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As camps open, questions abound
The NFC took a beating from the AFC the past four years, losing every Super Bowl as well as the interconference matchups 152-104. So, of course, there are plenty of questions to be answered as the 16 NFC teams open training camps this week.
Philadelphia — Are the Eagles still quarterback Donovan McNabb's team after he missed 15 of the last 34 games and after they played better for the departed Jeff Garcia in 2006? Is top pass rusher Jevon Kearse fully recovered from the knee injury that cut his season?
Dallas — Will the players, especially mercurial receiver Terrell Owens, thrive without hard-nosed coach Bill Parcells or take advantage of softer replacement Wade Phillips? Is Tony Romo a true No. 1 quarterback? Can Phillips get the most out of the young defense?
New York Giants — Are coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning both in serious jeopardy after failing to win a playoff game in three years together? Can Reuben Droughns and Brandon Jacobs replace retired star running back Tiki Barber? Can the defense stop anybody?
Washington — Is Jason Campbell the long-term answer at quarterback this franchise has sought for years? Can the defense bounce back strong from a horrid 2006? Will the Redskins regret not drafting a defensive lineman? Is there a legitimate No. 2 receiver?
Chicago — Will coach Lovie Smith stick with quarterback Rex Grossman no matter what? Is Cedric Benson ready to be the full-time running back? Can the Bears be the NFC's first repeat champ in a decade?
Green Bay — Do the Packers think they gained on the Bears by dumping running back Ahman Green and otherwise standing pat? Was the 4-0 finish (beating each division foe) a harbinger or fluke? Will Brett Favre do us all a favor and announce that this is his last season?
Minnesota — Does ace rookie running back Adrian Peterson know the Vikings don't have a passing game? Is Tarvaris Jackson ready for the jump from Alabama State after throwing 81 passes as a rookie? Can nose tackle Pat Williams, 35 in October, stuff the run forever?
Detroit — Is Calvin Johnson the star that fellow first-round receivers Charles Rogers and Mike Williams weren't and Roy Williams might finally be? How can the 28th-rated defense lose top cornerback Dre Bly and improve? Why is Matt Millen still the Lions' general manager?
New Orleans — How much of last year's stunning success was a post-Katrina wave of emotion? Are 2006 rookie surprises Marques Colston and Jahri Evans really that good? How much will corner Jason David and safety Kevin Kaesviharn upgrade the shaky secondary?
Carolina — Has the tandem of coach John Fox and quarterback Jake Delhomme run its course after a poor finish in 2006? Can hefty defensive tackle Kris Jenkins regain his Pro Bowl form after three down years? Is there a playmaker besides tiny receiver Steve Smith?
Atlanta — If Michael Vick is suspended in the dogfighting scandal, can the Falcons fly without their quarterback? Will rookies Jamaal Anderson and Chris Houston invigorate the porous pass defense? Is Joe Horn a No. 1 receiver at 35? Is Bobby Petrino the right coach?
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?
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