Arizona Cardinals

1998 result: 9-7, second in division (defeated Cowboys in first round, lost to Vikings in NFC semifinals).

Coach: Vince Tobin, 20-28 in three seasons with the Cardinals.

Key acquisitions: LB Rob Fredrickson (Lions), TE Derek Brown (Raiders), WR David Boston (first-round draft pick, Ohio State), T L.J. Shelton (first-round pick, E. Michigan).

Key losses: FB Larry Centers (Redskins), LB Jamir Miller (Browns), T Lomas Brown (Browns), WR Eric Metcalf (Ravens, released), TE Chris Gedney (released).

Outlook: Expectations are high in Arizona following the team's first winning season since 1984 and first playoff victory in 51 years. But the Cardinals face a tougher schedule than they did in '98 and they lost their best offensive lineman (Brown), best linebacker (Miller) and three players (Centers, Metcalf, Gedney) who combined for 122 catches last season. Boston, Shelton, WR Rob Moore and DT Mark Smith held out or are still holding out, and starters Jake Plummer, Johnny McWilliams, Eric Swann, Chris Dishman, Ernest Dye, Lester Holmes and Aeneas Williams missed time in training camp because of injuries. QB Plummer earned comparisons to Joe Montana for his late-game heroics, but he threw more INTs than TD passes (20 to 17) and had the NFL's 20th-best quarterback rating.

Schedule

September

12 at Philadelphia, 1

19 at Miami, 1

27 San Francisco, 9

October

3 at Dallas, 1

10 N.Y. Giants, 4:05

17 Washington, 8:20

24 Open date

31 New England, 4:05

November

7 at New York Jets, 1

14 Detroit, 4:15

21 Dallas, 4:15

28 at N.Y. Giants, 1

December

5 Philadelphia, 4:05

12 at Washington, 1

19 Buffalo, 8:20

26 at Atlanta, 1

January

2 at Green Bay, 1

Dallas Cowboys

1998 result: 10-6, first in division (lost to Cardinals in first round).

Coach: Chan Gailey, 10-6 in one season with Cowboys.

Key acquisitions: WR Raghib Ismail (Panthers), C Mark Stepnoski (Titans), LB Quentin Coryatt (out of football), DT Alonzo Spellman (out of football), DE Ebenezer Ekuban (first-round draft pick, North Carolina), WR Wane McGarity (fourth-round pick, Texas).

Key losses: WR Patrick Jeffers (Panthers), WR Billy Davis (Ravens), G Nate Newton (Panthers).

Outlook: The Cowboys are old at quarterback, running back, fullback and wide receiver, and it showed near the end of last season when they lost four of their final six games, including the playoffs. Their top defensive lineman, Leon Lett, has been suspended by the NFL, and Deion Sanders is still recovering from an injured toe. So why is Dallas favored in the NFC East? Because QB Troy Aikman, RB Emmitt Smith, FB Darryl Johnston and WR Michael Irvin still form a smarter offensive core than that of any other team in the division. Dallas committed an NFL-low 15 turnovers last season and gave up an NFL-best 19 sacks, and got even better with Stepnoski's return. Ismail will take some pressure off Irvin who had just one TD catch in '98.

Schedule

September

12 at Washington, 1

20 Atlanta, 9

26 Open date

October

3 Arizona, 1

10 at Philadelphia, 1

18 at N.Y. Giants, 9

24 Washington, 1

31 at Indianapolis, 1

November

8 at Minnesota, 9

14 Green Bay, 4:15

21 at Arizona, 4:15

25 Miami, 4:15

December

5 at New England, 8:20

12 Philadelphia, 1

19 N.Y. Jets, 4:15

24 at New Orleans, 3:05

January

2 N.Y. Giants, 4:05

New York Giants

1998 result: 8-8, third in division.

Coach: Jim Fassel, 18-13-1 in two seasons with the Giants.

Key acquisitions: QB Kerry Collins (Saints), TE Pete Mitchell (Jaguars), G Luke Petitgout (first-round draft pick, Notre Dame), RB Sean Bennett (fourth-round pick, Northwestern).

Key losses: DE Chad Bratzke (Colts), WR Chris Calloway (Falcons), RB Tyrone Wheatley (Raiders), G Greg Bishop (Falcons), C Lance Scott (injured reserve).

