Here, I will break down every game, week by week.
Ravens @ Broncos:
The Denver Broncos will play host to the team that ended their Super Bowl 2012 campaign, looking for revenge. The Ravens will be a very different team in 2013, missing key cogs Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Dan Ellerby, Paul Kruger, Bernard Pollard, and Cary Williams, not to mention top receiver Anquan Boldin on offense. It will take time for the Ravens to mesh together and resume defensive dominance, especially against the Broncos who feature an already-legend QB, a top receiving crew, and one of the most talented and balanced teams in the league will be extremely hard. I see Manning and the receivers tearing that weak secondary to shreds, while Willis McGahee and Montee Ball have their way with a weakened linebacking squad. The Ravens do ok on offense, but without a game breaking receiver, Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta are not going to cut it. Smith has a nice game as the top pass catcher, but the Ravens and their fresh team have an all around bad night against one of the best teams in the league and a frontrunning Super Bowl contender.
Broncos 40, Ravens 24
Player of the Game: Peyton Manning (340 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT)
The Bills are just not a very good team right now. They, like the Eagles, are in a flux at who their quarterback is even going to be. C.J. Spiller is one of the stars on this young team, but the Bills need to find more talent on both sides of the ball. The Patriots on the other hand are likely the biggest competition in the AFC against the Broncos. The Patriots are still very hot, and even without Welker, Tom Brady is a quarterback that can make an offense hum. The Bills will field a better defense and possible offense, but they are inexperienced. The Patriots will already have a 17-7 lead at halftime, and will not allow any sort of comeback from their division rivals.
Patriots 34, Bills 14
Player of the Game: Tom Brady (370 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT)
The Titans are not a very good team in the AFC, but have talent that could make them a team to worry about if they figure it out. The Steelers seem to be at the end of their run of dominance which included two Super Bowl victories and a third appearance. All things come to an end, and this will likely be a game between one team still out of the mix and just trying to find themselves versus another very dark horse team desperately trying to keep their grip at the top despite age concerns. The Titans will put up a good fight, but the Steelers have a better defense and a great home crowd. Expect multiple turnovers from Jake Locker in a hostile environment and the Steelers cruise to a victory.
Steelers 28, Titans 17
Player of the Game: Heath Miller (8 rec, 100 yards, 2 TD)
The Falcons and Saints game could be a good one. While the Saints did bad in 2012, they see the return of their old great coach and a newly implemented defense. The Falcons won’t see significant changes from 2012, but a weak secondary will be prone to the Saints passing attack. The Saints have a good day passing, but the Falcons match it until the 3rd quarter. The Falcons will falter in the Superdome, which is deadly in a close back to back game. The Saints take a two score lead and the Falcons are unable to recover.
Saints 34, Falcons 27
Player of the Game: Jimmy Graham (6 rec, 120 yards, TD)
The Buccaneers and Jets game could be the most intriguing game of week 1. Not because of the game, but this will have a huge storyline with Darrelle Revis. I see big things from the Buccaneers in 2013. They now have a top notch secondary, and already upper echelon front 7, and with Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson, this could be a functional offense. Even though this game will be in New Jersey, the Jets will be in for a hard match. The Jets suck. The Buccaneers defense dominates and bullies them all day, while the offense does enough to make for an easy win.
Buccaneers 24, Jets 6
Player of the Game: Doug Martin (90 rush yards, 1 TD, 2 rec, 25 yards)
The Chiefs and Jaguars game will feature both of the top two picks, and will probably be watched just to see if the Chiefs made the right choice with taking Fisher over Joeckel. The Jaguars are the NFL’s second worst team behind the Jets, and while the Chiefs were terrible in 2012, they have a competitive quarterback. Adding Smith to Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles could mean good stuff for the Chiefs who shouldn’t have a very hard time against the Jaguars.
Chiefs 23, Jaguars 10
Player of the Game: Eric Berry (5 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 INT)
Everyone will be excited to see the Seahawks in 2013. They had a surprisingly great 2012, and only got better, adding Percy Harvin, a couple great pass rushers, Russell Wilson got another year of experience, and Richard Sherman multiplied his confidence level by about a billion. The Panthers could be a surprise team if Cam Newton gets it together, but that secondary is choppy. Percy Harvin earns what the Seahawks invested in him and following is big day, a top defense and decent offense handle the Panthers.
Seahawks 27, Panthers 17
Player of the Game: Percy Harvin (5 rec, 80 yards, TD, 3 rush, 25 yards)
This will be another game to keep an eye on. The Bengals are a good team with lots of talent, and this may be their true breakout year. Meanwhile the Bears downgraded, losing their defensive anchor, defensive coordinator, and head coach. I see a big year for the Bengals, but the Bears may struggle. They have top corners, which could trouble A.J. Green, and Marshall can challenge green for the most talented receiver on the field.
