that was dismantled in the AFC Championship game provides enough fodder for the lead up.
This would be my choice for the kickoff if it weren't for the NFL's appeal of the Tom Brady Deflategate case. If the league wins the appeal and reinstates the quarterback's four-game suspension, he'd miss the kickoff. The NFL likely won't chance needing to promote a game sans Mannng and Brady.
For me, this matchup is far, far below those two. Andrew Luck's return would offer a good selling point. The Colts' wins over the Broncos the past two years give some gumption to the rivalry and would offer talking points for Denver coaches. The return of Chuck Pagano is also a positive for this matchup storyline.