Outlook: The Giants made some interesting offseason moves, considering they had the NFL's 29th-ranked offense. They're paying Collins $16.9 million over four years to be Kent Graham's backup, and they added Mitchell, who is solid but will not revolutionize the offense. The Giants had just one 100-yard receiving game last season and lost their leading receiver, Calloway. Starting RB Gary Brown's knee injury is more bad news for the defense, which ranked 10th in the NFL in yards allowed but fifth in points allowed. That unit should be strong even without Bratzke, who made 11 of the Giants' NFC-leading 54 sacks. DE Michael Strahan (15 sacks) might suffer unless Cedric Jones steps up as Bratzke's replacement. The secondary looked as if it would get better with CB Jason Sehorn's return from a knee injury, but he hurt his hamstring in preseason.

Schedule

September

12 at Tampa Bay, 4:15

19 Washington, 1

26 at New England, 8:20

October

3 Philadelphia, 1

10 at Arizona, 4:05

18 Dallas, 9

24 New Orleans, 1

31 at Philadelphia, 1

November

7 Open date

14 Indianapolis, 1

21 at Washington, 4:15

28 Arizona, 1

December

5 N.Y. Jets, 1

12 at Buffalo, 1

19 at St. Louis, 1

26 Minnesota, 1

January

2 at Dallas, 4:05

Philadelphia Eagles

1998 result: 3-13, fifth in division.

Coach: Andy Reid, first NFL season.

Key acquisitions: QB Donovan McNabb (first-round draft pick, Syracuse), QB Doug Pederson (Packers), WR Charles Johnson (Steelers), WR Torrance Small (Colts).

Key losses: RB Charlie Garner (49ers), WR Irving Fryar (retirement, Redskins), LB James Willis (Seahawks), QB Rodney Peete (Redskins), WR Jeff Graham (Chargers), DE Al Wallace (injured reserve).

Outlook: Just how bad was the offense last season? Three NFL players (Denver's Terrell Davis, Minnesota's Randy Moss and Jacksonville's Fred Taylor) each scored at least as many touchdowns as the Eagles' offense (17). The team ranked last in the league in passing offense, total offense, points per game (10.1, the team's worst average in 59 years) and was 27th in sacks allowed (56). Now the starting quarterback (Pederson) has zero starts and 32 completions in his career and a heralded, but untested, backup (McNabb). Reid wants McNabb to be Pederson's understudy for one season, but McNabb could play this season. The mostly anonymous defense needs someone to make a name for himself. LB Hugh Douglas posted 12.5 sacks last season, the only impressive individual defensive statistic.

Schedule

September

12 Arizona, 1

19 Tampa Bay, 1

26 at Buffalo, 1

October

3 at N.Y. Giants, 1

10 Dallas, 1

17 at Chicago, 1

24 at Miami, 1

31 N.Y. Giants, 1

November

7 at Carolina, 1

14 Washington, 1

21 Indianapolis, 1

28 at Washington, 1

December

5 at Arizona, 4:05

12 at Dallas, 1

19 New England, 1

26 Open date

January

2 St. Louis, 1

Washington Redskins

1998 result: 6-10, fourth in division.

Coach: Norv Turner, 32-47 in five seasons with the Redskins.

Key acquisitions: QB Brad Johnson (Vikings), CB Champ Bailey (first-round draft pick, Georgia), T Jon Jansen (second-round draft pick, Michigan), S Sam Shade (Bengals), QB Rodney Peete (Eagles), FB Larry Centers (Cardinals), DT Marco Coleman (Cowboys), WR Irving Fryar (Eagles).

Key losses: QB Trent Green (Rams), WR Leslie Shepherd (Browns), RB Terry Allen (released, Patriots), LB Ken Harvey (retired), TE Jamie Asher (Eagles), LB Marvcus Patton (Chiefs), DE Rich Owens (Dolphins).

Outlook: New owner Daniel Snyder has made it known that many, including Turner, will lose their jobs after this season unless the Redskins make their first playoff appearance since 1992. But they made some smart player moves during the offseason, and the play of their starters during the preseason has created cautious optimism.

Schedule

September

12 Dallas, 1

19 at N.Y. Giants, 1

26 at N.Y. Jets, 1

October

3 Carolina, 4:05

10 Open date

17 at Arizona, 8:20

24 at Dallas, 1

31 Chicago, 1

November

7 Buffalo, 1

14 at Philadelphia, 1

21 N.Y. Giants, 4:15

28 Philadelphia, 1

December

5 at Detroit, 1

12 Arizona, 1

19 at Indianapolis, 1

26 at San Fran., 8:20

January

2 Miami, 4:15