We are just three weeks away from the start of the NFL regular season, which means it's time for teams to get down to business. While some squads have glaring weaknesses all over the roster and others are ready to compete for a title, there's no doubt that everyone faces at least a little uncertainty headed into the 2016 season. Here are the biggest questions for every NFC team; check back on Friday for the biggest questions for every AFC team.
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Arizona Cardinals: Is regression inevitable?
Carson Palmer turns 37 before the season is over. Arizona's defense has a number of players coming back from injury, including Tyrann Mathieu's return from ACL surgery. The schedule's unfriendly. It's unclear who starts along with Patrick Patterson at cornerback. The pass rush could be lacking. Other than that, 2016 should be smooth sailing for the Cardinals! Seriously, though, this team is incredibly talented, as we saw in last year's run to the NFC Championship Game. But the deck is stacked against a repeat performance from Arizona this season.
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Atlanta Falcons: Was the end of 2015 a fluke or a trend?
After a 5-0 start, the Falcons finished last season 3-8. When you have Matt Ryan throwing it up to Julio Jones, that's unacceptable — especially as Jones racked up 1,871 yards receiving last year. There's talent on the defensive side of the ball, particularly CB Desmond Trufant and LB Vic Beasley. For whatever reason, that skill didn't translate to success last year. Atlanta hasn't missed the playoffs in four straight seasons since 1990. If the defense fails to support the offense in 2016, that will change.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
Carolina Panthers: Will Josh Norman's departure prevent Carolina's ascent?
The Panthers should be right back in the Super Bowl hunt this season. Aside from losing Norman, pretty much everyone is back for Carolina. But that's a huge loss that the defense will have to try to make up with unproven corner Daryl Worley and rookie James Bradberry. If Bradberry's impressive display in the preseason is any indication, Carolina might get away with losing Norman and not missing a beat.
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Chicago Bears: How badly will the offense miss its former Pro Bowlers?
Jay Cutler was solid last season, and Chicago rewarded that performance by getting rid of Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett. Even if the defense improves, the Bears will likely take a major step back on offense this year. In the long term, moving on from Forte was probably the smart move. Bennett's absence could really sting, though.
Dallas Cowboys: Can the defense keep up with the offense?
Assuming there aren't any unforeseen complications with Tony Romo's collarbone, the Cowboys are going to be fantastic on offense this season. And they'll have to be, since it's hard to see how the defense will stop anyone. Dallas famously forced the fewest turnovers in NFL history last season, and the pass rush is somehow weaker heading into 2016. All is not lost, however. A healthy Sean Lee was one of the few bright spots for the Cowboys defense last year. If Morris Claiborne can be a steady presence at corner, Dallas might surprise people.
Getty ImagesMike Stone
Detroit Lions: Will Matthew Stafford survive the season?
Stafford is going to miss Calvin Johnson so much this season. The Lions QB gets sacked like it's his job, and the offensive line didn't really improve much this offseason, as we saw in Detroit's first preseason game. With Johnson gone, Stafford is missing an elite receiver to bail him out as he scrambles for his life. Here's hoping he makes it through 2016 without a major injury.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY SportsJasen Vinlove
Green Bay Packers: How big of a rebound will we see?
Everything that could have gone wrong for the Packers offense ended in catastrophe last season. With just the slightest modicum of health, a slimmed-down Eddie Lacy, and Mike McCarthy back as the playcaller, the Packers will undoubtedly bounce back this season. The ceiling on that rebound depends on how well the offensive line cooperates. Right now, it's not looking all that great. Center Corey Linsley is still unavailable, and backup JC Tretter's health is in doubt, as well.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
Los Angeles Rams: Can Todd Gurley carry this team to success?
Coach Jeff Fisher won't be satisfied with a .500 record in the Rams' first season back in Los Angeles. His best hope for a winning year is Gurley, the 2015 offensive rookie of the year who seems poised for another spectacular campaign in 2016. Regardless of whether Jared Goff or Case Keenum ends up with the starting QB job, the Rams will have to rely on the running game if they want to bring playoff football back to Los Angeles. (A ridiculous goal, by the way; online oddsmaker Bovada.com lists the Rams as 3:1 underdogs to make the postseason).
