The Super Bowl champion Ravens are expected to kick off the 2013 season in Baltimore on Thursday, Sept. 5. The potential opponents include the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns.
Coming off losing seasons, the Jets and Browns are good bets to be eliminated from the conversation.
The Packers, Patriots, and Texans will return with strong rosters after disappointing playoff exits last month.
The Packers also bring plenty of nationwide appeal while the Vikings offer one of the league's most-exciting draws in 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson.
There is one factor working against both clubs, however. Only once since 2004 has the NFL scheduled an NFC vs. AFC matchup for the season-kickoff game. The Indianapolis Colts hosted the New Orleans Saints to open the 2007 regular season.
We suspect the leaders in the clubhouse are the Patriots and the Steelers. Ravens-Steelers remains the most-physical rivalry in the NFL. It's the Patriots who offer the most-riveting storyline, though, after the two teams knocked one another out of Super Bowl contention in consecutive AFC Championship games. The NFL also could promote last September's 31-30 thriller at M&T Bank Stadium.