For those of you scoring at home or wishing to be turned morose with a reminder how time flies, Thursday night begins the NFLs 94th year and the 40th season since Miami last won a Super Bowl. Happy anniversary, Dolfans! This also launches my 23rd season predicting games in the Miami Herald. (Mom told me Id never amount to anything. Must that woman always be right!?) One more: This is the 12th year for Kickoff Weekend Thursday games, because the league that penalizes its players for excessive celebration likes nothing better than to excessively celebrate itself. Thus Keith Urban will warble a pregame concert in Denver prior to the Broncos-Ravens kickoff, then 32 former NFL greats one from each team will participate in a televised countdown to the coin flip. The Dolphins rep will be Larry Little, and five ex-Canes involved will be Michael Irvin (Cowboys), Jim Kelly (Bills), Cortez Kennedy (Seahawks), Ray Lewis (Ravens) and Warren Sapp (Buccaneers). Countdowns to coin flips just dont get any better than that. So cmon, fans, time to forget that the NFL just spent $800 million to settle a class-action concussion lawsuit and that one of its biggest young stars is facing a murder trial. Its football time! WOOOO!!
RAVENS at BRONCOS
Line: DEN by 7.5
Cotes pick: DEN 31-27
TV: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, NBC
Normally the reigning Super Bowl champion thats Baltimore, if memory serves gets to host the Kickoff Weekend game, but this ones in Denver because Peyton Manning is the NFLs Oz, all-powerful and discreetly controlling everything from behind a giant velvet drape. Peyton is such a darling that his Broncos somehow are favored by more than a touchdown, which is such an insult to the defending champs that Ray Lewis will require every ounce of willpower to not suddenly un-retire, deliver an inspirational, Squirrel Dancin pregame speech and then go make 14 tackles while wearing wing tips. The Broncos will miss suspended defensive star Von Miller and an outright upset by the Ravens here would not shock us even a little. Denver is a mighty strong home venue, though, and Manning has added even more weapons, which is sort of like Bill Gates getting a raise.
Greg Cote and the Upset Bird (Aawwk!) will unveil their 2013 season of Friday NFL predictions pages tomorrow. Consider yourself warned.