The Denver Broncos had much to celebrate during their 49-27 victory over Baltimore on Thursday, but will the team still be celebrating at the end of the season? (Jack Dempsey/AP)

Denver had much to celebrate during its 49-27 victory over Baltimore on Thursday, but will the Broncos still be celebrating at the end of the season? (Jack Dempsey/AP)

The NFL season is underway, and we’re told there are things to talk about that have nothing to do with last week’s concussion settlement. CBS Sports national columnist Gregg Doyel joined Bill Littlefield.

BL: The first game of the 2013 NFL season is in the record books – literally. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw for seven touchdowns, no interceptions – only the second time that’s happened in the NFL. Are the defending champion Baltimore Ravens much diminished or is Peyton Manning just that good?

GD: I think probably a little bit of both. I mean, Peyton Manning, as good as he is, has never done that. And he did that to the defending Super Bowl champions. So I think you gotta look at Peyton and say, “Wow, Peyton, you’re really good.” But you look at the Ravens and say, “He can’t be that good. I mean holy cow, Ravens, what happened to you guys?” We know what happened. They lost Ray Lewis. They lost their great safety Ed Reed, and they’re just not what they were.

BL: Broncos fans, of course, hope Peyton Manning can bring Denver its first Super Bowl since 1999. It’s perhaps a little too early to be saying that’ll happen.

Peyton Manning, as good as he is, has never done that.
– Gregg Doyel, CBS Sports national columnist
GD: No, I don’t think so. Look, the NFL is a quarterback league. Any team with a great quarterback – and there are only about six or seven of them – those are the six or seven teams that you know will be the pool for the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning’s one of those quarterbacks, and Denver’s in that pool. And this first game shows that– at some point he’s going to be too old — he’s not too old this year.

BL: I’m told by the alleged experts that Oakland, Kansas City and the New York Jets will not win very often this year and that Green Bay, Atlanta and Houston will win a lot this year. Pick a team about which those experts are wrong and tell me why that is.

GD: You know what, I’m gonna go for the Raiders. Terrelle Pryor, he’s got a unique skill set – he’s big and fast; he can throw the ball. He’s going to be pretty good. Look, this is a league that’s evolving toward guys like him – Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, RG III – guys that can run and pass and break you down a little bit both ways.  You know they’re not going to be great. But if the experts are saying they’re going to go 2-14 or 3-13 the experts are dead wrong there.

BL: Brian Urlacher, recently retired from the position of linebacker for the Chicago Bears, said this week that the Bears had a so-called designated dive guy whose job it was to pretend to be hurt. Why the heck would guys in the NFL have to pretend to be hurt?

GD: Yeah that’s not helping that concussion lawsuit at all. But guys do apparently, as Urlacher told us, do fake an injury for the same reason that guys in the college game have long faked injuries when they play Oregon. The offense moves so fast at Oregon and now in the NFL with the spread offense. The offense moves so fast the defenses get tired, want to sub out players. You can’t sub ‘em out if the offense doesn’t let you breathe. So the defense flops and fakes an injury, and that’s what happens. But I still can’t believe Urlacher would say that. What a meathead.

BL: And according to Ray Lewis, whom we talked about a minute ago, the other way to slow the offense is to turn off the lights at the Super Bowl. There was a conspiracy I understand to do that and slow down the Ravens?

GD: He’s obviously invested in that game and very, very disappointed in what happened. But there’s no way the NFL would sabotage its No. 1 moneymaker and have the whole world laughing at the NFL just so the game isn’t a rout. You know I’ve heard some dumb things, but that’s one of the dumber things I’ve ever heard.

BL: Gregg, last week the NFL did settle with over 4,500 ex-players. $765 million will be distributed for medical treatment and compensation for head injuries. How soon will we know whether all the publicity generated by that lawsuit will change the way the game is played?

GD: Well I think we’ve already seen it. You know, we’re seeing targeting rules. Defenders are being penalized for going anywhere near the head. The game is changing. And the question is:  how do they find a happy medium between avoiding the head and not just ruining peoples’ knees and allowing them to play football and to play tackle football. It’s still evolving. I think the bad publicity has changed the league and will continue to do so.

BL: Change the league for the better or change the league for the worse? I know you’re an enthusiast.

GD: Both. Look, it’s going to change the quality of what we watch for the worse. Absolutely. But it’s going to change the health of the people we’re watching for the better. So you know it’s two steps forward, one step back. Bottom line: I like what they’re doing. They’re trying to take care of the people we watch play. But yes, the game won’t be quite as vicious as it was, and we all liked the viciousness but now we know the cost of the viciousness. Maybe I don’t want to see that viciousness anymore.