XLVIII things to watch throughout the 2013 NFL season

Predicting the 2013 NFL season Will Tom Brady be the MVP? Can the Bengals be
stopped? Who will rise in the NFC East? Our analysts look into the future. More
... Each year, it feels like the run-up to the new NFL season grows longer and
busier. Offseason is really a misnomer -- there is no off button when there are
months of headline-making player acquisitions, obsessively-covered injuries and
recoveries, detailed reviews of snap counts and, this year, a tragic
intersection with the law. Finally, in the coming week, the games will seize
attention again as the countdown to Super Bowl XLVIII begins. In honor of a
Super Bowl that has managed to generate controversy long before we even know who
will play in it -- and to delay for a few more column inches the start of the
Doppler-radar watch for snow -- here are 48 things that should keep our
The speed. The secrecy. The soundtrack. Chip Kelly's offense with the
Philadelphia Eagles has it all, with a dash of Michael Vick thrown in for good
measure. Can Kelly's warp-speed approach -- don't look down or you'll miss the
next snap -- work in the NFL? And how quickly will other teams try to copy it if
it does? II. Manning and Welker: Wes Welker goes from Tom Brady to Peyton
Manning, and Manning gets the fearless over-the-middle receiver to complete a
stellar Denver Broncos corps. Germany
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How quickly can their timing develop? III. Brady
and Amendola: And Danny Amendola steps into Welker's old spot with the New
England Patriots. Everybody has always considered Amendola a Welker clone -- now
we'll find out how much he actually resembles Brady's former favorite receiver.
How quickly can their timing develop? IV. The Clowney Crusade: You remember the
(Play Really Badly) for Luck fan campaigns of two years ago? If it becomes clear
that defensive superstar Jadeveon Clowney will leave South Carolina after this
college football season, you had better believe suffering fans of struggling
teams will be crossing their fingers for a race to the bottom of the standings
-- so that their team can be at the top of next May's draft. V. Eventually, the
New York Jets will pick a quarterback, and he will take the snaps. Think that'll
be the end of one of the oddest -- and perhaps most mismanaged -- quarterback
competitions in memory? This figures to be a season-long drama, one with
overarching implications for the future of coach Rex Ryan and the entire
franchise. VI. The first time Adrian Peterson lowers his head to plow a defender
backwards as he crosses the goal line to score a game-winning touchdown for the
Minnesota Vikings, does he get a flag? The crown-of-helmet rule adopted in the
offseason might produce as many arguments as it does penalties. VII. Returned
from his season-long suspension, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton is back in
Drew Brees' ear, and probably with something to prove. Beware, opposing
defensive backs. Debate: Underrated/overrated teams Can AndyReid lead the Chiefs
from the cellar to the playoffs? Our analysts predict this season's sleeper
squads and duds. More ... VIII. Former Eagles coach Andy Reid will take his
Kansas City Chiefs back to Philadelphia. Former Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis
goes with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back to New York. Wes Welker will travel back
to New England. Peyton Manning journeys with the Denver Broncos back to
Indianapolis. None of these visits should be accompanied by the enmity that
surrounded Brett Favre's return to Green Bay in Minnesota Vikings purple, but
it's worth asking: Can you go home again in the NFL? IX. Defensive coordinators
went to school on the read option this offseason, and Robert Griffin III's
injuries might serve as a cautionary tale. But colleges continue to churn out
the kinds of athletic quarterbacks who can run it. This season might give an
indication as to whether this offense is sustainable or, as Pittsburgh Steelers
coach Mike Tomlin thinks, merely the flavor of the day. X. Everybody was spoiled
by the instant impact of quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and RGIII as
rookies last season. Sophomore slumps aren't uncommon, but these three might be
good enough to avoid going through one. ONE STORY WE'RE STILL HAPPY NOT TO BE
HEARING ABOUT XI. Lockouts. Hallelujah! No worrying Germany
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more about labor lawyers than linebackers.
WELCOME TO THE WEATHER CHANNEL XII. Get your Farmers' Almanac, your groundhog
and your weather radio, and join the Super Bowl rush by channeling your inner
Jim Cantore. THE CURIOSITIES XIII. Video from the locker rooms: The NFL is
experimenting with cameras in locker rooms to give in-stadium fans a sense of
what goes on inside the inner sanctum. Hint: They're likely to see as many
snoozers as stemwinders. XIV. Hip and thigh pads: The NFL insists pads will
limit the hip and thigh contusions that bedevil players. The players suspect the
equipment will slow them down. Are either -- or both -- right? XV. After Dustin
Keller's knee was blown out by a direct hit -- and after defensive players said
they now hit low to minimize the risk they will incur a fine for hitting too
high -- the league is likely to closely monitor to see if the knee becomes a
target point, and to see if a rule that already generates so much anger and
confusion from defensive players has to be refined further. XVI. Whither Tim
Tebow? If the Patriots release the quarterback, does he get picked up? If the
Patriots keep him, do they use him? Is this the end of the NFL line for one of
the game's most compelling -- and vexing -- players? XVII. Falsely accused of
rape and wrongly imprisoned, Brian Banks finally got a chance to try to make it
in the NFL at age 28. Though it doesn't look like that will happen with the
Atlanta Falcons, whether he tries again elsewhere or ultimately resumes his
non-football life, Banks is a staggering example of resilience. THE GAMES XVIII.
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos, Sept. 5: The Rahim Moore revenge game gives
us our first look at the Super Bowl champions post-Ray Lewis/Ed Reed -- and our
first look at the Broncos with Welker and without the suspended Von Miller.
Schein: SuperBowl XLVIII forecast Adam Schein predicts each conference's rep in
New Jersey -- and picks a winner. (Popular opinion need not apply.) More ...
