1. Green Bay: The Packers went 15-1 in the regular season last year, yet floundered in the playoffs. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is determined not to let the Packers' suspect defense undo a great season again.
2. 49ers: All 11 defensive starters return, as well as most of the offense. It's difficult to imagine the 49ers not returning to the NFC Championship game with this roster.
3. New Orleans: Quarterback Drew Brees is so good that his play will help the Saints overcome a season without suspended coach Sean Payton and the omnipresent specter of the bountygate scandal.
4. N.Y. Giants: Coach Tom Coughlin is fine with other teams receiving all the attention. He just finds a way for his team to be heard from when it matters most.
5. Atlanta: It's about that time when the Falcons put it all together, now that quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Michael Turner are in their primes.
6. Detroit: The Lions are a running back away from making some serious noise in the NFC playoffs. Problem is, Detroit is better at churning out automobiles than running backs.
7. Philadelphia: Quarterback Mike Vick says the so-called Dream Team is dead but that the Eagles can build a dynasty. How long before that topples, too?
8. Chicago: Quarterback Jay Cutler finally has a go-to receiver in Brandon Marshall. The rest of the pieces are in place for a strong run.
9. Dallas: The Cowboys added
10. Washington: Quarterback Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy and now is after the hearts of Redskins fans dying for a return to relevance. Call it a nice start.
11. Seattle: Coach Pete Carroll turned heads by going with dynamic rookie Russell Wilson at quarterback. Hey, Wilson can't be worse than Tarvaris Jackson.
12. Carolina: Quarterback Cam Newton will be hard-pressed to improve upon his stellar rookie season. The Panthers still are working on finding suitable complements to Newton.
13. St. Louis: New coach Jeff Fisher has his hands full rebuilding a team that won only two games last season. Expect this team to make notable strides this season.
14. Tampa Bay: Quarterback Josh Freeman gets some help in the form of rookie running back Doug Martin. Even so, Bucs will be done long before Christmas.
15. Arizona: Oh, how the Cardinals miss quarterback Kurt Warner. Kevin Kolb bombed. Now it's on to John Skelton. Enough said.
16. Minnesota: Running back Adrian Peterson is back from a serious knee injury. He's going to need a career year just to make the Vikings watchable.