If Thursday night's season opener is any indication, the NFL's scoring barrage will only grow fiercer this season. Some key Week 1 matchups look prime to produce more shootouts.
The Denver Broncos initiated the season by whooping the Baltimore Ravens, 49-27. Peyton Manning left the Ravens defense and NBC production crew gasping for air with an unrelenting offensive attack. The days of gradually wearing down a defense through the ground are fading, and scoreboards across the country are displaying higher numbers.
Last season, five teams (including the New York Jets) scored 40 or more points during their season opener. The postseason also saw its fair share of offensive explosions, most notably the San Francisco 49ers' 45-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
Expect some more crooked numbers this weekend as high-powered NFC offenses square off against one another. Even better, most defenses need some work, so someone in this bunch could easily crack 40 by Sunday's end.
New Orleans Saints (vs. Atlanta Falcons)
It's feasible for a team to approach that 40-point milestone and still lose this contest.
The Saints are coming off just about the worst season imaginable for an NFL defense, yielding 440.1 yards per game. After spending the entire season escorting running backs down the field, they'll open the season against Steven Jackson, who will make his debut for the Falcons.
While Atlanta only mustered 3.7 yards per attempt, Michael "Burned Out" Turner played a decisive amount into that stat. With Jackson, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons should have no trouble moving the ball.
But expect the Saints to come out on top on Sunday. Sean Payton, who will coach his first game since 2011, probably smirked through Thursday night's contest, thinking "We can do better than that." This is an offense with mostly the same pieces from a 2011 team that ran the score up to 62 on a helpless Indianapolis Colts squad because, well, why not?
The Saints have redemption on their minds after a disappointing 7-9 season, but offense was not the problem for the NFC's top yard-producing unit. Despite boasting the NFC's top record, the Falcons showed some blemishes on defense, rating 23rd in passing yards allowed before losing Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson during the offseason.
Playing in the Superdome helps tilt the arrow in New Orleans' direction. Also, Brees is still really good.
Prediction: Saints 38, Falcons 34
Dallas Cowboys (vs. New York Giants)
Someone representing the NFC East sent out an olive branch requesting each team to stop paying attention to its defense. It worked.
While Dallas' defensive crew at least shows signs of usefulness, they closed out 2012's final six games by allowing 29.3 points per contest. While they could derail Eli Manning if DeMarcus Ware brings the pressure, the Giants should get their points with a healthy Hakeem Nicks back to supplement Victor Cruz and speedster David Wilson.
New York's defensive outlook looks far bleaker. Osi Umenyiora left town, Stevie Brown tore his ACL, and they're relying on Terrell Thomas to bounce back from two ACL tears of his own.
All the Giants have going for them is their monster defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and he might not play. According to ESPN New York's Ohm Youngmisuk, he is questionable to suit up this Sunday night.
Without Pierre-Paul, Tony Romo can take all the time he needs to locate the wide receiver ready to burn Corey Webster or pick apart their weak linebacker corps with Jason Witten, who collected 167 yards in their last showdown.
This rivalry is not one to skim the fans from points, so anticipate plenty of trips to the red zone as the Cowboys pick up a win over their division rival.
Prediction: Cowboys 34, Giants 27
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