Tampa Bay — How will the Buccaneers react to yet another quarterback change, from young Chris Simms to old Jeff Garcia? How much is left in the aging legs of defensive stalwarts Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber? Is Jon Gruden, 27-38 since 2002, coaching for his job?
Seattle — The 2005 NFC champs got back to the playoffs in 2006 despite losing MVP Shaun Alexander and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for a combined 10 games. How strong can they be with that duo healthy? Will the latest secondary quartet finally establish some stability there?
St. Louis — Will changing the entire right side of the defense fix the unit’s long-standing woes? Is Adam Carriker a hit after so many early-round whiffs on the defensive line? Can receiver Isaac Bruce keep rolling at 35? Can the Rams end their four-game skid vs. Seattle?
San Francisco — Can new receivers Darrell Jackson and Ashley Lelie make enough plays to take the pressure off running back Frank Gore and emerging quarterback Alex Smith? Does defensive-minded coach Mike Nolan finally have a defense that can make the critical stops?
Arizona — How long will it take Ken Whisenhunt, who won a Super Bowl as Pittsburgh’s coordinator in 2005, to win with an offense that boasts Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Edgerrin James and Matt Leinart? Was 2006 a down year or a realistic year for the defense?
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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