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NFL season begins with a single step

It was Laozi, a Chinese philosopher from the long ago days before ESPN existed, who said a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

He also said don’t bet road ’dogs that played on the previous Monday night.

This is the proverbial first step in the field turf of a new NFL season, which actually began in New York on Wednesday night so as not to interfere with President Obama’s Thursday night pep rally in Charlotte.

The president, as you may have heard, was supposed to speak at Bank of America Stadium, but under threat of bad weather and a television blackout if the stadium weren’t sold out, moved his speech to Time Warner Cable Arena.

It was the political equivalent of an audible.

The NFL is built on audibles. The real officials are in a squabble with the league over – surprise – money and therefore the league audibled to replacement officials, raising the question of who will be officiating MAC games on Saturday.

The Panthers were expected to draft Andrew Luck last year but when he chose to return to Stanford so he could play for the Colts this year instead, the Panthers made an all-time audible and picked Cam Newton.

It’s a game of adjustments.

It’s a game that Laozi might say begins with a single first down.

And it’s a season that finally will begin full force on Sunday.

CAROLINA at TAMPA BAY: It’s a battle of convention cities. Here’s a vote for Cam Newton, Jon Beason, et al. Panthers 31, Bucs 17.

INDIANAPOLIS at CHICAGO: The Andrew Luck era begins. It will get better. Bears 31, Colts 14.

WASHINGTON at NEW ORLEANS: The RG III era begins. It, too, will get better. Saints 31, Redskins 13.

PHILADELPHIA at CLEVELAND: There’s always a surprise or two on the first weekend. This isn’t one of them. Eagles 20, Browns 13.

NEW ENGLAND at TENNESSEE: Words to live by: I’ll take Tom Brady. Patriots 34, Titans 20.

ATLANTA at KANSAS CITY: Tight end Tony Gonzalez made 174 starts for the Chiefs. Now he plays his first game in Arrowhead Stadium for the opposing team. Chiefs 27, Falcons 21.

JACKSONVILLE at MINNESOTA: “Honey Boo Boo” likes purple. Vikings 30, Jags 20.

BUFFALO at NEW YORK JETS: Per league rules, Tim Tebow will be required to wear his jersey and shoulder pads when he plays unless ratings begin to dip and it starts to rain. Bills 14, Jets 6.

ST. LOUIS at DETROIT: Move along, boys, move along. Lions 37, Rams 14.

MIAMI at HOUSTON: No one has asked but if they had, I’d tell them I’m picking the Texans to be the AFC team in the Super Bowl this season. I’m not sure I’m excited about it, though. Texans 27, Dolphins 10.

SAN FRANCISCO at GREEN BAY: Speaking of Super Bowl picks, add me to the Green Bay list. And can I get a brat on the side? Packers 33, 49ers 17.

SEATTLE at ARIZONA: Russell Wilson could be the best thing to hit Seattle since cappuccino. Seahawks 28, Cardinals 24.

PITTSBURGH at DENVER: It’s still weird seeing Peyton Manning in a Broncos uniform. It’s like seeing Bruce Springsteen wearing yellow, Derek Jeter in a Blue Jays uniform or ketchup on a hot dog. Broncos 24, Steelers 16.

CINCINNATI at BALTIMORE: Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis begins his 77th season having tackled everything except Mount Rushmore. But give him time. Ravens 17, Bengals 13.

SAN DIEGO at OAKLAND: Three things that went out of style and haven’t come back:

1. Spuds McKenzie.

2. The Brat Pack.

3. The Raiders.

Maybe this will be a big year for Judd Nelson. Raiders 26, Chargers 23.

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