2007 record in parentheses:
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (10-6, 11-7 including postseason)
Strengths: Pro Bowl QB Matt Hasselbeck; defense returning all 11 starters, including Pro Bowlers end Patrick Kerney, LBs Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson, and CB Marcus Trufant; motivation to make coach Mike Holmgren's final season special.
Weaknesses: Major injuries and inexperience at WR; age, injuries and ineffectiveness on OL; shared, unsettled RB situation with potential for bruised egos.
Players to watch: Hasselbeck, trying to duplicate team-record setting '07 with skeleton receiving crew; rookie TE John Carlson; RBs Julius Jones and Maurice Morris; DE Kerney, recently injury prone.
Biggest change: Shaun Alexander era is over. Jones and Morris are his more slashing co-replacements, promising to make pass receiving by RBs more viable weapon though Holmgren for now doesn't have single feature back he prefers.
Schedule key: Relatively soft start (at Buffalo, home for St. Louis) becomes gantlet of '07 playoff teams: Giants, Packers and Buccaneers, plus trip to division rival 49ers and home against Eagles. If Seahawks get through that 5-3 or better, fifth straight NFC West title is likely even with consecutive games against Dallas and New England later.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (8-8)
Strengths: Receiving tandem of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, although Boldin is unhappy with contract compared to Fitzgerald's four-year $40 million deal with $30 million guaranteed signed after last season. S Adrian Wilson and revamped secondary. Weak NFC West that Cardinals could win.
Weaknesses: History. Last year's .500 record marked only third non-losing season since Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988. Management has history of stepping on its toes, as it did with Fitzgerald's first contract, which forced it to give him huge money and antagonize Boldin.
Players to Watch: QB Matt Leinart, 10th overall pick in 2006 draft, who is going into his third season with very little experience. Leinart missed more than half of last season with broken collarbone.
Biggest Change: Leinart. If he's up to task, he gives Cardinals their first premium QB. If not, 37-year-old Kurt Warner, still efficient but also mistake-prone, will fill in again.
Schedule Key: Five trips to East Coast could take a toll.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (5-11)
Strengths: LB Patrick Willis was top defensive rookie last year, making tackles all over field. RB Frank Gore has topped 1,000 yards and 4.0 yards a carry in his two seasons as starter.
Weaknesses: Usually a team that has three quarterbacks competing for starting QB job doesn't have any worthy of holding it. That could be case here as journeyman J.T. O'Sullivan might beat out former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith, and Shaun Hill. There are questions at receiver, where Isaac Bruce, Arnaz Battle and Bryant Johnson have been injured for much of camp.
Players to watch: Willis, Gore, CB Nate Clements, TE Vernon Davis, DL Ray McDonald.
Biggest change: San Francisco has its sixth offensive coordinator in as many years, going from inexperienced Jim Hostler to Mike Martz and his intricate offenses.
Schedule key: October is brutal, with games against two Super Bowl teams: New England at home on Oct. 5 and at Giants on Oct. 19. Niners also have home games that month against Philadelphia and Seattle.
ST. LOUIS RAMS (3-13)
Strengths: Defensive line fortified by first-round picks last two years, including second overall pick Chris Long this year, plugged into veteran group featuring Leonard Little and La'Roi Glover. WR Torry Holt leads NFL in receptions and yards since 2000. Bruising RB Steven Jackson ended holdout and is among league's best.
Weaknesses: Quarterback Marc Bulger had more interceptions (15) than touchdown passes (11) in injury-plagued 2007, and might be a bit shellshocked after years of punishment. He'll be taking snaps behind unproven line led by tackle Orlando Pace, who has ended last two seasons on injured reserve and didn't make it out of opener last year. Backup QB Trent Green has history of concussion-related woes. Defense is undersized and can be pushed around if forced to play too much.
Players to watch: Jackson will likely have reduced work in early going. Long is being pushed by James Hall, starter he replaced moments after being taken with second pick of draft. Kicker Josh Brown, one of NFL's most accurate, is biggest offseason acquisition.
Biggest change: Al Saunders, assistant coach on franchise's lone Super Bowl championship team in 1999, has installed offense that recalls that high-flying era. It failed to click early in preseason.
Schedule key: Four of first seven games are against teams that won 10 or more games, with Super Bowl champion Giants in home opener, and 13-win Cowboys and 18-win Patriots in consecutive weeks.