OUTLOOK: The Seahawks were one botched play-call from a second straight Super Bowl title. Now they aim for a third straight Super Bowl appearance. Who’s going to stop them? RB Marshawn Lynch is back in the fold after speculation last season that he might not return. QB Russell Wilson has a new contract. The offense is better with the addition of TE Jimmy Graham and the defense remains solid.
IMPACT ADDITION: Graham was not at his best last season but still was good, with 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 TDs with the Saints. He must adapt to a Seattle offense built around the running game. But he should give Wilson a big-play option in the passing game and, as always, he should be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He topped 1,200 receiving yards twice while with New Orleans and is still only 28.
FANCY STAT: 6.9
Percentage of offensive drives ending in a turnover, the lowest in the league.
OUTLOOK: What could the Cardinals have done without their quarterback injuries last season? Bruce Arians is among the NFL’s best coaches, but even he couldn’t overcome that. Carson Palmer is back, and the biggest issue will be whether he can remain healthy and in the lineup. If he does, the Cardinals should be a top NFC contender again. If not, they probably will resemble the team they were at the end of last season when they lost four of their last six regular season games and bowed out in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
IMPACT ADDITION: The Cardinals signed G Mike Iupati away from the 49ers in free agency. The three-time Pro Bowl performer begins the season sidelined by a knee injury but could be a difference-maker in the interior of the offensive line when he returns.
FANCY STAT: 16
Red zone touchdowns in 2014, the second most in the NFL.
OUTLOOK: Is it a lame-duck season in St. Louis for the Rams? Possibly so, with a prospective move back to Los Angeles pending. Either way, it’s about time for them to top .500 under Coach Jeff Fisher. They’ve had a losing record in each of Fisher’s three seasons and last had a winning season in 2003. At least they don’t need to rely on Sam Bradford’s availability any more, having sent him to the Eagles in a QB swap for Nick Foles.
IMPACT ADDITION: The Rams surprised many by using the 10th overall pick in the draft on RB Todd Gurley. Recent history shows that running backs aren’t worth first-round picks, and Gurley is returning from a torn ACL. The Rams have taken a cautious approach with him, and it’s not clear how much of a workload he’ll have this season. But if he becomes an integral part of the offense, this team could be in playoff contention.
FANCY STAT: 39.8
Completion percentage under pressure for Foles. On plays without pressure it was 69.2.
OUTLOOK: Is anyone left? Coach Jim Harbaugh exited. He was followed by key contributors Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Justin Smith, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati and Aldon Smith, among others. The 49ers don’t resemble the team that went to three consecutive NFC championship games and made a Super Bowl appearance in Harbaugh’s first three seasons. They barely even resemble last season’s 8-8 team. Jim Tomsula, promoted from defensive line coach to head coach, has inherited a difficult situation.
IMPACT ADDITION: WR Torrey Smith arrives from Baltimore via free agency to provide a big-play element to the offense. He averaged 16.9 yards per catch in four seasons with the Ravens but reached 1,000 receiving yards only once.
FANCY STAT: 37
Percentage of snaps from 2014 lost because of roster turnover, the highest percentage of snaps lost of any team in the NFL.