Loosen up your remote thumb, because the NFL flies into regular season action with a boom.
When the Denver Broncos host the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens on Thursday, the 2013 season will be underway, but it isn't until Sunday when we will get the full experience.
Sunday offers a full day of NFL goodness. I'm excited just typing about it all. Take a look at the schedule for yourself:
Three games on that schedule really jump out at me. As a matter of fact, it is these three:
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
Where: Sports Authority Field, Denver, Colo.
When: Thursday, Sept. 5 at 8:30 p.m. ET
The Baltimore Ravens have been rewarded by the schedule-makers for their Super Bowl triumph with a trip to the high altitude of Denver to take on a team many feel is the most talented in football. The NFL is a hard-knock life.
Not that Baltimore is going to be intimidated by the setting. The Ravens went to Denver and bested the Broncos in the AFC Divisional Round after Broncos safety Rahim Moore forgot it would be bad if a Ravens receiver got behind him.
While the Ravens suffered from the annual raiding of their roster that comes with being Super Bowl champs, this team isn't going to be an easy matchup for anyone. Baltimore did a fantastic job of handling roster turnover.
For instance, the Ravens added pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil, who became available in free agency only after the fax-machine duties for Dumervil's re-signing were handled like Moore on his deep coverage in that playoff game.
These back stories add intrigue to an already great matchup, and we haven't even talked about the quarterbacks yet.
Legend Peyton Manning is running out of time to add another Super Bowl ring, and he's had few opportunities to do so with the kind of talent he has around him this year. Meanwhile, Joe Flacco is trying to become a legend and has to prove he can earn his fresh and massive contract in the regular season as well as the playoffs.
What a great way to start the season.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Where: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, Calif.
When: Sunday, Sept. 8 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Another fantastic rematch from last year's divisional round awaits on Sunday afternoon. I would expect the Packers to be a little more prepared for quarterback Colin Kaepernick this year.
In their 45-31 loss to the 49ers in the playoffs last year, the Packers seemed to forget that quarterbacks could run with the ball. Kaepernick ran for more yards than any quarterback in history with 181, as Green Bay looked clueless against the pistol formation.
The Packers may have addressed these issues a time or two during the offseason.
Green Bay's defense has looked improved in the preseason, and with Aaron Rodgers welcoming rookie running back Eddie Lacy into the backfield, the Packers offense should have more balance than it has had in years.
Meanwhile, the 49ers are loaded. Like last year, their defense will be stout. Offensively, San Francisco lacks a weapon on the outside to reliably stretch the field, but it has arguably the best offensive line in football, and of course the dynamic Kaepernick ready to begin his first full season as a starter.
This will be an intense and well-played game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
When: Sunday, Sept. 8 at 1 p.m. ET
I'm really looking forward to the New York Jets' season. Typically, I would never pay the Jets any extra attention. In fact, as a West Coast guy, I usually utter the phrase "East Coast bias" several times during the season.
However, this year, the Jets should be wildly entertaining. This isn't because they will be playing good football. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The Jets are in for a long season.
The Jets should have blown up this franchise before last season. Instead, they've been trying to patch things together, and it's not working. This roster is full of holes.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith will try to end the abysmal quarterback play that plagued this team last season. I wish the rookie the best, but he doesn't have the talent around him he will need to succeed. And he showed in preseason that he still has some seasoning to gain.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are also trying to find an answer at the quarterback position. Josh Freeman has been entrenched in the position, but he isn't making the strides the franchise needs.
He has plenty of talent around him this year, and this is likely his last chance to prove he can be the man in Tampa Bay.
My guess here is that the Jets will get dominated by the mediocre Buccaneers and panic will quickly encompass the J-E-T-S Jets.
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