It is the season to be jolly ……….. or maybe not
Well, on Thursday night , the NFL officially kicks off its season for 2013, where the reigning Superbowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens are the guests of the Denver Broncos at the Sports Authority Stadium /Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. Reigning Superbowl MVP Joe Flacco brings with him a newly revamped roster to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos . The four-time league MVP is now on the cusp of further adding to his already illustrious career . Manning now sits a mere five hundred and thirteen yards from hitting the 60,000 yards` career plateau . A mark that has only been surpassed, by Hall of Fame inductee Dan Marino and the all-time career yards` leader Brett Favre , as Manning now seeks to join that illustrious list .
Last season, the fans saw the rise of rookie quarterbacks , Andrew Luck , Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson , not only have extremely productive years , in also having each led their respective teams into the postseason . Yet, it can be said, seasoned veterans such as Peyton Manning , Drew Brees , Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers were also one of the primary reasons why the NFL was such a success. And beyond the Superbowl itself , with the Ravens winning the second title of its proud heritage, one could attest to the fact that the expectations are high are for this season for not only that organization, but also for the other thirty-one teams around the league , with each expecting a chance of getting their shot to raise the Lombardi Trophy. .
This opening game of the regular season schedule places John Fox and John Harbaugh under the spotlight, as they each seek to get their teams off to a winning start . For Peyton Manning the highlight of the Broncos` off-season may well have been the choice to make that decisive decision to obtain former New England Patriots` wide receiver Wes Welker . That player`s addition to what was already a highly explosive offense, now becomes considerably better , and one in which Manning gets to be a teammate of Welker, who has averaged over one hundred receptions a season for the past five years .
Both of these teams, the Broncos and Ravens are expected to defend their divisional titles and come away with a considerable amount of success in that particular endeavor. In the case of the Denver Broncos, within the AFC West , I certainly do not see a credible challenge coming from the Kansas City Chiefs , Oakland Raiders or the San Diego Chargers , as the Broncos seek to further enhance their dominance of that particular division . John Fox`s team is by far the best of the quartet within the AFC West and it certainly denotes the belief why a number of analysts and fans around the NFL believe why they should be considered a prime contender for the Superbowl within the AFC . I do believe that the Ravens are likely to face a much stiffer challenge however , within the AFC North , merely because of the growing confidence of Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals . A team that I believe to be one of the most dangerous in the conference altogether !
Bengals` head coach Marvin Lewis has to believe that the growth and maturity shown by his team over the past two seasons , has to be a sign that the franchise is on the right track . Coupled with another very good draft class and a number of free agent acquisitions , it will be interesting to see how the Bengals fare over the course of this season. Dalton and his teammates will open their regular season schedule on the road at Soldier Field in Chicago , Illinois against the Chicago Bears .
For the Bears` Jay Cutler now in a contract year and unrestricted free agent at the end of the season , he now must prove himself to be resolute enough after all of the major upheavals during the off-season . The retirement of Brian Urlacher was one thing, but the inexplicable firing of Lovie Smith , still does not sit well with a number of individuals around the NFL. The front office explanation for Smith`s dismissal remains idiotic and most definitely bewildering. Smith`s successor, Marc Trestmann now has to get this team into a mindset where they have to perform at the highest level possible. Yet, the biggest questions that will remain is whether or not Jay Cutler can fulfill his potential or simply remain at best, a moderately average NFL quarterback.
If Cutler is said to be under a great deal of pressure to succeed then is conference peer Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are also in a similar position. The ten-year veteran not drafted in the 2003 NFL Draft , but was signed by the franchise and has become one of the league`s more dependable regular season quarterbacks, but a deer caught in headlights once the postseason rolls into being. Either because they are in a drug induced haze but repeatedly each season the Cowboys are viewed as a favorite for postseason play and the Superbowl itself . Unfortunately, since Romo has been the team`s quarterback , one postseason win during a decade of play for the franchise , has been all that the player has to show for his mediocre efforts. Tony Romo has his supporters, of which his biggest supporter, remains the team`s owner Jerry Jones . Yet for all of Jones` continued support and the recent decision to sign the player to a seven-year $119 million contract of which $40 million is guaranteed. It begs the question; upon what are Jones` expectations based, in offering such a lucrative deal to the quarterback? As I alluded to earlier , Romo does have his supporters, but he also has a great many detractors , many of whom are very vocal in ridiculing Tony Romo`s alleged skill-set. Personally, I find Romo to be overrated , lacking in leadership and one someone who continues to make excuses for his and his team`s own shortcomings !
The NFC East has now become a division once again where the most discerning of NFL fans can now take a real interest. The Washington Redskins came out of nowhere to surprise a number of individuals to capture the division and many , who expected if anything the division to be a three-horse race between the Cowboys , New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles . Well, the three aforementioned teams all fell by the wayside in 2012, through some lackluster play and poor coaching. If Tony Romo are to prove themselves this season to be amongst the elite within the conference and the division itself , then their play will have to be of the highest quality possible .
