To the victors go the spoils. And in the case of the Super Bowl champion, the "spoils" involve hosting the Thursday night kickoff to the next NFL season.
In 2015, that team was the New England Patriots. They won't get to host it in 2016 . . . but they may still be involved.
The Patriots are scheduled to play in Denver next season, and they would appear to be the most attractive opponent on the Broncos' home schedule . . . making them a likely choice to play the Broncos in the Thursday night opener.
Denver's other seven home foes are the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, New York Jets, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals. The Chiefs and Bengals were both playoff teams this year, and the Cowboys and Giants have large national followings. But Denver-New England has emerged as the AFC's top rivalry over the last three seasons, and -- especially if Peyton Manning decides not to retire, setting up yet another matchup with Tom Brady -- the Pats would seem to be the logical choice.
If not, it's almost certain that Pats-Broncos will be either a Sunday night game, or a late-afternoon CBS game, during the television sweeps month of November. When the Patriots and Colts were the AFC's two best teams in the 2000s, they met almost annually in November. And once, in 2004, they played in the Thursday night kickoff game in Foxboro.