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    NFC preview: 49ers ready to pick up where they left off

    Colin Kaepernick is ready for his first full season as the 49ers’ starting quarterback.
    Harry How/Getty Images
    Colin Kaepernick is ready for his first full season as the 49ers’ starting quarterback.

    A look at how the teams in the NFC shape up this season (Teams listed in predicted order of finish; new players in bold; *denotes injured players expected to start when healthy):

    NFC EAST

    1. NY Giants

    Coach: Tom Coughlin (10th year, 83-61)

    Last year: 9-7, second

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    Outlook: Big Blue missed the playoffs after starting 6-2 thanks to a defense that imploded. Victor Cruz is happy with his new contract, and Hakeem Nicks will be motivated to earn one next offseason. Expect a bounce-back year by Eli Manning and the gang, as long as Jason Pierre-Paul’s back is healthy.

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    WR impact rank: 3rd. Nicks and Cruz are one of the best tandems in the NFL.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBEli ManningDEJustin Tuck
    RBDavid WilsonDTLinval Joseph
    FBHenry HynoskiDTCullen Jenkins
    WRVictor CruzDE*Jason Pierre-Paul
    WRHakeem NicksOLBKeith Rivers
    TEBrandon MyersMLBDan Connor
    LTWill BeattyOLBSpencer Paysinger
    LGKevin BootheCBCorey Webster
    CDavid BaasCBPrince Amukamara
    RGChris SneeSRyan Mundy
    RTDavid DiehlSAntrel Rolle
    KJosh BrownPSteve Weatherford

    2. Washington

    Coach: Mike Shanahan (4th year, 21-27)

    Last year: 10-6, first

    Outlook: Kirk Cousins has proven to be a more-than-capable backup, but the Redskins’ Super Bowl hopes ride on the healthy knee of Robert Griffin III, who helped the ’Skins finish the NFL’s best running game and fewest turnovers last year.

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    WR impact rank: 29th. Need Pierre Garcon healthy for 16 games, because there’s not much else there with Josh Morgan, Aldrick Robinson, and an aging Santana Moss.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBRobert Griffin IIIDEChris Baker
    RBAlfred MorrisNTBarry Cofield
    FBDarrel YoungDEStephen Bowen
    WRPierre GarconOLBRyan Kerrigan
    WRJosh MorganILBLondon Fletcher
    TEFred DavisILBPerry Riley
    LTTrent WilliamsOLBBrian Orakpo
    LGKory LichtensteigerCBDeAngelo Hall
    CWill MontgomeryCBJosh Wilson
    RGChris ChesterSBrandon Meriweather
    RTTyler PolumbusSBacarri Rambo
    KKai ForbathPSav Rocca

    3. Dallas

    Coach: Jason Garrett (4th year, 21-19)

    Last year: 8-8, third

    Outlook: Tony Romo finally got paid, and now the Cowboys expect him to cut down on his 19 interceptions and lead Dallas back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Dez Bryant is coming into his own as an elite receiver and DeMarcus Ware has plenty of burst left.

    WR impact rank: 10th. Bryant is a stud, but Miles Austin is aging fast, and there’s not much behind him on the depth chart.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBTony RomoDEAnthony Spencer
    RBDeMarco MurrayDTJason Hatcher
    WRDez BryantDTNick Hayden
    WRMiles AustinDEDeMarcus Ware
    WRDwayne HarrisOLBSean Lee
    TEJason WittenMLBBruce Carter
    LTTyron SmithOLBJustin Durant
    LGRonald LearyCBBrandon Carr
    CTravis FrederickCBMorris Claiborne
    RGMackenzy BernadeauSBarry Church
    RTDoug FreeSWill Allen
    KDan BaileyPChris Jones

    4. Philadelphia

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    Coach: Chip Kelly (1st year)

    Last year: 4-12, fourth

    Outlook: The Eagles may be a team no one likes playing at the end of the year, with Kelly bringing an exciting, up-tempo offense that could be unlike anything seen in the NFL. But the defense, transitioning to a 3-4, is devoid of talent.

    WR impact rank: 16th. DeSean Jackson is still the best home run hitter in the NFL, but behind him are journeymen and unproven youngsters.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBMichael VickDECedric Thornton
    RBLeSean McCoyDTIsaac Sopoaga
    WRDeSean JacksonDEFletcher Cox
    WRRiley CooperOLBConnor Barwin
    TEBrent CelekILBMychal Kendricks
    TEJames CaseyILBDeMeco Ryans
    LTJason PetersOLBTrent Cole
    LGEvan MathisCBBradley Fletcher
    CJason KelceCBCary Williams
    RGTodd HerremansSNate Allen
    RTLane JohnsonSPatrick Chung
    KAlex HeneryPDonnie Jones

    NFC NORTH

    1. Green Bay

    Coach: Mike McCarthy (8th year, 74-38)

    Last year: 11-5, first

    Outlook: As long as Aaron Rodgers, 29, is running the show, the Packers are going to be a Super Bowl contender and have one of the league’s best offenses. The defense finished 11th in points allowed but was badly exposed by Colin Kaepernick in the playoffs.