For Tony Romo and the Cowboys, the regular season begins with a divisional game against their erstwhile rivals the New York Giants. That contest will be played at the palatial Cowboys Stadium in Arlington , Texas , on Sunday night , in-front of a television audience of millions, between two of the NFL`s more celebrated franchises. Eli Manning will once again pit wits against a team where in recent years , he has had a considerable amount of success . Jason Garrett and his opposite number Tom Coughlin , a two-time winning …. Superbowl coach, will be looking to add to his already impressive record. . Inasmuch as Jerry Jones and his son, EVP Stephen Jones have sworn to stick by Garrett as the Cowboys head coach through thick and thin , I truly believe that this season their patience will be severely tested , if in any way the Dallas Cowboys are unable to acquit themselves on the field of play . Considering the tenures of several of the incumbent`s predecessors have been in a number of cases, considerably less than is own. I am actually now surprised that Jason Garrett has lasted as long as he as in his present position ! The likes of Dave Campo , Chan Gailey , Wade Philips and Barry Switzer have come and gone, along with their infamy and granted, Switzer was the only one of the quartet to actually guide the Cowboys to a Superbowl victory . It should be noted that the team in question was essentially built around the pieces put in place by Jimmy Johnson . Barry Switzer, may well be given a great deal of the credit , but in reality, his input when sought, may well have been minimal at best .
After what might well feel and seem like an eternity , the New York Jets have made the decision to name Geno Smith , their second round draft pick as the team`s opening day starting quarterback for the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers . Add in the fact, that the franchise also acquired Brady Quinn and signed him to one-year deal worth $715,000. It now seems only a matter of time before the decision is made to jettison Mark Sanchez , after what many might now feel , has been four years of highs and lows . Consider that to be now, more lows than highs , for another lackluster quarterback from the University of Southern California . I should not really say this , but isn`t that where a number of overrated quarterbacks tend to make their exit from , to enter into the NFL , only to then disappoint ? Matt Cassel, Matt Leinart , Carson Palmer and now Mark Sanchez. On paper, their college stats are impressive, but their NFL careers to date, have been about as eye-popping as Lindsay Lohan`s acting career and Miley Cyrus` somewhat bile inducing performance at the VMA`s . Now that’s a white girl that has no ass and should not be singing or `twerking` !
With Sanchez injured in the Jets` final preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles , in a contest also marking Geno Smith`s unbelievably poor play . It now has me wondering whether or not the former West Virginia Mountaineer is as good as advertised ? And was he really the best option available of the quarterbacks available in the second round of the NFL Draft ? Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik , I believe if they had it to do all over again, would have either drafted up or simply taken another position player and then acquired a free agent quarterback . I simply do not believe that Geno Smith is yet ready to play in the NFL ! Granted, this outing against the Buccaneers could prove to be trouble-free, given that team`s still unresolved problems in their secondary and the doubts concerning the unevenness of Josh Freeman`s continually lackluster displays. A home victory would appear to be on the cards for the Jets , but it will be dependent upon which Geno Smith the New York Jets` fans will be privileged to witness on Sunday afternoon . The player many saw at the collegiate level or the player many witnessed performed so ineptly against the Eagles ? Chances are that during the game we will actually witness both.
As to Tampa`s own ongoing issues , well, let us just say that Greg Schiano has some sort of plan, which he and his current staff are currently carrying out. For all of the team`s off-season maneuvers , we are likely to see a team much like last season , where the players who lined up to be part of what was an essence an extraordinarily bad roster. Considering that for now, almost three straight years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been unable to sell out a regular season home game. I believe that streak is likely to be continued this season , for a franchise whose preseason performances and record were woefully lackluster and inept . Also what remains in doubt, is whether or not defensive back Darrelle Revis is likely to see any type of action in the team`s regular season opener against his former team. Having missed the entire preseason schedule , clearly Greg Schiano must be aware, that it is now time to have Darrelle Revis ready to resume his NFL career and justify that six-year $96 million deal , the player was signed to in the off-season. GM Mark Dominik , by his reluctance to address the media on this one fact, has now become someone whose judgment must come into question .
At best , in a division , the NFC South , where the quarterback play is likely to be of an extremely high standard , I cannot see the Buccaneers coming through their divisional games unscathed and where their conference play is likely to be just as daunting a task. A 6-10 or 7-9 record is what I envision for the team , and that is likely to be generous, given what I believe will be another difficult year for Josh Freeman ! With the Buccaneers` quarterback due to become an unrestricted free agent this off-season , it is paramount that he puts himself into a situation where he is likely to be rewarded and that is by having a solid and very productive season . Is that beyond the scope of Josh Freeman? I will let you be the judge of that ! My own thoughts on the matter are that I did not feel he was a worthy first round draft pick in 2009 by then Buccaneers` head coach Raheem Morris . Four seasons later and the player is still acclimatizing to the environment of the NFL. A steep price to pay for an organization that has not seen a quarterback of note perform for the franchise at a consistently high level in its entire existence .
