The NFL season will finally begin on Thursday night with a rematch of the 2010 NFC Championship Game, the Minnesota Vikings vs. the New Orleans Saints.
Week One will give teams a chance to start the 2010 season on a positive note. For some teams, it is an attempt to live up to high expectations. For others, the goal is to surprise fans and players alike with their newfound team chemistry and ability.
Luckily for NFL fans, the first week of the year gives ample opportunities for such teams to make the statement that the 2010 season will be different than past seasons.
The parity of the NFL helps to make it such an intriguing league. Therefore, upsets occur on a regular basis.
Let's take a look at a few possible upsets to watch for in Week One.
The Titans are currently pegged as an eight-point home favorite over the Oakland Raiders.
But this isn't your older brother's Oakland Raiders.
Admittingly, it's also not your father's Oakland Raiders, either. They are a long way from being a Super Bowl contender.
However, this is a far superior team than the 2009 edition. And it all starts at the quarterback position with Jason Campbell. As the replacement for bust JaMarcus Russell, Campbell has brought stability to the position and immediately turns the Raiders into a more potent offense.
The loss of running back Michael Bush for the first few weeks of the season will make this upset more difficult to pull off. But even taking into account the Titans' strong finish to 2009, an 8-8 squad should not be an eight-point favorite over an improved 5-11 team.
This will likely be a tighter game than most observers expect, and if the Titans look at this matchup as an easy victory, it is very possible they could trudge off the field with their second straight Week One defeat.
Would this game really count as an upset? The Saints and Vikings are expected to be two of the elite teams in the NFC in 2010, especially with the return of Brett Favre to the fold in Minnesota.
Well, according to Vegas, it would be an upset. The Saints are currently favored by 4.5 points, and the line has hovered around five points for most of the week.
Betters are likely blinded by the Saints' Super Bowl rings and the recent injury to star Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice.
They are conveniently forgetting the fact that the Vikings carried the play through most of the 2010 NFC Championship Game, and were betrayed mostly by their own foolish mistakes.
Everyone remembers Brett Favre's horrific pass that ended regulation. But do they also remember that the Vikings outgained the Saints in the game, 475-257?
Minnesota turned the ball over five times in the playoff game, while the Saints only committed one turnover. Despite spotting New Orleans a +4 turnover ratio, Minnesota still forced overtime and nearly won the game in regulation.
Obviously, the Saints deserve credit for forcing the turnovers. But the chances of a stellar offensive unit turning the ball over that many times in one game are extremely slim. And the chances of it happening yet again are even slimmer.
If the Vikings can play even close to the level at which they played in the NFC Championship Game, while also cutting down on the turnovers, they will win this game easily.
Two teams with 8-8 in 2009 battle it out in this Week One battle. So why is one team a 6.5 favorite over the other?
Apparently, the Giants are expected to run away with this game. Many are predicting the Giants as a potential NFC East contender, while the Panthers are viewed as no match for the Saints and Falcons in the NFC South.
However, one of these teams had a strong finish to the 2009 season, and the other team collapsed.
If anything, the team that collapsed (the Giants) should be the underdog. But instead, prognosticators are ignoring how last season ended, and are simply basing their predictions on their overall feelings towards the Giants' roster.
The Giants and Panthers even played against each other during that late season stretch. The result?
A 41-9 thrashing by Carolina.
The Panthers did lose Julius Peppers in the offseason, which will obviously weaken the overall pass rush. But the Giants will be breaking in numerous new additions on defense, and it could take some time for them to become fully acclimated to new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's system.
Carolina could easily come away with the victory in this Week One matchup.
The Chicago Bears had a disappointing 7-9 season in 2009, as acquisition Jay Cutler threw 26 interceptions in front of a mediocre offensive line.
The solution? Hire an offensive coordinator in Mike Martz that is known for making the quarterback throw the ball even more. Seems like a recipe for disaster.
While the Bears undergo their identity crisis, the Lions are a team on the rise. Matt Stafford leads an array of young offensive weapons including Pro-Bowler Calvin Johnson and first-round pick Javhid Best.
With Chicago's pass happy offense consistently giving the Lions a short field, Stafford should be able to rack up the points.
Expect a high-scoring affair on both sides. However, Stafford is likely better prepared to play in his system than his counterpart, Cutler, as he will still be trying to grasp the intricacies of Martz's complex offense.
Vegas sees this game as an easy victory for the Bears. They are currently favored by 7.5 points. But the two teams are fairly close in overall talent.
A Week One victory over a division rival would serve as notice to the rest of the NFL that the Lions are no longer a laughing stock.