Bengals 27, Bears 14
Player of the Game: Andy Dalton (300 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT)
Dolphins @ Browns
The Browns are still struggling and gathering talent to make a good run. I see an improvement from 2012, but they still have a little bit to go before becoming contenders. The Dolphins however have gotten to that checkpoint, and with Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan, they could field one of the AFC’s best defenses. Ryan Tannehill makes a great pair with Mike Wallace, but it might be more the defense that carries them to wins. The Browns won’t really be fighting for much, and the Dolphins will have the edge in this one.
Dolphins 28, Browns 20
The Vikings and Lions game will be a good game to watch. The Lions feature the best running back in the NFL, while the Lions counter with the best receiver. The Vikings are coming off a season where they finally reached playoffs again, meanwhile their division rivals flunked and missed the playoffs, despite breaking receiving records and finishing a strong 10-6 just the year prior. The Vikings lost one of their best playmakers in Percy Harvin, and Cordarelle Patterson won’t be a superstar from day 1. His rookie teammates are going to struggle as well, so it should make for a good game. Still, the Lions lost some key players as well and are hoping for big production from a rookie as well. The Lions hang in there are grind it out all game, but will need a slight upset to trump the Vikings.
Vikings 24, Lions 17
Player of the Game: Christian Ponder (280 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT)
The Raiders are not looking to make playoffs or even have a winning season this year. They are simply in rebuilding and will come into this game with an "evaluate the talent" mindset. That said, the Colts are ready to put the final pieces in place and make a run for the Super Bowl in a couple years. The Colts have a good offense and possess a great receiving group in Fleener, Allen, Wayne, Hilton, and now, Darius Heyward-Bey. The Raiders don’t have a great defense of offense, and will be extremely hard pressed to even make it a challenge for the Colts.
Colts 28, Raiders 14
Player of the Game: Vontae Davis (3 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 INT)
When the Packers visit the 49ers to avenge their divisional round playoff loss, it could be one of the best games of week 1. While Giants/Cowboys always deserves SNF, you can bet the NFL was seriously considering making this matchup the premiere game of the week as well. These are two great NFC teams featuring explosive offenses and always offer a slew of highlight plays. Aaron Rodgers will be without his man Greg Jennings, but with Nelson, Cobb, Finley, and the new running backs, this offense should be just fine. Meanwhile, defenses will have had plenty of time to adjust to Kaepernick’s running game, making this a Rodgers vs Niners D game. Aaron Rodgers can cut through almost any defense the NFL throws at him. Kaepernick might struggle with his inexperience, but this will be a close game.
Packers 34, 49ers 31
Player of the Game: Aaron Rodgers (420 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT)
The Cardinals and Rams game might not get too much attention, but I think the Rams are worth taking a look at this year. They have a stingy defense with two great cornerbacks. Sam Bradford has a couple new teammates that can electrify an offense and can be a playmaking team. The Cardinals still lack the talent to do much. The Cardinals might put up a fight in week 1, but the Rams now have the firepower to be a dark horse playoff candidate and leave the Cardinals in the dust.
Rams 24, Cardinals 20
Giants @ Cowboys
Ahh...The first Sunday Night football game. The entire NFL world will be tuned in to watch a good old fashioned Cowboys and Giants game. The Cowboys are a great team when healthy, and with the return of Lee, Carter, Church, Murray, Ware, and one of the best defensive coordinators in NFL history, they could be quite a force. On the other hand, the Giants are only 2 years removed from a SB ring, and with Nicks and Cruz in the fold, they can make some good stuff happen on offense. Still, the Cowboys have the better defense, and employ the NFC East’s best offensive player in Dez Bryant. The Cowboys will struggle a bit with the new scheme in the first game, but with their talented corners and better offensive line, the Cowboys should have a slight advantage in a close game.
Cowboys 27, Giants 23
Player of the Game: DeMarcus Ware (4 tackles, 1.5 sacks)
Eagles @ Redskins
The Eagles will bring their new offense to the test for the first time in D.C., where Chip Kelly will have his NFL debut. Griffin will be back to lead this team in a game of the read option against Vick. It will be a close game, as Griffin can’t ignite this offense without the same running threat. The Redskins bring the advantage of a better home crowd, while the Eagles boast a better secondary and faster players.
Redskins 27, Eagles, 20
The Texans had a good time dismantling the Miami Dolphins in week 1 of 2012 and will have an easy slot to do the same to the Chargers. The Chargers are not a very good team, and it will be scary to see Philip Rivers protected by his offensive line against J.J. Watt, upgrades or not. The Texans have a much better offense, a premier receiver, one of the most feared defenders in the game, and just too much talent for the Chargers to keep up. Unless the Chargers are a changed team and outperform themselves or the Texans have a bad start to 2013, there’s not too much hope here for the Chargers.
Texans 37, Chargers 21
Player of the Game: Arian Foster (120 Yards, 2 TD)