The two favorites from each conference are set to meet in their first game of the 2013 NFL preseason. According to Bovada.lv, the Denver Broncos have the best chance to represent the AFC in the 2014 Super Bowl, while the San Francisco 49ers hold that distinction in the NFC. Both have been given 6/1 odds to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Both teams are coming off their best seasons in recent memory. After signing Peyton Manning a year and a half ago, Denver had the best record in the conference with 13 wins. San Francisco won the NFC West and reached the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994.
Just months after finishing behind Adrian Peterson to win his fifth MVP award, Manning will take the field with a new array of weapons. In the offseason, the club added Wes Welker from the New England Patriots. Welker joins a receiving corps that had two 1,000-yard wide outs in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Ronnie Hillman will enter the contest as the Broncos No.1 running back, since Willis McGahee was released. Second-round pick Montee Ball should get a lot of playing time and will make the case to get a lot of carries if he can impress.
Manning may have been the biggest star of the 2012 Denver team, but their defense was just as important in helping the club get 13 regular season wins. The Broncos could be without their top defender for four games, as Von Miller is appealing his suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. If Miller misses 25 percent of the season, the new additions to Denver’s defense will be forced to step up even more. Cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Quentin Jammer will make their debuts with the team against the 49ers.
San Francisco came just shy of winning the Super Bowl, but they may have gotten even better in the offseason. They added wide receiver Anquan Boldin after he helped the Baltimore Ravens beat them in the Super Bowl. Boldin will receive passes from Colin Kaepernick, who won’t have to deal with a quarterback controversy with the trade of Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The contest is set to get underway at 9 p.m. ET. It can be seen locally on NBC in Denver, but viewers can watch a live stream online at preseason.nfl.com for $19.99
In their Super Bowl loss, the 49ers struggles in the secondary was the biggest reason for their defeat. On Thursday night, San Francisco will get their first look at potential upgrades against a tough opponent. The 49ers added safety Eric Reid with the No. 18 pick.
Betting Line: San Francisco-3, 35
Prediction: Denver 14, San Francisco 10