A glorious day is upon us, friends.
After 213 days, major championships in nearly every major sport being crowned, Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher retirements, subsequent controversial comments from both, the retirement of a Vikings legend -- and one from a not-so-legendary Viking -- the REAL NFL is back.
Now, the wait is over. At long last, here is your Week 1 regular season preview as the Detroit Lions host the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: As always, the NFC North is going to be one of the toughest divisions in the league. That should be evident simply by looking at the spread for the game, with the Lions favored by five after winning just four games last year. Minnesota was a playoff team, but are getting no preseason respect. Proving the doubters wrong early is massive, especially with a tough game at Chicago in Week 2.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: A Week 10 34-24 Vikings win, the second half of their season sweep of the Lions. Adrian Peterson went off for 171 yards, the fourth of his eight-straight 100-yard games. And we can't believe we're writing this, but Christian Ponder was sharp -- throwing for 221 yards and two touchdowns.
PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT:If we have to pick one, we'd go with Adrian Peterson. Not only because eyes are always on AP, but because of all the chatter surrounding his 2,500-yard goal. Hard to say Christian Ponder isn't under the microscope, though, with many experts ranking him among the bottom five QBs in the league. The Vikings need him to be better this year, and this will be a good early test, as the Lions ranked 13th in the league against the pass in 2012.
WHAT THE OTHER GUYS ARE SAYING: Detroit's second-year tackle Riley Reiff will have his hands full with Jared Allen. Reiff made only one start last year in his rookie campaign.
It would make Reiff's job easier if Allen was in a Lions uniform. What? No. 69 a Lion? The Vikings defensive end told Detroit reporters not to rule that out next year.
Remember this collision?
Lions defensive back Louis Delmas, who was on the other end of the hit, does. Here's his recap of the freight train bearing down on him.
Also, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio could very well have lost his mind. He has the Lions in the NFC Championship Game.
BEST QUOTE OF THE WEEK SO FAR:"Chris Cook can ball a little bit ... It's always a challenge going against somebody your size out there." -- Lions beastly wide receiver Calvin Johnson to KFAN-FM 100.3's AJ Mansour on facing cornerback Chris Cook. As for rookie Xavier Rhodes, Megatron (who torched the Vikings for in two contests last year) says "We've got to take advantage of any inexperience. He (Xavier Rhodes) may be a great player or not but experience means a lot on Sundays."
THE LATEST LINE, OUR PREDICTION: We mentioned it earlier, but the Lions are favored by five points, the fifth-biggest spread in the league in Week 1. Five is a remarkable number considering their four wins last year and the Vikings playoff appearance, and the Purple also possessing the most dangerous weapon (AP) in the league. This spread, however, shows the parity and respect for the entire NFC North, and pundits clearly think the Lions are in for a bounce-back year.
We couldn't disagree more. Detroit will keep it close in the end with their explosive passing game, but the Vikes will control this contest as they did the last time the two met. 31-24 Vikes, as Adrian has a monster day and owns Louis Delmas again at least once.
1500 ESPN reports that Desmond Bishop is unlikely to see any action against the Lions. Marvin Mitchell has been named the starter.