How will the Dallas Cowboys fare this season? Are the Houston Texans Super Bowl-bound? The NFL season kicks off Thursday night. American-Statesman columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden weigh in on those and other pro football topics:
What will it take to save Jason Garrett’s job?
Bohls: A playoff game, any playoff game. Garrett, starting his third full season, must produce either a division title or a wildcard spot to save his job after back-to-back 8-8 seasons.
Golden: The Cowboys need to go 10-6, win the NFC East and win a playoff game to bring Garrett back. There are too many good coaches out there for him to be bad three years in a row.
How will Dez Bryant end up, stats-wise?
Bohls: Bryant’s going to go crazy on the league like it’s an NCAA investigator. You can expect at least 80 catches for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns. And one wild antic that sets the Twitterverse on fire.
Golden: He’ll catch 85 balls for 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s the next great receiver in the league.
Will Tony Romo ever lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl?
Bohls: He will not. He’s definitely in the prime of his career, but doesn’t have enough on his offensive and defensive lines. Alas, he’s a better fantasy quarterback than real-life quarterback.
Golden: Don’t see it happening. He’s a solid quarterback who just isn’t at his best at the most important moments.
Is Matt Schaub the guy to lead the Texans to a Super Bowl?
Bohls: Only if you consider him along for the ride. He’s no Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, and never will be. The addition of Clemson wideout De’Andre Hopkins and the return of linebacker Brian Cushing should elevate Houston into a Super Bowl contender. But the Texans won’t get there because of Schaub.
Golden: He’s the guy to quarterback them to a Super Bowl, but Arian Foster and J.J. Watt will be the leaders.
Who’ll be the league’s MVP?
Bohls: Manning. The Broncos quarterback has more weapons at his disposal than ever before with the addition of Wes Welker and Montee Ball. He wins it, going away.
Golden: Brady. No championship quarterback in NFL history has done more with less. Even without Welker and even with a less-than-100 percent Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots will still put up points.
Offensive rookie of the year?
Bohls: Hopkins. He should be spectacular for the Texans.
Golden: Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy, who won’t get as many touches as he should in that pass-happy offense, but will still amass 1,000 yards in offense and take some pressure off Aaron Rodgers.
Defensive rookie of the year?
Bohls: Kenny Vaccaro. He will give some teeth to a Saints defense that’s been soft. He’ll have a couple of personal fouls, but at least one highlight play every week.
Golden: Tyrann Mathieu. The Cardinals corner will get plenty of action playing opposite Patrick Peterson and will be up to the challenge.
Coach of the year?
Bohls: Andy Reid, when his Kansas City Chiefs earn a wildcard spot.
Golden: Pete Carroll. After a couple of playoff disappointments, the Seahawks are poised to take that next step.
Comeback player of the year?
Bohls: I’ll take the Texans’ Cushing, returning from a torn ACL.
Golden: Alex Smith is in the perfect offense for his skill set. The Chiefs’ West Coast scheme is all about short passes to playmakers, which will make Smith very effective.
Which player would you least like to meet in a dark alley?
Bohls: Mark Sanchez, because he couldn’t find his way out and we’d both starve to death.
Golden: Bengals linebacker James Harrison. To borrow a line from former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, “He’s crazier than a tree full of owls.”
First coach fired?
Bohls: Rex Ryan. The Jets have already fired him, haven’t they?
Golden: Mike Munchak, who’ll wear out his welcome in Tennessee if the Titans finish under .500 for a second straight season.
Who’ll have the best record?
Bohls: Denver. At 11-5.
Golden: Denver. The schedule sets up nicely for the Broncos; being in the AFC West has its perks, including playing the Raiders and Chargers twice each. This could be a 13-win team.
Which Super Bowl-winning quarterback will have the worst year?
Bohls: Joe Flacco. The deterioration of Baltimore’s defense and the loss of Anquin Boldin will put more pressure on him to carry more of the load. I expect a big dropoff from his 2012 numbers.
Golden: Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh’s running backs are average, and wideouts Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders don’t scare anybody.
How many rushing yards will Adrian Peterson end up with?
Bohls: Not 2,000. He’ll be lucky to reach 1,700. Christian Ponder hasn’t won over his many critics, new receiver Greg Jennings is past his prime and Kyle Rudolph’s the only reliable target.
Golden: Ponder should be better. Expect Peterson to rush for just over 1,800 yards.
Who’ll win the NFC East?
Bohls: My tentative pick is the New York Giants, in a watered-down division, with a 9-7 record. Dallas slips to 7-9.
Golden: The Cowboys. They’ll flirt with 11 wins, but will finish just short of that. I still see them losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Who’ll win the AFC South?
Bohls: The Texans will win a third straight division title and go 11-5.
Golden: The Texans are the class of that division. They’ll go 11-5.
Who’ll win the Super Bowl?
Bohls: The Atlanta Falcons, with a recharged Steven Jackson and a maturing Matt Ryan, will get the best of the Broncos.
Golden: The Broncos will take out the San Francisco 49ers. Peyton will bring a fourth trophy to the Manning family and contemplate walking out on top, just like John Elway did.