The NFL officially returns on Thursday, and Shutdown Corner is rolling out the red carpet, previewing what’s to come for the 2013 season. We’ll finish it off by picking our individual awards and the Super Bowl winner on Thursday before the Ravens and Broncos kick off the season.
There are some things in the NFL we can count on. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will find a way to win at least 10 games again. The Raiders will be bad. Jon Gruden will be very excited about basically everything on "Monday Night Football."
Then there are dozens of things that will happen over the next five or so months that none of us can possibly predict. If we knew everything that was going to happen this season, it wouldn't be very fun to watch now, would it?
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With that in mind, here are 10 bold predictions that you can absolutely take to the bank:
Cam Newton will win the MVP award
Fine, I’m not technically picking him to win, but of all the long shots (Newton is 25-1 odds to win MVP on Sportsbook.com), he has by far the best chance. He’s going to have a great year.
Eli Manning will throw for 5,000 yards
Victor Cruz. Hakeem Nicks in a contract year. Rueben Randle is emerging. A solid tight end in Brandon Myers. Manning came close to 5,000 in 2011, and with these weapons he’ll get there this season.
Calvin Johnson won’t lead the NFL in receiving
Johnson won’t get quite as many targets with Reggie Bush taking some and Matthew Stafford unlikely to throw it 727 times again. Dez Bryant will have the most receiving yards in the NFL this year.
Russell Wilson will be better than Colin Kaepernick
Lost in Kaepernick’s great playoff run is that Wilson was better over the second half of last season, and pretty good in the playoffs too. He’s a more polished passer and will continue to become a star.
Denver will win the AFC West, but still be disappointing
Not much has gone right for the Broncos the past few months. They’re still going to win the West by default, but won’t get a bye and won’t make the AFC’s title game in a Super Bowl or bust season.
Mike Shanahan will be on the hot seat
Last year’s playoff debacle and signs of a strained relationship between with Robert Griffin III mean Shanahan better win. If owner Daniel Snyder has to pick between coach and QB, it’s no contest.
Jay Cutler will be the NFC North’s second-best quarterback
Matthew Stafford’s numbers were propped up by an insane amount of attempts last year. He’ll come back to earth, and Cutler will have a very nice season in new coach Marc Trestman’s offense.
People will stop hating Andy Dalton for no reason
A quarterback has 7,067 yards and 47 touchdowns his first two years, with two playoff appearances. And he didn’t have many weapons other than A.J. Green. Yet people criticize Dalton. That’ll change, especially with rookies Tyler Eifert and Gio Bernard around him. Dalton isn't great, but he's a lot better than anyone gave him credit for this offseason.
Eagles-Redskins will be the highest-rated regular-season game in years
The Redskins get Robert Griffin III back, and nobody knows what to expect. Chip Kelly is one of the more interesting first-year coaches in a long time. Two big markets involved. Who isn’t going to watch this Monday night game?
The Saints won’t finish above .500
Getting Sean Payton back is a nice boost. It doesn’t help the defense. Drew Brees is great, but he was great last year and the Saints were 7-9. The defense needs an enormous improvement to be mediocre. With some defensive injuries already, it just isn't going to happen.