The 2013 National Football League season is now underway, and there were more touchdown passes thrown in week one than in any other week in league history. Of course, it was Peyton Manning who got it all started with his record-tying seven scoring tosses in the Broncos 49-27 devastation of the defending champion Ravens on NFL Kickoff night in Denver.
When you speak of the favorites to win the championship on what is (according to the Farmer’s Almanac going to be a bitterly cold and snowstorm filled day in metro NYC next February) the Denver Broncos are near the top of the list. With them in the discussion are the defending NFC champion 49ers, their NFC West rival Seahawks, the Falcons, and the aforementioned Ravens. One team getting much less talk than in years past are the New England Patriots.
If you said it was a bad offseason for the Patriots, it would be an understatement. Tom Brady is still there, but who will he be throwing to? Gone is leading receiver Wes Welker. Also gone is T.E. Rob Gronkowski. No one can be sure of his status after multiple surgeries on his forearm and shoulder. Also missing is Aaron Hernandez, charged with first-degree murder and currently in jail awaiting trial. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty and the judicial process will play out.
Another team struggling to maintain elite status is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh limped to an 8-8 finish in 2012, allowed heart-and-soul James Harrison to go to the Bengals, and have already been gutted by injuries in an opening loss to the Titans. The AFC North figures to be exciting. I think the edge goes to Cincinnati in the end. All four teams lost on opening weekend, though.
The best division in football has usually been the NFC East. Things got off to an exciting start there with Dallas beating the Giants and new-look Philadelphia spoiling the return of RG3 in Washington. The Eagles will be intriguing to watch as former Oregon coach Chip Kelly brings his unique offense to the NFL. If Monday night was any indication, the Eagles may be back.
But this season the best division will unquestionably be the NFC West. At the top are arguably the two best teams in the league in the 49ers and Seahawks. The Seahawks allowed the fewest points in the NFL a year ago. Also, the best of the rookie quarterbacks from 2012, Russell Wilson, is a year wiser. Jeff Fisher begins his second season in St. Louis with a team that believes they are a playoff team in 2013. Arizona hopes the addition of Carson Palmer is exactly what they need to contend again.
Adrian Peterson hopes to get those last nine yards (and about 400 more than that) this year. Peterson finished nine short of the rushing record of 2,105, but he has stated a goal of 2,500 yards this season. After he burst through for 78 in his initial carry of the season in Detroit, it looked like a good bet. But only 15 yards in his remaining 17 carries brought that notion back to Earth a bit.
In the end I like New England, Cincinnati, Houston, and Denver as division winners in the AFC with Dallas, Green Bay, Atlanta, and San Francisco winning divisions in the NFC. In the championship games look for Denver over Cincinnati and San Francisco over Seattle with the 49ers edging the Broncos in the big game next Groundhog Day. Enjoy the season!