|Chip Kelly, Manti Te'o and Darrelle Revis (from left to right) will be closely followed throughout the offseason.|
If you are feeling a little down this week, you aren't alone. Until the pads start smacking in late July, football is over for a while.
Amid a bizarre and memorable blackout, the Baltimore Ravens took down the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, at the Superdome in Super Bowl XLVII -- a showdown that capped off an enthralling 2012 campaign and sent us into the offseason.
Um, now what? What have we to look forward to?
A few things. The NFL Scouting Combine is in two weeks. Free agency comes March 12. Then the 2013 NFL Draft in late April. And OTAs and minicamps and whatever else comes up. (You don't think it'll really be boring, do you?)
In other words, plenty of stuff to keep us entertained. Want some examples? Here are 13 things to look forward to in 2013:
1) The remodeling of the Philadelphia Eagles under new head coach Chip Kelly. For the last two seasons, the interest in the Eagles has bordered on rubbernecking. As in, watch the cars collide, check out the damage. Is that era over? Kelly hopes so. The former Oregon coach brings his fast-paced, high-octane offense to the NFL, filling everyone with wonder. Can it work, and in what form? Oh, and will Michael Vick be a part of it? Can't wait to find out.
2) The reconstruction of Robert Griffin III's knee. One of the must-see, breakout stars of 2012 is a big question mark for 2013. RG3, who carried an undermanned Washington Redskins team to the playoffs, ended the season with a torn ACL that left those close to him worried about when he'll be able to return for his sophomore campaign. In fact, this is Griffin's second knee reconstruction. But in an age when Wes Welker and Adrian Peterson returned from similar injuries in record time, is it fair to ask RG3 to do the same? The 'Skins can be more than viable with Kirk Cousins under center, but Washington's world changes if Griffin is healthy when next season begins.
3) With the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select ... Probably not Leon Sandcastle. Instead, unlike last year, the No. 1 pick is totally up in the air. The Chiefs have it, and Andy Reid's rebuilding franchise has plenty of needs. Yet, there is no sure-fire top quarterback pick -- unless that's what you consider West Virginia's Geno Smith. Or maybe they go defensive line with Texas A&M's Damontre Moore or Utah's Star Lotulelei. It's a big-time offense tackle draft, so what about Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel? Intrigue abounds for the first building block.
4) What will Adrian Peterson do for an encore? What, 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns wasn't enough after an ACL tear? And an MVP award? That wasn't bad. But what's next? Forget about raising the bar for running backs -- AD has catapulted it. With the Minnesota Vikings looking to add offensive weapons and quarterback Christian Ponder likely to improve at least somewhat, Peterson will have more help than last year. He publicly set his sights on 2,500 yards. Is that possible? I'm not going to start doubting him now.
5) Where will the free-agent class of quarterbacks end up? Vick could leave Philadelphia. Alex Smith is leaving the 49ers. Matt Flynn will almost certainly be dealt or cut by the Seattle Seahawks. Three veterans who should earn relatively modest salaries with plenty to prove. And the string of quarterback-needy franchises outnumbers the QBs available in a year without a talent-rich draft class. It's a down free-agent year, too, so yes, this should be entertaining. How will it shake out?
6) Andrew Luck vs. Russell Wilson in Indianapolis. Last season was the year of the rookie quarterback, with Luck, Griffin and Wilson all leading their teams to the playoffs. What's next? A head-to-head battle between two of them isn't bad. The 2012 season gave us Luck vs. RG3 in the preseason and RG3 vs. Wilson in the playoffs. The 2013 campaign gives us Luck vs. Wilson in a regular-season bout in Indianapolis. We'll be watching the league's future right before our eyes, as well as two of the teams that figure to be in the limelight for the next several years. Perhaps a rivalry will break out.
7) Forget the "Is Joe Flacco elite?" discussion -- let's talk dollars. If there were a manual on how to cash in during a contract year, Flacco just re-wrote it. Who cares about mindless debates over what labels to put on him? He's a champion, and now he'll get paid like one. Suddenly, the biggest contract storyline of the postseason belongs to the Super Bowl MVP. Agent Joe Linta considers him a top-five quarterback, and Linta has said his target will be to make Flacco the game's highest paid passer. Perhaps. That's $20 million per year that Drew Brees makes. Lot of room below that, too. At the very least, Flacco will receive the franchise tag ... but that's the boring outcome.
8) Speaking of Brees, how will the New Orleans Saints put themselves back together? Sean Payton is back, but the coach is the first to say that it's not like wins will suddenly appear when he walks the sidelines. Instead, he has a team to rebuild. Only once in his career has Brees thrown more interceptions than the 19 he tossed last year -- Payton must restore the star QB's prior efficiency level. Also, the Saints must hire a defensive coordinator, find new pieces for a 3-4 look and regain that magic they had before Payton's suspension. A crucial offseason.
9) Tebowmania hasn't gone away. It's just quieted down for a while. Will it ramp up this offseason? Well, Tim Tebow will either be traded by the New York Jets or cut, and then the derby begins. Will the lefty take on a new position? It's difficult to tell which team -- if any -- will embrace him as a quarterback. One wonders if the Jacksonville Jaguars were his last shot ... before new GM David Caldwell dismissed that idea. If Tebow were to look into playing another position, his options might open up. No doubt, he still wants to be a quarterback. But at what cost? That decision could come this offseason.
10) Are the San Diego Chargers the sleeping giant they appear to be? With a top-tier quarterback, plenty of weapons and a young (and talented) defensive front seven, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the new regime race out of the gate. Offensive-minded coach Mike McCoy could be the one to fix Philip Rivers, and then it could all come quickly. In an AFC West that is relatively open, opportunity is there for the Chargers. Watching how this plays out will be fascinating.
11) Where will Manti Te'o end up? This becomes an NFL story ... now. The star linebacker's Notre Dame career is over, he's been invited to the combine and he'll be drafted. Then what? How Te'o handles the controversy surrounding his fake girlfriend -- particularly how up-front he is with teams during the interview process -- will begin to tell the story. And once he lands on a team, it only continues. One, the crossover media attention makes him this year's Tebow. Two, if he plays like he did during Notre Dame's regular season, he might be an immediate-impact player.
12) Darrelle Revis won't be traded ... will he? If the Jets were hoping to keep their discussions about trading Revis internal, that went out the window when owner Woody Johnson asked possible GM candidates about that very option. Now, everyone knows. That might hurt his value, since teams are aware of the Jets' interest in a trade. On the other hand, maybe with the word out, a derby transpires. The fact that Revis is coming off ACL surgery makes his value murkier. The best bet is that he'll be on Gang Green next season. But what if he isn't?
13) The Baltimore Ravens vs. Whoever they play in the opener. The Ravens will open the season at home on a Thursday night against an opponent that will get everybody talking. Maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers? Maybe the Green Bay Packers or Houston Texans or New England Patriots? Any of those would be appealing, with the Steelers and Patriots being the rivals most enticing to the nation. The big thing, though, is that this game signals the return of real football. And that, in itself, is something to look forward to.
Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.