The NFL officially returns on Thursday, and Shutdown Corner is rolling out the red carpet, previewing everything to come for the 2013 season. We’ll finish it off by picking our individual awards and the Super Bowl winner on Thursday before the Ravens and Broncos kick off the season.
Just when you thought the Minnesota Vikings would have another bad season because Adrian Peterson was coming off major knee surgery, he explodes and finishes nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record. Then Peyton Manning signs with the Denver Broncos after the Indianapolis Colts are unsure if he would play again. Manning reemerges as one of the best NFL passers.
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It is always hard to figure out who will be the wild card player entering any NFL season, but here are 10 potential stars who could influence their team’s results in 2013:
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
Once upon a time, Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009. Then he barely rushed for 1,047 yards and four touchdowns in 2011. Tennessee’s offensive line is improved, but Johnson must play better.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
Chicago gave up two first-round picks to acquire Cutler in 2009, but the Bears have advanced to the playoffs only once under his leadership. The Bears hired coach Marc Trestman this offseason, but Cutler remains the difference between success and failure.
Darrelle Revis, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay plays Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton twice a year, and Revis is what the Bucs need to survive the NFC South. Revis’ knee is a major question entering this season.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
He is entering a contract year and wants to remain in Oakland. At this rate, Oakland may not even believe McFadden can be productive or healthy anymore.
Cliff Avril, DE, Seattle Seahawks
Seattle’s defense was great last season, and Avril's addition makes this defense better. Avril is recovering from a hamstring injury, and his health is essential to dethroning the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.
Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins
Wallace signed a five-year deal worth $60 million ($30 million guaranteed) this offseason. If he cannot make Ryan Tannehill look good, nobody can.
Jake Long, OT, St. Louis Rams
Long appeared in four Pro Bowls with the Miami Dolphins before signing with the Rams this offseason. He was placed on injured reserve because of a left triceps injury, however, he could give Sam Bradford the protection necessary to have an impact.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys
At some point, Murray might finish one season without getting injured. He is the difference between Dallas making the playoffs or having to generate more excuses after 2013.
Osi Umenyiora, DE, Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta has been knocking on the Super Bowl door the past few seasons, but has been unable to walk in. Umenyiora won two Super Bowls with the Giants, and his leadership could make the Falcons soar.
Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions
Detroit’s offense has not been the same since running back Jahvid Best's concussion in 2011. Bush has an opportunity to ease Calvin Johnson’s workload, and be known for something more than dating Kim Kardashian.