XIX. Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers, Sept. 8: Niners quarterback Colin
Kaepernick absolutely shredded the Packers' defense in a divisional playoff game
last season. This should provide an early hint as to whether or not teams have
caught up to the read option. XX. Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins,
Sept. 9: Who runs faster: the Eagles' offense Argentina
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or Robert Griffin III on a rebuilt knee? XXI.
New York Jets at New England Patriots, Sept. 12: It doesn't even matter if this
game is competitive. This remains one of the league's most ridiculous rivalries.
After all, it gave the world the butt-fumble; you cannot look away. Germany
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XXII. Denver Broncos at New York Giants, Sept.
15: Manning Bowl III. Unless Eli and Peyton meet in the Super Bowl, this could
be the last time they play against each other, because of the way the schedule
rotates. Peyton is 2-0 against Eli. XXIII. San Francisco 49ers at Seattle
Seahawks, Sept. 15: Remember when the NFC West stunk? This one could be a
preview of the NFC Championship Game. It definitely will be a showcase for two
of football's best defenses and scintillating quarterbacks. XXIV. Baltimore
Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, Oct. 20: The status of the NFL's most bruising
rivalry is often a telling indicator of the eventual AFC North champion. XXV.
Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts, Oct. 20: Peyton returns to Indianapolis to
face Luck. The winners? Colts fans, who will be reminded of how incredibly
fortunate they are to have cheered for both. XXVI. Green Bay Packers at New York
Giants, Nov. 17: Think these two teams like being overlooked in the NFC
sweepstakes? This game could go a long way toward determining which of these
squads will be in prime playoff contention. XXVII. Dallas Cowboys at New York
Giants, Nov. 24: The NFC East is one of the toughest divisions to predict; this
game almost always determines a playoff spot. XXVIII. Denver Broncos at New
England Patriots, Nov. 24: There won't be many more Manning-Brady games. Savor
them while they last. XXIX. Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals, Dec. 8:
Two young, rising teams who are likely to have playoff roles for many years. Can
the Bengals' defense slow Luck? XXX. Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco Argentina
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49ers, Dec. 23: A reprise of an instant classic NFC
Championship Game. XXXI. Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears, Dec. 29: Of course,
this is a classic rivalry, but even if it weren't, don't you want to see what
new Bears coach Marc Trestman does with Jay Cutler? XXXII. Baltimore Ravens at
Cincinnati Bengals, Dec. 29: Almost certainly will determine a playoff spot in
the AFC's best division. XXXIII. St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks, Dec. 29:
The Seahawks are in nearly everyone's postseason predictions, but the Rams are
on the rise. Their only divisional loss last year? To the Seahawks. In Seattle.
On the final day of the season. Hmm. THE PEOPLE XXXIV. Dr. James Andrews. The
famous surgeon's management of RGIII's knee injury and the quarterback's rapid
return have made Dr. Andrews nearly as recognizable as Dr. Phil. XXXV. We miss
Gronk. Please, come back, Gronk. XXXVI. But in the meantime, rookie free-agent
tight end Zach Sudfeld has given the Patriots a nice surprise and a name --
that's Stud-feld to you -- we can work with. XXXVII. The Rams aren't even trying
to pretend that they are keeping rookie
receiver/returner/whatever-else-he-wants-to-do Tavon Austin under wraps. Please,
free Tavon, Jeff Fisher. XXXVIII. When it comes to Chip Kelly, there probably
hasn't been a more heralded coaching arrival in the NFL since Jimmy Johnson. No
pressure, Chip; you're merely expected to usher in an offensive revolution while
winning in Philadelphia, one of the league's pressure cookers. XXXIX. We had
never seen anything quite like Cam Newton when he got to the NFL -- fast enough
to outrun defenders, big enough to absorb their hits -- but now he is
essentially ignored in the conversations about the game's young quarterbacks. He
is too talented to be lost, and it will be fascinating to see how new Carolina
Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula deploys him. Harrison: Picking the
All-Pros Elliot Harrison looks into his crystal ball to fill out an All-Pro
roster for the season to come -- and some names might surprise. More ... XL. The
Saints' defense has taken some big injury blows during their rebuilding process,
but they do have a rookie safety, Kenny Vaccaro, who could be the next great
don't-take-your-eyes-off-him playmaker. XLI. Maybe you've forgotten how electric
Reggie Bush can be when he catches the ball out of the backfield. The Detroit
Lions and Matthew Stafford are going to give you a chance to remember in the
latest stop in Bush's peripatetic career. XLII. It's superfluous to mention
Adrian Peterson, right? You were going to watch him without me reminding you,
weren't you? XLIII. Ziggy Ansah could be this year's Jason Pierre-Paul, a raw
pass-rushing talent who could energize the Lions' defense. Boy, does that team
need it. XLIV. The Miami Dolphins spent a mind-boggling amount of money in free
agency, but all the focus will be on receiver Mike Wallace, and the chemistry he
develops with Ryan Tannehill. This team needs some pop -- on offense and in
terms of fan interest -- and Wallace could be the answer. XLV. Can we just watch
J.J. Watt bat passes out of the air all day? XLVI. Mark Davis, the Oakland
Raiders owner, might be the most unpredictable boss in the league right now. His
team is in the middle of a massive rebuilding effort, but it's almost impossible
to divine if Davis will allow Reggie McKenzie to continue to manage it after
what many are expecting to be another terrible season. XLVII. Welcome back,
Darrelle Revis. The feud with Richard Sherman is fun. The play is even better.
XLVIII. Love him or loathe him, Rex Ryan provides compelling theater. He began
the season by turning sideways during a press conference. His relationship with
Jets general manager John Idzik is a thread that will stretch throughout the
season. Follow Judy Battista on Twitter @judybattista.

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