Maybe it’s me, but the off season going into the 2013 campaign has been marred with uninspiring story lines. Whether it’s concussion settlements, the limitations on end zone celebrations, the abundance of season ending injuries, the selective justice of offensive and defensive player contact, players with legal issues or overblown material on coach/player dialogue concerning said player’s status for opening night, the off season of 2013 was one that caused many to regretfully ask “What’s next?”

Football’s next!  That’s right, the on-field product that we have yearned for since the conclusion of Super Bowl XLVII (47) makes its return.

Week one opens with a Thursday night tilt, followed by 13 Sunday games, and two Monday night contests.

Because preseason partially indicates how a team’s season will go, I’m fueled by my volition in picking this week’s winners.

With that said, here we go:

Broncos over Ravens- As if blowing a trip to the AFC Championship , the NFL decides the best way to market the Thursday night season opener in Denver is to drape a The Denver Broncos vs Baltimore Ravens AFC Divisional playoff game.giant picture of Joe Flacco alongside Peyton Manning’s, outside of Sports Authority Field. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think this is Broncos owner Pat Bowlen’s way of igniting a fire in his team’s belly. Mission accomplished!

Patriots over Bills- News broke Wednesday morning that Buffalo rookie quarterback EJ Manuel will start the season opener, but coming off recent, minor knee surgery, at what capacity will he serve? As far as the other offense is concerned, although New England’s receiving corps has its questions, there’s that one constant in Tom Brady, who usually gets it done.

Panthers over Seahawks- My picks aren’t my picks if an upset special isn’t involved. With young quarterbacks and physical defenses, these two teams are130418_schedule_inside in some ways identical. One identity Seattle has that has a;so proven to be its detriment is its inability to win road games. Since 2010, the Seahawks are a combined 8-16 away from home. Look for Seattle’s visit to Bank of America to be an inhospitable one.

Bengals over Bears- Given the overhaul that Chicago’s offensive line underwent in the offseason, the stability of that unit leave something to be desired. Geno Atkins and James Harrison will lead the charge that’ll make life difficult for an otherwise talented Bears offense.

Browns over Dolphins- A revamped Browns offense, led by new offensive coordinator Norv Turner and a restructured Dolphins defense will make for an interesting match up.  Here, the edge goes to the Dawg Pound, who has the more established quarterback in Brandon Weeden, in comparison to Ryanbilde Tannehill, who is still a work in progress.

Lions over Vikings- When you add Reggie Bush to an offense that already consists of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, it’s only right to expect offensive explosion. It’s already known what Adrian Peterson can do. The biggest inquiry that revolves around Minnesota’s offense if the supporting cast members. Can Christian Ponder and newly acquired target Greg Jennings gel together in a way that will elevate the Vikings’ offense?

Colts over Raiders- One of Oakland’s greatest indictments over the last few seasons was its receivers inability to catch the ball. One of them believes he has found greener pastures in Indy.  Can a change of scenery prove beneficial for Darrius Heyward-Bey?

Chiefs over Jaguars- Andy Reid would love nothing more than to have Alex Smith continue the momentum that carried him through his waning days as a 49er last season, prior to his injury. That kind of production will be welcomed by the likes of Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe. Smith should fare well against Jacksonville, and hopefully for him, he’ll remain steady throughout the season.

Saints over Falcons- After a bumpy 2012 season, is there a team out there more anxious to open the season on a high note than New Orleans? Atlanta’s passing game is nightmarish for opposingfalconsvssaints-1 defenses and will make its presence felt in the Superdome. Somehow, the Saints, with a stellar aerial attack of their own, take this game.

Buccaneers over Jets- How ironic is it that Geno Smith, who Rex Ryan called “brutal” after a practice session a few weeks ago, gets the start in week one? Tampa Bay’s defense will release the hounds on the young pup.  One hound looking to take a bite out of Gang Green’s offense is former Jet cornerback Darrelle Revis, who’s now a Buc.

Steelers over Titans- Jay Locker is a third year quarterback who is desperate to prove he belongs in this league. His campaign for redemption begins with a brutal test against the Steelers defense. Best wishes to you!

Packers over 49ers- The Packers will exact revenge on the team that sent them out of the playoffs in embarrassing fashion.

Rams over Cardinals- In a battle of two offenses that are looking to establish themselves as quality units, it looks like it’ll come down to Jeff Fisher’s defense to separate winner from loser in the NFC West showdown.

Cowboys over Giants- Dallas’ defense is now under the watch of Monte Kiffin.  The Giants’ offensive line is aging. The Cowboys will out physical the G-Men inrgiiivick1 JerraLand.

Redskins over Eagles- Because Robert Griffin III’s knee will be the primary focus of everyone in observance, Washington’s defensive approach will probably be overlooked.  The key to success here is a relentless attack from the defense. Even under this Chip Kelly, fast paced offense, Michael Vick cannot have any room to breathe. If the Redskins can penetrate Philly’s offensive line, the game is theirs.

Texans over Chargers- Can Philip Rivers rebound from a tough season?  Can Ryan Matthews stay healthy enough to give San Diego the seasons they projected upon drafting him?  Because these are lingering questions, it’s only right to go with the more stable outfit of this pairing.

Although football fans were overwhelmed with uninspiring, off-season headlines, it’s rewarding to know that the off-season is now behind us.

Once again, football is back. Let’s enjoy it, while it’s here, shall we?

Let’s do it again for week two!

By Antoine Hoffman


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