With the arrival of a new NFL season comes the chance for franchises to right the ship and get back to winning games after an offseason of adding new faces and undergoing schematic changes.
Last year's mediocre franchises are no longer the laughingstock of the league, as the NFL is structured through the draft and waivers to keep the league in a certain state of parity.
There are several teams in line to bounce back from miserable 2012 campaigns. Whether it's big additions on the field or along the coaching staff, stars healing up or philosophy changes, several teams from a year ago are set to surprise in Week 1.
Week 1 is an opportunity for rebounding franchises to set things off on the right path. Here are unexpected teams set to notch crucial victories this week en route to major comeback campaigns.
Cleveland Silences Miami at Home
Both the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns enter their Week 1 matchup as teams searching for answers after subpar seasons in 2012.
While Miami has been the talk of the league after spending big in free agency and bringing on names like Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, Phillip Wheeler and Brent Grimes, it is Cleveland that has flown under the radar as a much-improved squad.
That will come to a halt in Miami.
It may seem Cleveland is in an iffy state of transition to a 3-4 on defense, but that is simply not the case. The Browns added Desmond Bryant quietly in free agency, a man who ranked as the No. 6 overall defensive tackle in the NFL last year, according to ProFootballFocus (subscription required).
Bryant is joined by former Baltimore linebacker Paul Kruger, who ranked as the No. 6 overall 3-4 outside backer a year ago.
Add in the addition of defensive coordinator Ray Horton—who spent the past two seasons turning the Arizona Cardinals into an elite 3-4 unit—and Ryan Tannehill, and the Dolphins are going to have serious issues moving the ball.
None of this is to say the Dolphins will have a horrible year, but shutting down Trent Richardson alone will be a difficult task. Cleveland should have little trouble controlling both sides of the football en route to victory.
Prediction: Browns 23, Dolphins 14
Kansas City Starts Andy Reid Era in Big Way Against Jacksonville
One of the bigger storylines of the offseason came from Kansas City as the Chiefs welcomed former longtime Philadelphia coach Andy Reid to town, who in turn went and traded for San Francisco's Alex Smith to act as his starting quarterback.
Smith is an alarmingly efficient passer who completed over 70 percent of his attempts last year before being yanked for Colin Kaepernick. An ideal quarterback for Reid's efficient short-yardage passing game, Smith will also be backed by an elite weapon in Jamaal Charles, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards on the ground last season.
On the flipside is Jacksonville, a team in search of answers at quarterback. Blaine Gabbert sounds like the starter, per Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times Union, but he has recorded over 300 yards in a game just once and has never completed more than 60 percent of his passes in a season.
Kansas City should have little issue dictating the pace of the game, keeping the weak defensive front-seven of Jacksonville on the field and focusing on shutting down running back Maurice Jones-Drew with little to fear from Gabbert.
Jacksonville is outmatched at just about every position on the field while knee deep in a rebuilding process that is still a few years out. Kansas City just got a shot in the arm and could be destined for much bigger things in 2013.
Prediction: Chiefs 35, Jaguars 17
St. Louis Notches Major Victory Over Arizona
The St. Louis Rams continue to be a team on the rise since the arrival of Jeff Fisher in 2012. While the 7-8-1 record from last year does not jump off the page, the less-publicized 4-1-1 record against a strong NFC West should speak volumes.
St. Louis has only built on the success by adding more talent. No. 8 overall pick Tavon Austin will work wonders for fourth-year quarterback Sam Bradford, who finally has some consistency for the first time in his career among the coaching staff.
Welcoming a rejuvenated Arizona squad is no easy task. The Cardinals grabbed veteran quarterback Carson Palmer this offseason and hired head coach Bruce Arians to implement his vertical passing scheme.
The good news for St. Louis is that the Rams tout a top cornerback duo with Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan and a promising rookie safety in T.J. McDonald. Jenkins and Finnegan allowed the Rams to rank No. 15 overall against the pass last season.
The physicality of the corners will allow the Rams to focus on shutting down the passing game, as the threat of Rashard Mendenhall out of the backfield is no threat at all—especially behind what projects to once again be a disappointing line.
Fisher is quietly building a serious contender in St. Louis. Just how great the Rams can be in 2013 will be defined by an opening-week dance with the professionals from the desert. The Rams will pass the test in a close manner.
Prediction: Rams 24, Cardinals 23
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