The Kansas City Chiefs may well have ended the season in 2012, as the team with the worst record in the NFL . In 2013 , I believe that with the addition of Alex Smith to helm the roster at the quarterback position, along with a new head coach in Andy Reid , we are likely to see a competitive club that will certainly be looking to meet the challenge of stopping the Denver Broncos` recent dominance of the AFC West. That in of-itself may well not be enough , but given Reid`s vast experience and GM John Dorsey has seen fit to revamp the lineup , seeking a number of changes that should see the Chiefs making inroads within the NFL this season.
Andy Reid`s team will begin their regular season schedule with a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ever Bank Stadium in Jacksonville , Florida. And for the Jaguars coming off another disappointing season and having yet to see any real signs of progress in the game of Blaine Gabbert . It will be interesting to see what Gus Bradley and his coaching staff are likely to do , in order to get the best out of what was one of the league`s more inept offenses and defenses of last season . Jaguars` owner Shahid Khan , as ambitious as he is, as the franchise’s self-effacing proprietor , must know that he faces an extremely daunting task in turning around the fortunes of this team . They are likely to face an uphill battle, in competing within the AFC South against the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts , two teams thought to have the best chance of taking divisional honors this season.
Picture gallery .
Certainly the build-up up to this season has seen some rather sensational stories within the NFL. Yet I can`t help but wonder what will unfold over the course of the year , as teams lay siege within their conference and divisions , with the hope of making the postseason . At the same time several head coaches within the league will be placed under the usual scrutiny one would come to expect, with the likelihood of their livelihood actually being at stake. It all makes for an intriguing and suspenseful year of anticipation within the NFL . What , if anything are you most looking forward to, as the season unfolds and which games in particular, in week one and throughout the first four weeks of the regular season do you believe will be the most appealing ? Just simply chime in with a comment as you see fit.
Picture and slideshow details below .
(1) John Fox and Peyton Manning are seen on the sidelines during a postseason game from 2012 . The Denver Broncos vs Baltimore Ravens AFC Divisional playoff game at Sports Authority Field Saturday January 12, 2013. Fox and Manning will be looking to avenge that loss in their home regular season opener against the reigning Superbowl champions . Denver is seen as the prohibitive favorite to win the AFC West this season . Photo by Tim Rasmussen,/The Denver Post …….
(2) From left to right , Andrew Luck , Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson . All three rookie quarterbacks from last season took their respective teams into the playoffs at the first time of asking , with all three being highly effective in the postseason. Getty Images / Mark Parsons …..
(3) Cincinnati Bengals` quarterback Andy Dalton (14) is seen here during a team practice session alongside head coach Marvin Lewis . Dalton has led the team into the postseason for two consecutive seasons starting in 2011 and then again 2012 . The franchise`s head coach will be looking for further progress from this team , in which we have seen the growing maturity of Dalton and teammates , Jermaine Gresham and A J Green . Getty Images / Michael Carpenter ………..
(4) Jun 11, 2013; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestmann and quarterback Jay Cutler (6) during mini-camp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
(5) Tony Romo and Jason Garrett are seen here on the sidelines during a game from last season . After a disappointing 2012 foray , the Dallas Cowboys well be looking to rebound this season by making a serious challenge within the NFC East , where the Washington Redskins will be looking to make a successful defense of their divisional title . Gerry Matthews / AP Photo …..
(6) New York Jets` quarterbacks Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez are seen at the team`s training facility . Smith, the team`s second round draft pick from 2013 will be the opening day starter for the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers . A bye-line to this contest will be the return of Darrelle Revis, when he suits up for the Buccaneers to face his old team for the first time on the field of play. With Mark Sanchez now sidelined with a shoulder injury , GM John Idzik signed Brady Quinn to a one-year $715,000 deal . There now seems to be growing speculation that the Jets will seek to trade Sanchez, while taking his $8.25 million salary off the books . The former USC Trojans` quarterback signed a five-year $52.5 million deal in 2012 , of which $20.5 million was guaranteed . USA Today / Scott Patterson ….. `
(7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers` head coach Greg Schiano is seen here with the team`s defensive back Darrelle Revis . The player did not see any playing time during the Buccaneers entire preseason schedule and is likely to see limited time during the team`s regular season opener against the New York Jets at Met-Life Stadium ,in East Rutherford , New Jersey . Mark Palmer / AP Photo ….
(8) Buccaneers` starting quarterback Josh Freeman is seen here after a regular season game from 2012 . Freeman`s play has been inconsistent over the past two seasons . An unrestricted free agent in 2014 , the quarterback will be seeking a new long-term contract . GM Mark Dominik is not prepared to address the situation until the end of the regular season. Paul Dominguez / Miami Herald ….
(9) Where the white women at , with the `big junk` in the trunk ? Temptress, Miley Cyrus seen here performing with R&B crooner Robin Thicke at the VMA`s (Video Music Awards) . The untalented Cyrus now seems to be courting controversy rather than trying to enhance her talent as a singer and dancer . Talent is not something that seems to run in the Cyrus family . Courtesy of MTV/Viacom Inc .
If at all interested, do take time to participate in the above mentioned poll .
Pic of the day , Denise Milani