Published: September 3, 2013
DENVER - I dropped the crystal ball into the South Platte.
The Platte was murky that day; the trout were mean. And now the future is partly cloudy, with a 60-percent chance of Peyton Manning dropping back to pass.
Before the fumble, I saw big people. This sixth sense will be used to predict the glorious NFL season, which opens Thursday with a humdinger - Ravens at Broncos.
In the future, I see a little of the old ("It's Peyton Manning, man," as Montee Ball told me), a little of the new (Anyone seen Elvis?).
Sorry to ruin the tailgate. Here are 18 things that will happen in this NFL season:
1. No. 18 is No. 1: Peyton Manning will be voted NFL MVP for the fifth time. He will throw 44 touchdowns (five shy of his personal record, six shy of Tom Brady's NFL record), 4,800 yards (141 more than last season) and zero teammates under the bus.
2. Andrew Luck is No. 2: The Colts quarterback is confirmed as the real deal. He leads the flawed Colts to the brink of the playoffs and ranks second in MVP voting.
3. Surprise! It's the Saints: This is a quarterback's league. But coaches matter. Just ask New Orleans. The Saints go from 7-9 to a share of the NFC South title. How? Sean Payton's back.
4. Somewhere, somebody writes the truth about the NFL and the NFLPA reaching a settlement on the concussion litigation: If current players didn't know concussions are a possibility in football, they should have their heads checked, anyway. The old heads are a different story and deserve their cut of the pie.
5. The Chiefs start fast against a favorable schedule, so Andy Reid leads the early parade for Coach of the Year. Then November rolls around. The Chiefs fade, again, to an 8-8 record.
We've seen this hype machine before. Check this out: Prior to last season, eight experts from NFL.com were asked to predict the winner of the AFC West. Six picked the Chiefs. One picked the Broncos. (Really, guys?) The Chiefs finished 2-14; the Broncos, 13-3.
6. Cris Collinsworth goes head-to-head with a thin-skinned NFL coach: The NBC analyst is a refreshing break from the norm, one of the few former players unafraid to offer an honest opinion of his peers. At the Broncos practice at Dove Valley on Wednesday, John Fox made a point to greet Collinsworth on the sideline. Smart move, coach.
7. The NFL forces the Broncos to hang banners for all 35 starting quarterbacks outside of Sports Authority Field. The Raiders get four.
8. In Week 8, Mike Shanahan returns to Denver and beats the Broncos. The Redskins struggle to finish .500 and their mobile quarterback breaks down once more. Still, longtime fans appreciate how Shanahan prepares for vendetta games. As Denver's coach, his record against the Raiders: 21-7. The Broncos are the other team that fired him. He'll be ready.
To save money, the Redskins eat their meals at Shanahan's Steakhouse in Denver.
9. Week 16 rankings of fame: 1. Seahawks 2. Packers 3. Falcons 4. Broncos 5. 49ers.
10. Week 16 rankings of shame: 28. Rams 29. Bills 30. Jets 31. Jaguars 32. Raiders.
11. With elk season in full swing the first week of November, Rockies first baseman Todd Helton sends a text message to his buddy, Peyton. It's a photo of a 10-point bull, with the message: "Retirement's great! Wish you were here!"
12. Jets coach Rex Ryan will be fired during the regular season, unfortunately.
13. Raiders coach Dennis Allen will be fired after the regular season, fortunately, then return to Denver as a special assistant for the playoffs.
14. Take the Over: In Las Vegas, the Broncos become known as the team that always covers the Over. A historic offense carries their shaky defense, much like Manning did for all those years in Indianapolis.
Defense wins championships? Not in the AFC, where the top five teams - Denver, Houston, Baltimore, New England and Pittsburgh are led by their high-scoring offense.
15. Football on your phone: There's an app for that. The brothers Manning sing a rap duet for DirecTV. Oh, that already happened. Silly, murky crystal ball.
16. With Champ Bailey returning too early from a foot injury, Broncos rookie Kayvon Webster shows their best draft pick wasn't made until late in the third round.
17. Von Miller returns to the Broncos in Week 7 at Indianapolis the same dynamic player he was before the suspension. He finishes with 10 sacks in 10 games. The Broncos get healthy, and fully equipped, in time for the playoffs - much like the Ravens last season.
18. Super Bowl XLVIII: Broncos vs. Packers. Vice president of football operations John Elway braves a New Jersey blizzard to arrive at MetLife Stadium - in a helicopter.
The crystal ball is murky. These predictions are written in ink.