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Unlocked, and set to go

NFL sheds shaky offseason, kicks off this week

AFC West – No one, at this moment, trusts that Kansas City can repeat its 2010 ascent, as everyone will target the Chiefs and its robust running attack, using the template from the playoff loss to Baltimore. San Diego is burning to return to the top, and still in the best position when compared to Oakland and Denver. The Raiders are pinning a lot on new coach Hue Jackson and hoping the loss of Nnamdi Asomugha is not too heavy. And the Broncos start over under John Fox, and the concerns go way beyond whether Tim Tebow will ever contribute or not.

NFC East – Why, oh why, did Philadelphia give itself a “Dream Team” label? Whether you agree with it or not, Mike Vick and the Eagles are setting up for glory or disaster, no in between. By doing this, they somehow take the pressure off everyone else, no mean feat in this high-profile division. The Giants, with a strong running game and stronger pass defense, are set up well, and Dallas is focused on the right things with Jason Garrett in charge. Washington may not challenge, but it got rid of a lot of waste and baggage, never done before in Dan Snyder’s disastrous tenure.

NFC North – The truly scary part about Green Bay’s championship run was that it was done with a very young core of players. Just about everyone on the Pack is back to repeat, and they’ll be needed in what could be the NFL’s best division. As long as it runs and defends like usual, Chicago need not fret too much about Jay Cutler. Detroit is poised to, at last, make a serious playoff run, while Minnesota, vulnerable as anyone to the Los Angeles plans to get back in the league, is praying that Donovan McNabb still has a year or two left in his tank.

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