Replacement refs. Concussion epidemic. Peyton Manning. Tim Tebow. The X factor.
Those are -- in rough order -- the biggest storylines of the new NFL season, which kicks off today (I'll take the Giants over the Cowboys, who will struggle all season).
*The best leverage for the usual officials is that the replacement refs bungle things so badly that it erodes the integrity of the season, where one play can mean one win can mean playoffs or not.
*Concussions will be an even bigger problem, even if the league is slightly better about keeping players off the field who are recovering.
*I can't believe some of the predictions for Manning and the Broncos -- SI's Peter King tabs Manning as league MVP as Denver wins the AFC. I'll say Manning doesn't make it through 8 weeks.
*Another year, another round of doubt about Tim Tebow's ability to make a meaningful contribution -- this despite the fact that he led the Broncos to the playoffs last year, including a win. He'll be fine. The Jets may not be very good, but Tebow will be -- as usual -- better than everyone expects. (Have I bought my Tebow Jets jersey? Yes. Yes, I have.)
*And then there is the X-Factor: The team (or teams) that always go from nowhere to contention. The player that explodes on the scene. The player that gets injured. The fantasy superstar. That is always my favorite part.
Predictions: The only one that matters -- Green Bay over New England in the Super Bowl.
(Packers over 49ers in NFC title game; Pats over Ravens in AFC title game.)
NFC: Giants (East); Packers (North); Saints (South); 49ers (West); Lions, Panthers (WC)
AFC: Pats (East); Ravens (North); Texans (South); Chiefs (West); Steelers, Jets (WC)
Here's to a great season ahead for your team, for your fantasy team and for everyone.
A year ago, we moved from NYC to DC and switched from Time-Warner Cable to Verizon FIOS, with the main implication being that, for the first time, I got to experience Red Zone Channel. I am not exaggerating when I say that within 10 minutes, it became my favorite media experience ever.
Scott Hanson -- the most talented TV person in all of NFL-related media -- I look forward to another year with you at the helm.