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National Conference

Times staff writer David Wharton ranks the conference 1-16:

September 01, 2007|David Wharton

1. New Orleans Saints

* The Saints won't sneak up on anyone this season, but if the defense rises to match a talented offense, they won't need to.

2. Chicago Bears

* All Rex Grossman has to do is hold on to the ball -- preseason bobbles notwithstanding -- for this team to make another run at the Super Bowl.

3. Philadelphia Eagles

* The offensive line is strong and talented -- just what Donovan McNabb and his mended ACL need to return to form.

4. Seattle Seahawks

* Hardly any of the offensive starters made it through 2006 without injury. This season has to go better, doesn't it?

5. Dallas Cowboys

* Laid-back Coach Wade Phillips could provide a lift for a team that grew weary under Bill Parcells' thumb.

6. Carolina Panthers

* Only a few years have passed since this team reached the Super Bowl. The time has come for the Panthers to show their stuff.

7. St. Louis Rams

* The sneaky-good Rams are looking for another chance to surprise the conference like they did back in 1999-2000.

8. San Francisco 49ers

* After years on the slide, the 49ers and quarterback Alex Smith look to build another winner.

9. Arizona Cardinals

* Facing the NFL's easiest schedule -- only four games against playoff teams -- Matt Leinart should continue to improve.

10. Tampa Bay

Buccaneers

* Embattled Coach Jon Gruden needs to work the same magic with Jeff Garcia that he did with Rich Gannon at Oakland.

11. Green Bay Packers

* Lambeau Field faithful still waiting for a certain Hall of Fame quarterback to step aside so the rebuilding can begin.

12. Detroit Lions

* If Jon Kitna's fragile back holds up, he might make some noise with rookie receiver Calvin Johnson.

13. Washington Redskins

* Jason Campbell says the bruised knee that sidelined him is feeling much better. Redskins fans hope so.

14. Minnesota Vikings

* The Vikings believe Tarvaris Jackson is their quarterback but acquired Kelly Holcomb from the Eagles just in case.

15. New York Giants

* Holdout defensive star Michael Strahan finally decides to end his holdout. Finally, a bright spot for the Giants.

16. Atlanta Falcons

* New Coach Bobby Petrino should be in line for a high draft pick next spring -- maybe his old Louisville quarterback, Brian Brohm.

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