Who are the NFL’s top 10 teams heading into 2013?

openingkicklogoAs the start of the regular season draws near, we at The Insider are bringing back our morning staple, the Opening Kick. But while last year’s day-starting posts on the blog were usually designed to start some kind of discussion — who can forget the day we insanely went through the scenarios to get Washington from 3-6 to division champion? — we’re tweaking the goal slightly.

We want Redskins fans to be able to log on in the morning and start their days with us. So we’ll feature a mix of voices to start the day, and some days it could be a question, like today, some days analysis, some days something brief or irreverent. Along with that, we’ll highlight links to the best of The Post, the best things we’ve seen around the web, and set the table for the day ahead, so you don’t have to be anywhere but here to see what’s going on. And then of course, there’s the daily “jibba-jabba” down in the comments.

Redskins and Eagles fans have five more days to wait for the season to kick off, but NFL fans have only two. And while there are some pretty sweet matchups Week 1 — Green Bay at San Francisco, Atlanta at New Orleans, and New York Giants at Dallas — Baltimore’s trip to Denver could be as good a game as any. It certainly isn’t a bad way to set things off.

Mark Maske does a feature every week ranking the top 10 NFL teams, and we present it as a photo gallery. Here, in non-photo-gallery form, are Mark’s picks as the 2013 season begins:

nfl_49ers1. 49ers. They’re the league’s most complete team, even with the injury to wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Colin Kaepernick will only get more comfortable and better.

nfl_seahawks2. Seahawks. The loss of wide receiver Percy Harvin certainly hurts. But that means the Seahawks and 49ers merely are even in the top-receiver-injury category as they vie for supremacy in the NFC West and the entire league.

nfl_broncos3. Broncos. The clock is ticking for Peyton Manning as he tries to secure a second  Super Bowl triumph. But the addition of Wes Welker gives him a great chance.

nfl_falcons4. Falcons. They showed last season they can win a playoff game. There’s plenty of talent on hand for them to take the next step and be a Super Bowl team, but there’s also plenty of competition in the upper tier of NFC contenders.

nfl_bengals5. Bengals. Relatively quietly, they have assembled a team that can compete with anyone in the AFC. And with the losses suffered by the Ravens, the Bengals should be regarded as the AFC North favorite.

nfl_patriots6. Patriots. Yes, there are major questions about the quality of Tom Brady’s receivers. But he generally has found ways to make things work in the past even when he’s been without overwhelmingly talented supporting casts.

nfl_packers7. Packers. They remain the team to beat in the NFC North but the Vikings could be right on their heels.

 

nfl_texans

8. Texans. They again should be one of the NFL’s most balanced teams, alongside the 49ers, and no one should be surprised if they’re a top contender to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

nfl_ravens9. Ravens. They had an offseason of heavy losses after their Super Bowl victory and now they suffer the indignity of having to open the season on the road, thanks to a scheduling conflict with the Orioles that even the NFL’s muscle-flexing couldn’t resolve. Joe Flacco will have to step up his game and become as productive during the regular season as he is during the postseason. But they’re still the champs, until proven otherwise.

nfl_saints10. Saints. Few are talking about the Saints as a top contender. But Coach Sean Payton is back and the cloud of the bounty scandal that hovered over the team all of last season finally has dissipated.

Did Mark miss any team? Who’d be your top 10? Tell us in the comments below.

One on one with Mike Jones

Mike Jones did a segment on Post Sports Live in the vein of PTI’s five good minutes feature, where he and Jonathan Forsythe go one on one. It’s a little different than what you might be used to from PSL, so check it out:

From The Post:

Wise: The Redskins, Chief Zee and the setting sun

With a roster spot secure, Chris Thompson hopes for a role

Garcon says injured toe is completely healed

Shanahan confident in offensive line depth despite inexperience

D.C. Sports Bog: Roddick to RGIII: You don’t have to comment on everything | More Bog

Best from around the Web:

● You know how last year, the read option became thing for NFL semi-casual fans to learn about? Well this year, get ready to hear a lot about packaged plays, or combo plays. UKRedskin of Hogs Haven diagrams a play the Eagles showed in the preseason and the Redskins will likely see in Week 1. And, in something I haven’t seen in reading about packaged plays, he shows how teams will try to stop them. The Redskins have talent in the right place, so it’ll be something to keep a close eye on on Monday night.

● Our friends at the Baltimore Sun ponder where the Ravens might find their leadership with both Ray Lewis and Ed Reed gone. The anecdote at the beginning about Terrell Davis and the post-Shannon Sharpe Broncos is reason enough to click.

● Predictions are no fun unless they are a little off-the-wall, or at least bold, and SI’s MMQB obliges. I’ll tease you with Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl, but the rest you have go open their window to see. RGIII of course makes an appearance.

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins practice Wednesday and Thursday at 1 p.m. Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III address reporters afterward on Wednesday

● The NFL season kicks off with Baltimore in Denver on Thursday night.

Also on The Insider

Redskins vs. Eagles Monday night start time changed to 6:55