The NFL regular season is less than a week away. Roster cuts, waiver pickups and fantasy football drafts signal the beginning of football season. Every team is even right now at 0-0 and has an optimistic outlook on the season ahead.
Soon, though, injuries, locker room drama and just bad play with separate the contenders from the pretenders. It all begins with Week 1.
The defending Super Bowl champions will kick off the season in their backyard on Wednesday night against a bitter NFC East rival. The Dallas Cowboys begin another season in which they hope to silence the critics. It will be another showdown between Eli and Romo, with plenty of other factors being involved.
That is just the first of 16 Week 1 games. Here is how each will turn out.
This Wednesday's night game is the beginning of the 2012 NFL season.
The defending Super Bowl champions will host the team that always finds a way to shoot themselves in the foot. Tony Romo will never get the credit he deserves, especially if the 'Boys can't win in the playoffs.
As for this game, Eli and Co. will be too much, especially with the home crowd behind them.
Winner: Giants by 9
Andrew Luck will get an early regular-season test. Not only does he have to go up against one of the best defenses in the league, but he has to do it on the road.
The Bears have added weapons for Jay Cutler, and this could be the year he and his old pal Brandon Marshall put on an offensive show. A healthy running game will also be too much for the young Colts to overcome.
Winner: Bears by 14
After so much hype going into last season, the Eagles fell on their beaks. They have fluffed their feathers and spread their wings after failing to even come close to expectations. If they can keep Michael Vick standing upright, they should have no problem getting a win against a very young Browns team.
Philly should dominate on both sides of the ball, and this one shouldn't be close.
Winner: Eagles by 18
The Rams are still rebuilding, and the Lions are going to be an offensive juggernaut. The weapons in Detroit are just downright scary. Stafford and Megatron will do their thing, and hopefully, the Madden curse doesn't find Calvin in the very first game.
It should be interesting to see how their running game evolves, but this one should be over after three quarters.
Winner: Lions by 17
Tom Brady hasn't connected with Brandon Lloyd or Wes Welker much this preseason, and their defense is still suspect. With a rejuvenated Chris Johnson and Jake Locker possibly hooking up with Kenny Britt, they could make a game out of this one.
Winner: Patriots by 9
The buzz around Atlanta this offseason was that this offense could be one of the best in the league. The Falcons will be looking to air it out with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White. Michael Turner looks to be back to full strength, and we know this defense has playmakers.
The game is in KC, though. The Chiefs have one of the best home-field advantages in the league. Look for the Chiefs to turn some heads this year with a bounce-back season, but it will begin with a heartbreaker at home.
Winner: Falcons by 3
Not many people will be tuning in for this one, but the game will be filled with storylines. Will Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout cause him to miss the game? Will Adrian Peterson actually be ready to play in Week 1? How will Jacksonville's new receivers perform?
These questions will all be answered in this game, but it won't be the most entertaining game to watch.
Winner: Vikings by 6
Hopefully, the city of New Orleans gets through these storms without any major damage. Everyone knows they have been through enough already.
The debut of Robert Griffin III will be worth the watch, but the focus will most likely be on Drew Brees and the team without their head coach. No matter who is standing on the sidelines, it is the Saints, and it is a home game.
That's all that matters.
Winner: Saints by 17
Three of the four teams in the AFC East are a mess. Two of them are squaring off in New York City on Sunday.
The Bills' quarterback situation is a headache, and we all know about the circus that is the Jets. When it comes to playing the game, the Bills will most likely find a way to make big plays, while the Jets will leave fans second-guessing the direction this team is going.
It's hard to win games when you have absolutely no offense.
Winner: Bills by 6
The classic case of one team rebuilding and one team reaching new heights. The Dolphins have gotten rid of two very talented players in the last month, but have nothing to replace them with.
The wide receiver position is a giant question mark, and the Texans feature one of the best offenses in the league and a strong, stingy defense.
Miami winning this game on the road would easily be the biggest upset of the weekend.
Winner: Texans by 16
This has to be one of the best games of the opening week.
Expectations are high in San Francisco after last season's success. The Packers are looking to bounce back after failing to repeat their championship last year. There are playmakers all over the field, on both sides of the ball.
This will have the feel of an NFC Championship game late on Sunday. In the end, the quarterback play will be the deciding factor in this one.
Winner: Packers by 4
Neither of these teams are going to light it up this season, but the game will be interesting from a few aspects.
How will rookie Russell Wilson perform in his first start? Will Sidney Rice be ready to go, and what happens when Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Wilson come face to face? The other thing that will get some attention is the quarterback play for Arizona. Obviously neither guy seems to be the answer, and they still have yet to name a starter.
This one could be ugly from the start.
Winner: Seahawks by 3
Cam Newton will be all smiles after this game. Tampa has added some nice pieces to the roster, including Doug Martin, Dallas Clark and Vincent Jackson. It all comes down to the play of Josh Freeman, though. Cam will find Steve Smith early and often, while the running back duo will pound their way through the Tampa Bay defense.
I'm not a huge believer in Carolina this year, but they do win this one.
Winner: Panthers by 8
This Sunday night game should live up to the hype, as anyone and everyone will be tuned in to see how Manning holds up against the tough Steelers defense. Both of these teams have the chance to be great, or falter.
There are big questions for both teams, which will be brought to the forefront during this contest.
Winner: Broncos by 2
The first of two Monday Night Football games kicks off with a bang between two AFC North rivals.
Will it be the start of a sophomore slump for Andy Dalton, or will he and A.J. Green continue to hook up and make plays? The Ravens have always been about their defense, but this year their offense might actually be better.
That is scary for everyone, especially Cincinnati, who will have to win a tough one on the road if they want to start the season off on the right foot.
Winner: Ravens by 5
The second MNF game will once again showcase two division rivals eager to get after each other. The Chargers are likely to air it out with Philip Rivers, while the Raiders will want to ground and pound with a healthy Darren McFadden.
The AFC West is completely up for grabs this year, with no team having a clear advantage. Every divisional game is going to be huge, and it begins with this one.
Winner: Chargers by 4