The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos, the hot favorite to lift the Lombardi Trophy, raise the curtain on the NFL's 2013 season today as the opening act to a Week 1 full on intrigue. Recycled players, rivalries, revenge and a return to the sidelines highlight the opening chapter of a five-month drama that will reach a chilling climax Feb. 2 when New York and New Jersey host the first outdoor, cold weather Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.
Some familiar names have been recycled with quarterbacks Carson Palmer (Arizona) and Alex Smith (Kansas City), running backs Reggie Bush (Detroit) and Steven Jackson (Atlanta) and wide receivers Anquan Boldin (49ers), Greg Jennings (Minnesota) and Wes Welker (Denver) getting fresh starts.
The New Orleans Saints, coming off their first sub-.500 season since 2007, will look to draw inspiration from the return of coach Sean Payton to the sidelines following his year-long ban resulting from the team's "Bountygate" scandal.
The Superdome is sure to be rocking on Sunday as Payton is reunited with quarterback Drew Brees for an NFC South clash against the division rival Atlanta Falcons.
"No suspensions, no lockout, no protracted contract negotiations, no wire-tapping. We're ready to go," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said on the team's website. "We're not going to win or lose the Super Bowl [because of Sunday's result], but it's a real good test for us."
When it comes to NFL rivalries none are bigger than the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, who will renew hostilities in an NFC East tilt in Texas while the NFC North's Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings open their seasons in the Motor City.
The focus for Tampa Bay and Washington supporters is on the wounded knees of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Buccaneers' prize off-season addition, cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Griffin, the NFL's Rookie of Year, will try to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump and calm the jittery nerves of Washington fans when he leads the Redskins against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles in one of two Monday night contests.
Regarded as the best cornerback in the NFL, revenge will be on Revis' mind as he returns to New York to face his former team the Jets, who traded him away after tearing his ACL early last season.