NFL Releases 2013 Schedules, Combine Invites Sent and Offseason Questions Linger

By Debbie B.

With the NFL officially in the offseason, it’s not too early to look ahead to the new season. On Thursday, the league released the schedules for the 32 teams and some fared better than others.

As college players prepare for the draft, their next challenge will be the Feb. 23 – Feb. 26 NFL Scouting Combine. Notre Dame’s linebacker Manti Te’o tops the list of 333 invited players but he’s not the only storyline.

And some current NFL players are mulling their futures either by their own decisions or their team’s. Miami Dolphin running back Reggie Bush and Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley are just two of many question marks.

2013 Schedules 

Panthers QB Cam Newton

Maybe in an ideal world–similar to the draft–the team with the best record for a season would then get a tough schedule in the next season. Not so and for 2013, the Carolina Panthers with their 7-9 record were the lucky winners of the most difficult schedule.

According to NFL.com, the Panthers will play teams who have a combined 138-116-2 record from 2012 and they have an SOS of .543. The compares to the Denver Broncos with their 12-4 season and the AFC’s 2012 top playoff seed, will face opponents with a 110-146 (.430) record.

Coming in behind the Panthers is the Detroit Lions with the second-toughest schedule with a .539 SOS and an opponent’s record of 138-118-0.

And besides the Broncos having the easiest schedule, the San Diego Chargers sit right above them with a .457 SOS and an opponent’s schedule of 117-139-0.

Does this mean the Panthers are doomed to make it to the Super Bowl? They have 50 to 1 odds to get there while the Broncos sit at the top at 7 to 1.

NFL Scouting Combine

Michigan QB Denard Robinson

In two weeks, the NCAA’s top NFL prospects will spend four days at the Combine showing off their physical talents and answering questions about their character and their past.

The invitee list can be broken down by positions: quarterbacks (16), running backs (38), wide receivers (39), tight Ends (19), offensive line (58), defensive lines (54), linebackers (35), defensive backs (60) and kickers/special teams (14).

Here’s the invite list.

One of the more intriguing stories will be Te’o. While the player has answered questions posed by Katie Couric and Jeremy Schaap what will he say to NFL teams’ executives?

Then there’s the University of Michigan’s quarterback Denaard Robinson. A Heisman contender early in his college career, by the end, there were questions about his ability to play the position in the NFL. For the Senior Bowl, Robinson had been invited as a wide receiver and now for the combine, he’ll do the same. How will he fare in his new role and how does he answer questions about it?

Two players who did not go to the Senior Bowl but who will be under scrutiny as their seasons imploded at the end after starting out with high expectations: quarterbacks USC’s Matt Barkley and West Virginia’s Geno Smith.

Texas A&M’s OT Luke Joeckel is projected to go first and he’ll likely land at the Kansas City Chiefs.

 Offseason questions

This week teams have been trimming their rosters, trying to make room for old and new players. Some have already learned their fates but many are unsure.

On Thursday, The Miami Herald reported that Bush is still waiting for his desired proposal from the team. The player set a high bar for himself in the 2012 season to be the best running back in the league but he fell short, rushing for 986 yards after finally hitting a 1,000-yard season in 2011. The player will turn 28 next month and his price may be too high.

The Packers Finley has also expressed interest in staying with his team, but he’s yet to receive an offer. He is due a $3 million bonus in March and whether they’ll restructure his contract remains to seen. On Thursday, Finley said it is a business decision and he gave it a 50-50 likelihood of happening.

For the Packers, they are 10 to 1 to win next year’s Super Bowl.