All those murderous two-a-day training camps and exhibition games are now a thing of the past as the 32 National Football League teams have trimmed their respective rosters down to the league-mandated 53 players.

It’s now time to see how the six weeks of training camps have benefited each team as the play begins for real this week. The world champion Baltimore Ravens travel to the Mile-High City tomorrow to take on the team many preseason prognosticators believe could be this year’s champ—the Denver Broncos.

And while these two talented teams face off, the two Lone Star State NFL franchises once again are full of optimism that 2013 will be the year they rise to new heights.

Our Houston Texans (12-4) should have the inside track to have a season that could very well result in a Super Bowl appearance while the Dallas Cowboys (8-8) continue to wish their way back to the game’s ultimate pinnacle.

On paper the Texans are the deepest, most experienced and most dangerous team Bob McNair has ever owned and sport a 22-10 record and two divisional championships in the last two years, according to the special football edition in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle.

But the Texans must avoid another late-season collapse like last season which cost them the home-field advantage after the first round of the NFL playoffs. They finished 1-4 and were outscored 31-12 in each of those five final regular-season games.

The Texans had to let some real bona fide NFL players go to get down to the 53-man limit while the Cowboys try to add some depth to their aging roster.

The Cowboys are trying to wriggle free from mediocrity by taking the play-calling duties away from Head Coach Jason Garrett and giving that duty to veteran offensive coordinator Bill Callahan and hiring 72-year-old Monte Kiffin as the defensive coordinator.

According to the team’s executive vice-president Stephen Jones, these changes plus Garrett’s overall involvement and the modifications in the Cowboys’ blocking schemes are the ingredients of the club’s “secret sauce” that will enable them to return to winning Super Bowls.

If the younger motor-mouth checked the facts, he would discover the Cowboys are just 2-7 in the playoffs since 1995.

But all of the pressure to win will still be on the shoulders of 33-year-old quarterback Tony Romo.

The Denver Broncos (13-3) were a defensive secondary breakdown and Jacoby Jones 70-yard reception away from the AFC championship game last season and should be better in 2013.

The Atlanta Falcons (13-3) lost 28-24 to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game and should be at least as strong this season after adding punishing running back Stephen Jackson and retaining Hall of Fame-bound tight end Tony Gonzalez.

The Green Bay Packers (11-5) lost to the 49ers 45-31 in the second round of the playoffs as they continue to impress but fail to deliver since winning the Super Bowl two years ago.

The Seattle Seahawks (11-5) have an offense led by quarterback Russell Wilson, who tied the rookie record with 26 touchdown passes, and Marshawn Lynch carrying the mail and the league’s most physical defense led by Orange native Earl Thomas, the two-time All-Pro free safety.

This is the way our Korner foresees the outcome of each division in the two conferences:


South Division

1. HOUSTON 2. Indianapolis 3. Tennessee 4. Jacksonville.

North Division

Baltimore 2. Pittsburgh 3. Cincinnati 4. Cleveland.

East Division

New England 2. Miami 3. Buffalo 4. New York Jets.

West Division

Denver 2. Kansas City 3. San Diego 4. Oakland.


East Division

Washington 2. New York Giants 3. DALLAS 4. Philadelphia.

West Division

Seattle 2. San Francisco 3. Arizona 4. San Diego.

North Division

Green Bay 2. Detroit 3. Chicago 4. Minnesota.

South Division

Atlanta 2. New Orleans 3. Carolina 4. Tampa Bay.

The Indianapolis Colts and the Miami Dolphins should make the playoffs as the AFC wild cards while the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints have the best chance at the NFC wild cards.

This Korner looks for (hopes) the AFC championship game will be between our own Houston Texans and the Denver Broncos while the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons battle it out for the right to play in the Super Bowl from the NFC.

KWICKIES…This Korner is going to have to tip our cap to our alma mater, the McNeese State Cowboys, who traveled to Tampa Saturday night to take on the Division I South Florida Bulls from the old Big East Conference that has been renamed the American Athletic Conference this season. After giving up a quick touchdown in the first two minutes of the game, the Cowboys scored three touchdowns in a five-minute span and took command of the game 40-7 in the third period that resulted in an impressive 53-21 victory. It ruined the debut of Bulls’ new head coach Willie Taggart, who left Western Kentucky for South Florida in December.

The first weekend of college football saw very few upsets in the preseason top 25 poll. No 5 Georgia lost to No. 8 Clemson 38-35 in perhaps the best game shown on national television last weekend. No. 19 Boise State got walloped by unranked Washington 38-6 and No. 25 Oregon State lost to Division I-A school Eastern Washington 49-46.

Houston Astros rookie southpaw starter Brett Oberholtzer became the first Astros pitcher to hurl a complete game shutout in more than a year as he took advantage of a pair of eighth-inning runs to blank Seattle 2-0 Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Oberholtzer upped his record to 4-1, holding Seattle to four singles, striking out five with one walk. He threw 113 pitches, with 83 of them being in the strike zone.

Sunset Grove golfer Ernie Dyer enjoyed a very successful (and prosperous) venture in the three-day Labor Day Golf Tournament sponsored by the Sunset Grove Men’s Golf Association. Ernie made a hole-in-one Sunday on the Par 3, 163-yard No. 14 hole using a five-iron which helped him win his flight. He was presented a $200 check for getting an ace and being an MGA member, received another check for $202.50 for buying himself in the player’s pool plus received a nifty gift certificate for winning his flight. But there is a downside to this story, if Ernie had made the hole-in-one 24 hours later Monday on No. 14, he would have driven home in a brand new pickup truck, which was offered on that hole ONLY during Monday’s final round.

JUST BETWEEN US…More than 100 men and women golfers participated in the three-day 54th annual Labor Day Golf Tournament sponsored by the Sunset Grove Men’s Golf Association. The results are as follows:

• CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHT- 1.Richard Scully 2. Hunter Cooper 3. Patrick Prince

• FIRST FLIGHT—1. Richard Lormand 2. Clint Doyel 3. Michael Prince.

• SECOND FLIGHT—1. Ernie Dyer 2. Randy Harrison 3. Johnny Hargroue.

• THIRD FLIGHT—1. Dave Young 2. Kelly Cordova 3. Dale Peddy.

• FOURTH FLIGHT—1. Ricky Radley 2. Clay Richards 3. Brad Gilmore.

• FIFTH FLIGHT—1. Mike Hughes 2. Dave McClenon 3. Adam Caillavet.

• LADIES’ FLIGHT—Gross 1. Brooke Brasseaux 2. Nancy Wood; Net 1. Allison Puente 2. Carla Grissom.

• OPEN POINTS FLIGHT—1. Ken Ruane 2. David Bridges 3. Dewey Scott.

• SENIOR’S FLIGHT—1. Ron Hoepner 2. Larry Prince 3. Bob Hoepner.