NFL ready to Kickoff its 93rd Season | The seven-month NFL off-season has never been far from the headlines due to a variety of reasons. These include lawsuits over concussions, arrests, special rules for players, the illegal Bountygate hitting scandal, suspensions, the draft, trades, free-agent signings, player holdouts, huge contracts, union problems, and the possibility of a strike.
The league kicked off for the 93rd time on Wed. Sept. 5th when last year’s Super Bowl winners, the New York Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys in New Jersey. The rest of the league’s clubs will start their seasons on either Sun. Sept 9th or Mon. Sept. 10th. The season will wrap up on Feb. 3rd 2013 in New Orleans with the playing of Super Bowl XLVII.
The season will get underway with replacement referees on the field. They’ve been working all of the preseason games and will also start the season due to a labour dispute between the regular officials and the NFL. The full-time referees have been locked out by the league. The replacement refs certainly haven’t been getting rave reviews and the players have talked about striking since they feel their safety is in jeopardy at the hands of the replacements.
Is Manning Ready to Play?
One of the big stories of the season is the return to action of quarterback Peyton Manning. However, he’s no longer a member of the Indianapolis Colts as the team cut him and his huge contract loose due to concerns over his health. His last game came about 20 months ago and he’ll now be suiting up for the Denver Broncos this season. He’s had four operations on his neck since he last played and will debut in the Broncos opening game at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Of course, there will be a lot of questions about his fitness and health. Fans are wondering if his neck has healed, if he’ll be able to throw the ball like he used to and if he’ll be able to take the tough physical going. Nobody knows for sure, not even Manning himself. However, it won’t take long until everybody finds out. The Broncos have a prime national TV schedule this season and the networks are hoping Manning can stand up to the rigours of the sport.
New Orleans Saints and Bountygate
The New Orleans Saints were found guilty of operating an illegal bounty system which saw players paid for injuring their opponents during games with big hits. Defenders made money by knocking other players out of games and the NFL frowns on this. Sean Payton, the team’s head coach, received a year-long ban and his assistant Joe Vitt was handed a six-game suspension. See more about the Bountygate on Wikipedia.
That’s not all though, general manager Mickey Loomis was booted out until November 11, while player Jonathan Vilma was also given a year ban and Will Smith was suspended for four contests. The Saints denied any wrongdoing and it’ll be interesting to see how the suspensions affect them. Ironically, they will host the Super Bowl in February.
Will the New York Giants be able to repeat?
Super Bowl champions The New York Giants will have a tough time defending their title due to their tough schedule this season. The team’s defence may be better than last year while quarterback Eli Manning will lead a stronger offense too. However, the schedule might derail them. Their last 11 games will make or break the club as they play the likes of San Francisco, Washington, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Washington, New Orleans, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
Close to a third of the starting quarterbacks in the 32-team league are more or less newcomers to the pros. A total of 10 of them are just entering their second season in the NFL or are rookies. Those who are entering their second years didn’t have the benefit of a training camp last season due to the players being locked out by the league.
It’s believed that five of the starting quarterbacks in the opening round of games will be rookies. These are Andrew Luck of the Baltimore Colts, Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins, Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, and Brandon Weeden of the Cleveland Browns. Five of the other starters will be second-year pros. Also, five other rookies or second-year players are backup quarterbacks. This could result in some low-scoring contests early in the campaign.
The NFC North
While the Detroit Lions don’t strike a lot of fear into their opponents’ hearts, they have some excellent players to be aware of. The passing combo of quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson is one of the best in the league. They’re lethal when they get near the end zone as well as just about anywhere else on the field really.
Other excellent passing combinations in the NFC North include the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers along with wide receivers Greg Jennings, wide receiver Jordy Nelson and tight end Jermichael Finley. The Chicago Bears’ pairing of quarterback Jay Cutler with wide receiver Brandon Marshall is also one of the best in the league.
Sunday Starting Times
The NFL’s late afternoon games on Sundays used to start at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. This year they’ll kick off at 4:15 p.m. This will allow the earlier games to all wrap up before the late games start. It seems the games have been lasting longer in the past couple of years and this is the best way to deal with the situation.
Super Bowl Favourites / Predictions
As we all know, betting on NFL is hugely popular and let’s face it… We are all looking forward to the new season and hopefully add to our bankroll. So let’s have a look at some odds and our predictions for the coming 2012-2013 NFL season.
The New York Giants definitely aren’t favoured to repeat as Super Bowl champions as sportsbook.com has them listed at +2400 (25.00, 24/1). The New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers are currently the favourites at +550 (6.50, 11/2). The Houston Texans are 10/1, the Philadelphia Eagles are listed at 14/1 followed by the San Francisco 49ers at 15/1. The New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers are all at 20/1. At the other end of the scale, the Jacksonville Jaguars are the longshots at 300/1 with the Cleveland Browns at 250/1. The Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts are both listed at 200/1.
It’s a tough call, but look for the New England Patriots to at least make the Super Bowl this year. We also believe Eagles and Ravens will have a good year. Check back this post later for more updates and betting picks during the season.
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