DENVER, Sept. 4 (UPI) —
The National Football League begins its 94th season Thursday with the Baltimore Ravens starting their quest for a second straight Super Bowl title.
Baltimore will visit Denver in the opening game of the season, a rematch of a divisional round playoff game from a season ago in which the Ravens survived with a 38-35, double-overtime victory.
The Ravens are trying to become the first repeat Super Bowl champions since New England won the second of back-to-back titles at the end of the 2004 campaign.
Thursday’s game is the first of 256 regular-season contests in a sport that has reached a new high in offensive fireworks.
More points (11,651) and more yards per game (694.4) were produced in 2012 than in any other year in league history. Quarterbacks threw for 300 yards in a game 126 times, the most ever, and quarterbacks set records for most 25 passing touchdown seasons (12) and most 4,500-yard passing seasons (6).
There were also 71 interceptions returned for a touchdown, an all-time high. Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions caught 1,964 yards worth of passes, breaking a record set by Jerry Rice 17 years earlier.
Eight teams will begin this season with a new head coach, Andy Reid among them having moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City. Chip Kelly replaced Reid in Philadelphia after being lured into the pro ranks from the University of Oregon.
As the season gets underway, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning needs 566 passing attempts and 1,875 yards to move into second place in both categories behind Brett Favre.
If New England’s Tom Brady throws a touchdown pass in each of his first seven games, he will establish a record for the longest such streak in league history (54). Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez needs 58 catches to get to 1,500 for his career, a mark thus far achieved only by Rice.
San Francisco, the team that fell to Baltimore in last season’s Super Bowl, will open at home on Sunday against Green Bay in one of the top attractions on the first weekend of the season.
Kansas City, which in this era of offensive football has set a club record for fewest points scored in each of the last two years, will be at Jacksonville.
There will be two Monday night games to start the year — Philadelphia at Washington and Houston at San Diego.
The regular season will end Dec. 29 and the 48th Super Bowl will be played outdoors on Feb. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J.