|Manning could lead his team to the AFC title. (US Presswire)|
As we all know, the first week always predicts what will happen for the rest of the NFL season. Which is why I feel confident making the following 10 predictions, based on just 60 minutes of football when the Packers and Giants lost, the Redskins won, and Aaron Rodgers looked out of sorts.
You can pin these predictions to the wall, because they almost certainly will come true. Based, of course, on just one game. And in case you didn't realize, the sentences you have just read are sarcastic, but that doesn't make the following Top Ten with a Twist any less true, and I'll tell you why (only somewhat sarcastic).
10. Victor Cruz will have 48 drops this year (not including the playoffs): Surprisingly, Cruz had three drops in the season-opener vs. the Cowboys. Obviously, Eli Manning will now look to Hakeem Nicks, if he can remain healthy, to replace the suddenly undependable Cruz and his hands of stone. Reason the Week 1 result might really be true: You have to figure there's a pretty good chance Cruz won't repeat his 82-catch, 1,536-yard, nine-touchdown performance from a season ago (perhaps I was wrong with my over-under prediction on Cruz), and you have to wonder if Cruz's superstar offseason would distract him in 2012. It seemed so in Week 1.
9. Robert Griffin III will be even better than Cam Newton: The first time Griffin stepped on the field for a regular-season NFL game, he was incredible, completing 73.1 percent of his passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns. In Newton's first game, he completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 422 yards for two scores and one interception. Griffin also beat a perennial power in New Orleans on the road. Newton lost to a Cardinals team that immediately went on a six-game losing streak. Advantage to Griffin against the quarterback who had the best rookie season ever. Reason the Week 1 result might really be true: I can't really think of one.
8. Chris Johnson is done. Again: We wrote an awful lot last year about the demise of Johnson after he gained 100 yards in just one of the first eight games of 2011. Some wrote off his slow start to the lockout and his subsequent holdout, especially when he improved toward the end of the season. But he was a disaster in the 2012 season opener vs. the Patriots, gaining just four yards on 11 carries. Maybe this is the beginning of a trend. Reason the Week 1 result might really be true: Once again, analysts are talking about his lack of burst and his lack of field vision. Perhaps he's really lost his explosiveness.
7. Replacement refs won't last the season: They weren't quite as awful as many thought they would be (especially after a disastrous preseason), but considering there were numerous time clock issues (not to mention a fourth timeout given to the Seahawks), it's hard to believe the league would allow the replacement refs who don't always have knowledge of the game's actual rules to continue officiating. For as much as the commissioner talks about preserving the sanctity of the game, the replacements do the opposite. Reason the Week 1 result might really be true: Look, the refs weren't THAT bad in Week 1. But something fundamental each week is going to cause this story to be refreshed every seven days. The NFL's PR machine can't continue to take these hits.
6. Brandon Weeden won't be starting for Cleveland in 2013: Well, yeah, his quarterback rating of 5.1 in Week 1 certainly was terrible, as were his four interceptions, and the Browns were unable to beat an Eagles team with an offense that looked as bad as their own. And considering the Browns quarterback is a 28-year-old rookie who didn't really have to beat out incumbent starter Colt McCoy for the job (McCoy never had a chance), Weeden has a steep mountain to climb. Reason the Week 1 result might really be true: This is a disaster for an organization that's about to go through an ownership change. Who's to say the new personnel will want any part of Weeden?
5. Mike Shanahan, once again, is a genius: One of the knocks on Shanahan, even though he's won two Super Bowls, is that unless he has a Hall of Fame quarterback, he's an average NFL coach. After all, the record for his non-John Elway teams with the Raiders, Broncos and Redskins is a ho-hum 110-101. But now that he's secured Robert Griffin III, Shanahan is set for a resurgence to the reputation that Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck so badly bruised. Reason the Week 1 result might really be true: The way Shanahan and his son, Kyle Shanahan, designed last Sunday's game plan for Griffin was smart. In fact, you can read Grantland's Chris Brown's excellent take right here.
4. Nobody will ever do "Hard Knocks" again: Let's see, the Dolphins suffered an embarrassing arrest and haven't won a game since the HBO cameras invaded the Miami locker room. Plus, it sounds like some of the players (if not all of them) weren't too excited to be on camera at all times. The good news: it was entertaining as heck. Reason the Week 1 result might really be true: Do you remember how tough a time producers had getting a team for this season? I can't imagine the Dolphins edition will make anybody jump at the chance for 2013. Unless your name is Shad Khan.
3. Spending $81 million on two running backs was a huge mistake for Carolina: In the past two years, the Panthers have inked their two backs to big-time contracts. While solid, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams have finished in the league's top five only once (Williams was No. 3 in 2008), and though they naturally take carries and yards away from each other, they are a long way from their best season together (both went over 1,100 yards in 2009). With Stewart injured last week, Williams finished the game with minus-1 yard on six carries. That's not money well spent. Reason the Week 1 result might really be true: With Cam Newton's talent as a quarterback (and as a runner), how much emphasis does Carolina really want to put on the run?
2. Tony Romo and Joe Flacco are now elite: That's what they (and by “they,” I mean me) want you to believe, but the way both played in their respective season-openers, they're operating at a different level than before. Romo still hasn't won when it matters most, but beating the defending Super Bowl champs in Week 1 was a nice accomplishment. And the way Flacco dissected the Bengals on Monday night before giving way to his backup, it almost seemed unfair to the Cincinnati players. Reason the Week 1 result might really be true: Romo keeps playing for respect and a chance to compete for an NFC crown, and this might be one of his best shots to do so. Flacco is playing for a new contract and a ton of money.
1. The Broncos are Super Bowl contenders: Denver already had the strong defense (the Broncos proved that in the second half of last season), and the organization already has solid skill players. Add to that a mostly healthy Peyton Manning, and you've got a team that will have a say in who wins the AFC title. Reason the Week 1 result might really be true: His name is Peyton Manning.
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