New Orleans Saints
2009 record: 13-3
Whether the defending Super Bowl champion can repeat remains to be seen. After Thursday's 14-9 win over the Vikings, they appear to have a good chance at winning another division title, with QB Drew Brees, above, leading an offense that cracked 500 points last season (510). The question will be on defense, as it'll be difficult for the Saints to be as opportunistic as last year (39 takeaways, 26 interceptions), which helped mask their 26th-ranked pass defense. The secondary will have to step up because it'll be without All-Pro FS Darren Sharper for at least part of the season as he recovers from microfracture knee surgery.
2009 record: 9-7
QB Matt Ryan should continue to get better, entering his third NFL season. But what the Falcons need is for RB Michael Turner to look more like he did in 2008 (1,699 yards, 17 TDs) than last year (871 yards), when he missed five games with a high ankle sprain. Atlanta could use a bounceback season from DE John Abraham, whose production fell from 16½ sacks in 2008 to 5½ in 2009. After all, the Falcons' 28 sacks ranked 26th in the NFL last season, and they'll need more pressure if they want to stop Drew Brees & Co. Acquiring free agent CB Dunta Robinson, above, from the Texans should help, considering the caliber of receivers they'll face.
2009 record: 8-8
The Panthers boast arguably the top running back tandem in the NFL in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams (just ask the Bucs). Each reached 1,100 yards in 2009, taking advantage of a solid offensive line. And Carolina will need to run the ball to keep pressure off young QB Matt Moore, above, who was a pleasant surprise last season (4-1 as a starter) but, with just 16 career NFL games, is still a bit unproven. Other than veteran WR Steve Smith, the Panthers don't have many potent weapons in the passing game. In an offseason that featured plenty of changes, including the end of the Jake Delhomme era, the Panthers lost one of their top defensive playmakers in DE Julius Peppers, who signed with the Bears.