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Dallas (5-4) has the best talent and the most fragile makeup. Washington (3-5) believes it can repeat last season’s second-half run to the division crown. Philadelphia (4-5) is improving on defense _ how could it not? _ and has the offensive playmakers to make noise. New York (2-6) isn’t as bad as the turnover factory that lost its first six games, but has a long, rugged climb.

If Robert Griffin III stays healthy and remains on an upward path, give the East to the Redskins at 8-8.

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NFC NORTH

Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone disrupts everything. The Packers (5-3) have the best depth and coaching in the division, and finally have a potent running game. But without Rodgers, they’ll need a so-so defense to step up and show it can make a difference.

Chicago (5-3) also has injury issues, and not as much depth as Green Bay. But its backup QB, Josh McCown, is solid and the Bears specialize in takeaways.

Detroit (5-3) must upgrade its defense, but the schedule is quite favorable after Sunday’s visit to Chicago. The Lions look like the division’s best bet.

Minnesota (1-7) has completely collapsed, a shame for 2012 MVP Adrian Peterson.

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NFC SOUTH

Despite their stumble against the Jets, the Saints (6-2) should ease to the division crown while scoring loads of points. An improved but not-yet-fearsome defense makes New Orleans well-rounded, and the Big Easy is a very tough place to play.

Carolina (5-3) has won four straight and will stay in the mix for a wild card if Cam Newton continues his strong play and the defense remains staunch.

No team is more disappointing this season than Atlanta (2-6), which struggled even before injuries ravaged the roster. Write it off as one of those seasons and move on.

Tampa Bay (0-8), like Jacksonville, has every chance of going winless.

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Story Continues →