When the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens take on Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos on Sept. 5th, it will mark 214 days since the last pro football game.
That's 5,136 hours or 308,160 minutes. But hey, who's counting?
It may have been a long offseason of negative news: the Aaron Hernandez arrest, the recent $765 million concussion settlement, the dearth of players already out for the season due to injury.
However, for all of us pigskin fanatics, the start of the new NFL season is the best day of the year. For the first time in 30 weeks and 4 days, we can finally get our pro football fix.
Here are 10 things to watch this season:
1. Soph QB Slumps
Can Russell Wilson of the Seahawks, RG3 of the Redskins, and Andrew Luck of the Colts all defy the dreaded 2nd year slump? With his surgically repaired knee, RG3 will have a tougher road than the others to prove he is not a one hit wonder.
2. Coaches on hot seat
Rex Ryan - with his post Snoopy Bowl press conference antics last week (eerily reminiscent of R.E.M. 's 2003 video 'Stand')-- immediately joins the all-time 10 clips we will forever see on ESPN (right up there with Jim Mora and Denny Green). But it was playing Mark Sanchez in garbage time, and subsequently causing an injury, that may be the beginning of the end for him as coach of the New York Jets.
Jason Garret, the Cowboys Coach on a short leash this season, has 16 games to save his job. Dennis Allen, the 18th coach in Raiders history, may be the first defensive coach in Oakland since John Madden, but looks to lack the offensive talent to have a winning season.
3. Chip Kelly's offense
Successful transitions from college to the pro coaching ranks are typically measured by two names - Steve Spurrier and Pete Carroll (in his 2nd stint in the NFL). It isn't clear which bucket yet new head Eagles couch Kelly will fall into, but all eyes will be watching as he looks to bring his fast-break style offense into the NFL.
Speaking of Philly...
4. The Andy Reid/Alex Smith Era Begins
The Chiefs had more Pro Bowlers on their roster than wins last season. Similar to when he took over the reins in Philly, Reid inherits a core of good young players, including top RB Jamaal Charles. New signal caller Alex Smith has everything to prove after losing his starting job last year to injury. It will be interesting to see who wins more games: K.C. or Philly.
5. New D coordinators
Rob 'I'll have a new job in 5 minutes' Ryan takes 3-4 defense and schemes to the Saints after being let go by Big D.
Greg Williams, suspended in the Saints Bounty Gate 2012, moves to Tennessee, looking to resurrect their 23rd ranked defense.
Todd Bowles moves from Philly to Arizona, in hopes of bringing some defensive heat back to the desert.
6. Early games to watch
Jets vs. Bucs in New York, Sept. 12... Who scores first - Darrelle Revis or the Jets?
Manning Bowl III in New York, Sept. 15... Will Eli finally triumph in the battle of the Manning Brothers? Bronco and Colt QB Peyton has won twice but Eli has two Super Bowl rings.
K.C. at Philly, Sept. 19... McNabb retires his number 5 and Andy Reid returns for the first time to the Linc.
7. Players back from injury
In addition to RG3, NFL fans will be evaluating another top QB looking to make his return to form: Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, who also had knee surgery in the offseason.
The Gronk - the Pat's superstar tight end Rob Grokowski was spotted working out with the team in practice after offseason forearm and back surgeries. It's likely he'll be back in action sometime in week three or four.
Jason Peters makes his comeback as the Eagles' starting left tackle. With Michael Vick's declaration he will run more in Kelly's option-based offense, Peters will be one of the keys to protect the oft-injured QB.
8. Names you haven't heard of but will:
Jeff Tuel -- an undrafted player yet probable starter for the Buffalo Bills after Kevin Kolb went down with a concussion.
Marc Trestman - the new Chicago Bears Coach who inherits Jay Cutler in a contract year and Brian Urlacher-less defense.
Seneca Wallace - Aaron Rodgers back up in Green Bay (Full disclosure: Rodgers is my fantasy league QB; I hope I never have to see Wallace play).
Monte Ball, the rookie running back in Denver, who may win the award for how many times the football announcers call him Money Ball.
Extra credit -
The Tampa Bay Bucs mascot is named Captain Fear. Sounds like a bad movie title not a football talisman.
9. The New York Giants Super Bowl Clock
Giants GM Jerry Reese is installing a clock in the locker room of Met Life stadium as a motivator for the team to work its way back to the Super Bowl. It remains to be seen if Rex Ryan covers that up as well. Two years ago when Ryan and co. concealed the G-men's Super Bowl logos in their shared stadium, the Jets suffered a 29-14 loss to their stadium mates.
Speaking of the Super Bowl....
10. Snow Bowl 2014
The conclusion of this year will end in an open-air stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Or will it? Last year, the big game survived a black out. If there is a snowicane, inquiring minds wonder what Plan B for Super Bowl XLVIII will be.
A delay? A postponement? Holograms instead of actual players? Ray Lewis dancing as the half-time show?
Whatever the case may be, I'm sure I will be one of the billions of people glued to my television somewhere.
Let the games begin!