The National Football League has been in existence since 1920. In its 92 year lifespan, the league never seems to run stale of storylines that compels people to tune in for another season. Whether it’s an unthinkable acquisition by way of trade or free agency, a season-ending injury of a player and the potential impact upon his team or how a team responds to its championship run of a season ago, intriguing storylines never seem to run their course.
The 2012 season is no different! For the first time in his 15 year career, Peyton Manning will walk through a stadium tunnel, not wearing an Indianapolis Colt jersey. Tim Tebow, who once played for the team Manning will lead this season, is working to supplant Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback of the New York Jets. A team, who has been caught up in a bounty induced scandal, is on the verge of repairing its reputation.
Of all these stories, the most compelling in my book is the “Youth Movement” at the quarterback position. Before the opening kickoff of the 2012 season, the National Football League has set a record, with five rookies starting at quarterback for their teams. In addition, five other teams have given second year quarterbacks full command of their offenses. While these teams have separate reasons for participating in such a movement, they share common ground in placing their team’s fate in a young pair of hands.
We may not know how these young pups will fair moving forward, we do know that “FOOTBALL SEASON IS BACK”.
Without further ado, here we go:
Giants over Cowboys- With 10+ players listed on injury reports, both Dallas and New York limp into this Primetime, Hump-Day affair. What separates these two is the depth of New York’s front seven and it’s all out physicality.
Bears over Colts- Two things to look for from these teams in this game, and moving forward. First, barring any injuries, the reunion of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, along with rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey and Matt Forte, will make for a fun offense to watch in Chi-Town. Finally, Andrew Luck will be tested against Chicago’s defense. While overall, Chicago will get the edge, Luck will prove to be poised quarterback, ready for the league at an early age.
Chiefs over Falcons- I had to go with an upset and here it is. Atlanta’s offense will be poetry in motion this season, but the addition of Peyton Hillis, will make Kansas City a smash-mouth offensive unit, especially if Jamal Charles can stay healthy. Look for KC to pound away at the Dirty Birds in Arrowhead.
Eagles over Browns- The embarrassment of an 8-8 season, attached to a sense of urgency to win and the untimely passing of Garrett Reid will ignite Philly to rally around its coach (Andy Reid) like no other, despite Michael Vick’s pending health. First victim, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and the rebuilding Cleveland Browns.
Redskins over Saints- New Orleans is looking to repair its image at Washington’s expense. Washington is a team who is in the business of restoration itself. If Washington can unleash defensive fury, and allow Robert Griffin III to fully utilize his skill set, there’s no reason the Burgundy and Gold can’t get a win in the big easy.
Lions over Rams- Can the success Jeff Fisher found in Tennessee, translate in St. Louis? Before looking that far ahead, we must first see what he can do against a Detroit team that’s looking to be more than a one-hit wonder.
Patriots over Titans- Speaking of Tennessee, the return of Chris Johnson should help the development of second year signal caller Jake Locker a great deal. How productive that tandem will be against a revamped New England defense is another issue.
Vikings over Jaguars- Maurice Jones-Drew will start as a 3rd down back. Eventually, he’ll get back to the role he’s accustomed to. I see him reclaiming his rightful spot in this game. Still, the possible absence of Adrian Peterson does not affect the Twin CIty’s defense. Jared Allen will lead his team to victory.
Texans over Dolphins- Houston has been given the task of welcoming Ryan Tannehill into the National Football League. In no way will it resemble “Southern Hospitality”.
Seahawks over Cardinals- Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson shocked the world, earning the starting quarterback over projected starter Matt Flynn. Against Arizona, he’ll show how he pulled off the unexpected.
Packers over 49ers- In what could be a preview of the 2012 NFC Championship game, these two teams will lay it all on the line in this early season gut-check. Who’s more trustworthy, An Alex Smith that’s in the process of turning the corner, or an Aaron Rodgers who hasn’t seen “that corner” since he finally got the nod to take over Green Bay’s offense? Bold prediction of the season, look for a re-energized Randy Moss to return to Pro-Bowl form.
Panthers over Buccaneers- In a battle of young NFC South quarterbacks, the difference maker will actually be in the defenses. Carolina appears to be more stable in that department, so they get the edge here.
Broncos over Steelers- With the appearance of Peyton Manning returning to gun slinging form, and Pittsburgh’s traditional vulnerability lying within its secondary, I look for Denver to get one over on the Steel City in the Sunday nightcap.
Ravens over Bengals- A battered offensive line is not what you want when facing a menacing defense such as Baltimore’s. Maybe as the season progresses, Cincinnati will grow healthier in that department to exact revenge in the rematch.
Chargers over Raiders- Even with the injury to Ryan Matthews, somehow San Diego squeaks out a win in the “Black Hole”.
By Antoine Hoffman