Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/4/13
It’s Wednesday and you would swear it is Christmas around here.It’s 95 degrees and we are all sweating bullets, so no, it’s not the holiday season. But it could be because football is back, alive and well across the nation tomorrow night.My prayers have been answered. After following teams in rookie camps, practices, OTA, training camps and preseason, the “real” NFL is here.Baltimore and Denver kick things off to wet our palettes for Sunday’s action and two Monday night games.Maybe this is better than Christmas, who knows.For the football fan like me, this is Religion 101 and it all starts with the Super Bowl champs and the team that most figure to be the AFC’s representative in the big game come February. If this were professional wrestling, I’d be screaming, “What a Rush!”What does this season hold for the Ravens, who are without Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and other defensive starters and key reserves? Can Peyton Manning continue to create magic as he slips closer to 40 than 30?How does Joe Flacco handle the pressure of a new contract and higher expectations? Does the Denver defense stay the course without Von Miller as its leader?Why don’t we just allow the game to answer the questions for us. Here are three bold predictions for Thursday night.Joe Flacco bombs in his first game of seasonThere has to be a net to catch people when they have the playoff run Joe Flacco did and then sign a huge contract to make him one of the highest-paid players in the NFL. I am not expecting the Broncos' defense to look like the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, but there has to be some hangover from the Super Bowl and the talk show circuit.Flacco will not be the “John Elway” that the Ravens think he will be.Manning is as Manning doesPeyton Manning has Wes Welker to throw to and a decent set of receivers at his disposal. While in Indianapolis, Manning had street free agents to throw to and looked like the second coming of another Colts great, Johnny Unitas.I think we get to see Manning light it up in the air and watch a helpless secondary watch in awe. I also think Tom Brady wishes he had his reliable pass catcher in the seam to make the offense move. Manning is a Picasso of sorts who paints masterpieces with an aerial assault.Watch him create a true beauty on Thursday night.Champ Bailey will show his ageHe has been playing football for 30 years it seems, but at age 35 Bailey is showing his age and is injured. If he plays, how much of a liability is he for this team?A sprained foot has limited Bailey and forced him to miss the final 10 days of the preseason. I think Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are licking their chops at the thought of running by one of the better defensive backs to play the position in decades.Bailey will be a huge liability for Denver in pass coverage and coming up to stop the run, if he plays a full game.
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NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

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