Getty ImagesDilip Vishwanat
Minnesota Vikings: Will Minnesota's offense sink or swim?
Minnesota could be a formidable team this season. The defense will be rock solid, which puts the onus on Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson. Bridgewater has to protect the ball while punishing defenses for stacking the line of scrimmage to try to stop Peterson, while Peterson has to show that he's still one of the best RBs in the game, even at 31 years old. They'll succeed — or fail — together.
Getty ImagesTom Dahlin
New Orleans Saints: Is this Drew Brees' last season in New Orleans?
The 37-year-old Brees is entering the last year of his current deal, and he told reporters recently that there has been zero discussion about an extension or a new contract. The Saints have to be considering whether they make one last long-term commitment to such a veteran quarterback. For his part, Brees probably has questions about New Orleans, as well. The Saints defense will be awful once again this season, meaning Brees will have to carry the load. Maybe it's time to look for greener pastures.
Getty ImagesSean Gardner
New York Giants: Will this be the end of a playoff drought?
It's been almost 40 years since the Giants have missed the playoffs for five consecutive season. New York, of course, has gone home early the past four years. Other than a coaching change from Tom Coughlin to former offensive coordinator Bob McAdoo, however, this is essentially the same team that went 6-10 last season. The Giants will have to hope that they get the good version of Eli Manning; that Odell Beckham can be the best receiver in football; that Victor Cruz can get healthy; and that the New York pass rush we all used to fear can return to form.
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Philadelphia Eagles: Will the post-Chip Kelly era be any better?
Ideally, the Eagles should be in the playoff hunt this season. More importantly, however, 2016 is all about moving past Kelly's effects on this organization — and that might clip Philly's postseason dreams. After all, maybe turning the page means moving on from Sam Bradford to Carson Wentz sooner than later, sacrificing wins for development. Maybe it means Doug Pederson's team crashes and burns under the guidance of a first-time head coach. Whatever the case, Philadelphia's ready for a whole new identity.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY SportsBill Streicher
San Francisco 49ers: Who the heck is the QB?
Speaking of Chip Kelly, the Niners have the simplest question to answer yet the murkiest outlook of any NFC team. In reality, neither Colin Kaepernick nor Blaine Gabbert is the quarterback of the future. Picking one or the other is about maximizing San Francisco's prospects for this season and this season alone — unless, of course, the 49ers are secretly trying to tank to start a rebuild in earnest in 2017. That's the only reasonable explanation for considering picking Gabbert over Kaepernick in Kelly's offensive system.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
Seattle Seahawks: How big is Marshawn Lynch's absence?
This is the moment Russell Wilson doubters have been waiting for. There's no more "Beast Mode" in Seattle, and the offensive line is starting to crack as well. Wilson will have to be huge for the Seahawks next season, but don't expect them to get pass-happy. Thomas Rawls (if he's healthy), Christine Michael, C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks could all see time in the backfield for Seattle as the Seahawks try to replace Lynch with a litany of specialty backs who each excel in different facets of the game. And there's always the threat that Wilson will take off, too.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Is there a method to the madness?
I'm by no means a Lovie Smith fan. He's a fine but not spectacular coach. That's all. Yet replacing Smith with Dirk Koetter was a real head-scratcher. Although the Bucs weren't good in Smith's two seasons, he'd at least helped oversee Jameis Winston's development as one of the most exciting young QBs in the NFL. Then there was Tampa Bay's absurd decision to take a kicker, Roberto Aguayo, in the second round. The Bucs are that one acquaintance from your fantasy football league who has no idea what he or she is doing, except these decisions have real-life consequences for a football team. Maybe it will all work out, but I doubt it.
Getty ImagesScott Cunningham
Washington Redskins: Can Kirk Cousins do it again?
There's no question that this is Cousins' team. Now, he has to prove he's the solution moving forward. With Josh Norman in town, Washington could easily build on last year's surprising 9-7 record and win a second-straight division title for the first time since 1984 — if Cousins can lead the offense like he did in 2015.