COACH: RON RIVERA
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Fifth season (32-31-1, .508)
LAST SEASON: 7-8-1, won division, lost to Seattle in divisional playoff
OUTLOOK: This team is all about QB Cam Newton. Period. The Panthers re-upped his contract in the offseason, investing their entire future in the quarterback's hands. Newton has developed nicely as a pocket passer, adding to his formidable ability to make plays with his legs. He lost his go-to receiver in training camp when Kelvin Benjamin suffered a season-ending ACL injury, so don't be surprised to see the passing game take an initial step back. The defense is led again by LB Luke Kuechly, but it remains to be seen if the Panthers' pass rush can recover from the absence of Greg Hardy.
COACH: DAN QUINN
LAST SEASON: 6-10, third in division
OUTLOOK: Quinn takes over from Mike Smith after another disappointing season, and the former Seahawks defensive coordinator brings his aggressive style to a defense that definitely needs it. Rookie pass rusher Vic Beasley is a major addition, but it will probably take another draft or two, plus some more free agents, to fix this previously woeful unit. QB Matt Ryan is still at the top of his game, and with WR Julio Jones agreeing to a five-year, $71-million deal, there's plenty of good stuff ahead. Bounce-back year for the Falcons? Could be.
COACH: SEAN PAYTON
10th season (80-48, .625)
LAST SEASON: 7-9, second in division
OUTLOOK: Salary-cap constraints have forced the Saints to part company with some key players, including Pro Bowl TE Jimmy Graham, so this roster just isn't as stacked as it was when they won the Super Bowl six seasons ago. Drew Brees is still an elite quarterback, but he'll be tested without his premier tight end and an offensive line transition. But defense is the big issue for the Saints. Rob Ryan's go-for-broke style has mostly left the Saints broke, so plenty of improvement is needed for a playoff run.
COACH: LOVIE SMITH
Second season (2-14, .125)
LAST SEASON: 2-14, fourth in division
OUTLOOK: QB Jameis Winston has the keys to the offense, but it could take the No. 1 overall pick a while to adjust to the pro game. Winston had a rocky preseason, but the Bucs are convinced he's their long-term answer at a position where they have had minimal success. The defense looks to be much improved, though, thanks to the emergence of DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David, who received a well-deserved five-year contract extension during the preseason.