By Brian Ocampo, Contributing Writer ||

Leaves are falling, temperatures are dropping, and dreadful school shopping has commenced; this can only mean one thing, Fall is quickly approaching us, right? Wrong. It means football season is right around the corner!

It all kicked off Sept. 4 as the Seattle Seahawks, defending Super Bowl champions, took on one of the powerhouses of the NFL, the Green Bay Packers. This game should provide sheer excitement between two dynamic offenses going up against two of the best defenses in the league. Everyone saw the defensive clinic that the Seahawks put on last year, led by the soft-spoken, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, and no one expects anything different this season, making the Seahawks one of the clear-cut favorites to make it back to the promised land in February.

That isn’t saying they’re going to win it all; if there is anything I’ve learned as a football fan over the years, it’s that anything can and will happen. For this same exact reason, every year I tell myself that this will be the year that my Dallas Cowboys finally right the ship and get back to their championship-winning ways. All jokes aside, though, this season is shaping up to be a great one, and I personally cannot wait for it to get started.

As I mentioned earlier, the Seahawks are heavy favorites to hoist the Lombardi trophy when it’s all said and done, but they’ll have to get through many other promising teams if they wish to do so. For starters, their opponents in the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos, are still bitter from last year’s defeat and are ready to get back out there. The team is led once again by 38-year-old quarterback Peyton Manning, who didn’t do much last year except set new records for touchdown (55) and passing yards (5,477). Any team with Manning on the roster is going to be a favorite, but it’s also the Broncos’ offseason additions that make their chances that much better.  The Broncos acquired highly-coveted cornerback Aqib Talib, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, and extremely effective defensive end Demarcus Ware. These pickups make the already stacked Broncos team an even bigger juggernaut, and it gives them a very likely chance to compete for the championship once again.

Aside from the previous Super Bowl participants, there are many other teams that have a great shot at the title, as well — for instance, the San Francisco 49ers, who were one play away from making their second straight appearance in the Super Bowl last year. With coach John Harbaugh at the helm and prolific quarterback Colin Kaepernick leading the offense, no one would be surprised to see them back at the top. The same goes for recent Super Bowl winners, such as the Packers and the New Orleans Saints. With respective quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, these teams have just as good a chance of making it back as anyone else.

And, lastly, who could talk about favorites without mentioning good old Tom Brady and the New England Patriots? After a successful season and making it to yet another AFC championship game, the Patriots are desperate to get over the hump and win a championship, something they haven’t done since 2005. With offseason addition of arguably one of the best corners in the game, Darelle Revis, the Pats have to feel very good about their chances this year. With Brady and coach Bill Belichick on your sideline, only great things can happen.

Because of the unpredictable nature of the NFL, all teams mentioned earlier could very well end up doing poorly, and a totally unexpected team could end up on the top. Of course, the New York Giants have to be mentioned in this category, as this team seems to always come back very strong after a challenging season. The Kansas City Chiefs are also in line to have a repeat of the strong season they had last year, as coach Andy Reid tries to help the franchise become consistent year in and year out.  The Redskins, and their acquisition of highlight-reel wide receiver Desean Jackson, hope to be a very exciting team this year with third-year quarterback Robert Griffin III coming off an injury-plagued season. If all goes right for other good teams such as the Steelers, Eagles, Ravens, Bengals, Panthers, Bears, Chargers, Colts, Lions, and Falcons, they could very well easily make a run for the whole thing.

Last, but surely not least, there is no way I could write about this upcoming season without mentioning Johnny Manziel, or, as he’s usually referred to, Johnny Football. If you’ve watched any football, whether that be collegiate or NFL, in the past year or two, you’ve probably heard about the infamous Johnny Football. Known for his explosive play on and off the field, it’s hard not to like him. While his offseason antics get more attention than his play on the field, Johnny is on a mission to prove to everyone that he just takes the work hard, play hard sentiment to another level. Highly criticized for his lavish and wild lifestyle, Manziel takes a lot of heat from NFL veterans all over. To be fair, no athlete is more scrutinized — besides, perhaps, LeBron James or Tiger Woods-—  and he started garnering this attention when he was just a college student.

I personally would love to see Johnny succeed in the NFL, and, at this past year’s draft, he was given that opportunity after being chosen in the first round by the Cleveland Browns. After a QB competition that lasted all Summer, the Browns decided to bench Johnny and went with Brian Hoyer, a proven backup quarterback with experience, as their week 1 starter against the Steelers on Sep. 7. But don’t be too upset, Johnny Manziel fans; the Browns will have troubles on offense now that their star wide out Josh Gordon is suspended for the whole season due to his violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy after he failed a drug test for marijuana. With the Browns’ offense struggling, coach Mike Pettine will surely give Manziel a shot to prove himself. It’s up to Johnny to take full advantage of the

That just about wraps up what has been a hectic offseason, and that only means this upcoming season will surely be one for the books. Whether your team is a favorite to win it all or a team projected to be out of the race early, it would be hard to say you’re not excited for the season. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that it’s about time our Sundays have meaning once again.

First-year Brian Ocampo is a contributing writer. His email is