    WR impact rank: 6th. Jordy Nelson (when healthy) and Randall Cobb are studs, and Rodgers will make the rest look good, as well.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBAaron RodgersDEDatone Jones
    RBJames StarksNTRyan Pickett
    FBJohn KuhnDEB.J. Raji
    WRJordy NelsonOLBNick Perry
    WRRandall CobbILBA.J. Hawk
    TEJermichael FinleyILBBrad Jones
    LTDavid BakhtiariOLBClay Matthews
    LGJosh SittonCBTramon Williams
    CEvan Dietrich-SmithCBSam Shields
    RGT.J. LangSM.D. Jennings
    RTMarshall NewhouseSMorgan Burnett
    KMason CrosbyPTim Masthay

    2. Detroit

    Coach: Jim Schwartz (5th year, 22-42)

    Last year: 4-12, fourth

    Outlook: Last year was a disaster, but the Lions have enough talent on both sides to make a big jump. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson might be the best QB-WR duo in the game, Reggie Bush is a nice addition, and the defense has one of the toughest fronts around.

    WR impact rank: 4th. Johnson is the best in the game, but the unit is lacking with Nate Burleson, Patrick Edwards, and Ryan Broyles.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBMatthew StaffordDEJason Jones
    RBReggie BushDTNick Fairley
    WRCalvin JohnsonDTNdamukong Suh
    WRNate BurlesonDEZiggy Ansah
    TEBrandon PettigrewOLBAshlee Palmer
    TETony SchefflerMLBStephen Tulloch
    LTRiley ReiffOLBDeAndre Levy
    LGRob SimsCBChris Houston
    CDominic RaiolaCBDarius Slay
    RGDylan GandySGlover Quin
    RTJason FoxSLouis Delmas
    KDavid AkersPSam Martin

    3. Chicago

    Coach: Marc Trestman (1st year)

    Last year: 10-6, third

    Outlook: Jay Cutler is playing for a new contract and Trestman was brought in to fix Lovie Smith’s mistakes and get this team back to the playoffs. Matt Forte looks great, and if Cutler can cut down on his interceptions, the Bears’ offense should be dynamic.

    WR impact rank: 5th. Brandon Marshall is dominant at times but has a bad hip. Alshon Jeffery is a potential star in the making.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBJay CutlerDECorey Wootton
    RBMatt ForteDTHenry Melton
    FBTony FiammettaDTStephen Paea
    WRBrandon MarshallDEJulius Peppers
    WRAlshon JefferyOLBJames Anderson
    TEMartellus BennettMLBD.J. Williams
    LTJermon BushrodOLBLance Briggs
    LGMatt SlausonCBTim Jennings
    CRoberto GarzaCBCharles Tillman
    RGKyle LongSMajor Wright
    RTEben BrittonSChris Conte
    KRobbie GouldPAdam Podlesh

    4. Minnesota

    Coach: Leslie Frazier (4th year, 16-22)

    Last year: 10-6, second

    Outlook: Adrian Peterson literally carried the Vikings to the playoffs last year, and might need another heroic effort to get his team there again. Christian Ponder is in a make-or-break year. The defense has a budding star in Harrison Smith.

    WR impact rank: 28th. Cordarrelle Patterson could develop into a star, but otherwise this unit is castoffs and unproven youngsters.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBChristian PonderDEBrian Robison
    RBAdrian PetersonDTLetroy Guion
    FBZach LineDT*Kevin Williams
    WRGreg JenningsDEJared Allen
    WRJerome SimpsonOLBChad Greenway
    TEKyle RudolphMLBErin Henderson
    LTMatt KalilOLBMarvin Mitchell
    LGCharlie JohnsonCBJosh Robinson
    CJohn SullivanCBChris Cook
    RGBrandon FuscoSJamarca Sanford
    RTPhil LoadholtSHarrison Smith
    KBlair WalshPJeff Locke

    NFC SOUTH

    1. Atlanta

    Coach: Mike Smith (6th year, 56-24)

    Last year: 13-3, first

    Outlook: The Falcons have made steady progress under Smith and Matt Ryan, and should contend for a Super Bowl berth again. Steven Jackson is the new running back, and a solid defense adds Osi Umenyiora and first-round pick Desmond Trufant.

    WR impact rank: 2d. Julio Jones and Roddy White are among the NFL’s top 10 receivers, and Harry Douglas is a solid No. 3.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBMatt RyanDEKroy Biermann
    RBSteven JacksonDTJonathan Babineaux
    FBBradie EwingDTCorey Peters
    WRJulio JonesDEOsi Umenyiora
    WRRoddy WhiteOLBStephen Nicholas
    TETony GonzalezMLBAkeem Dent
    LTSam BakerOLBSean Weatherspoon
    LGJustin BlalockCBAsante Samuel
    CPeter KonzCBDesmond Trufant
    RGGarrett ReynoldsSWilliam Moore
    RTLamar HolmesSThomas DeCoud
    KMatt BryantPMatt Bosher

    2. New Orleans

    Coach: Sean Payton (7th year, 62-34)

    Last year: 7-9, third

    Outlook: The best offseason addition in the NFL wasn’t a player — it was Payton coming back from his one-year suspension. Now Drew Brees can focus on what he does best — leading the NFL’s most potent offense. The defense will likely hold the team back again.

    WR impact rank: 15th. Marques Colston and Lance Moore are a nice 1-2 punch, but there’s not much depth behind them.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBDrew BreesDEAkiem Hicks
    RBPierre ThomasNTBrodrick Bunkley
    FBJed CollinsDECameron Jordan
    WRMarques ColstonOLBJunior Galette
    WRLance MooreILBJonathan Vilma
    TEJimmy GrahamILBCurtis Lofton
    LTCharles BrownOLBMartez Wilson
    LGBen GrubbsCBJabari Greer
    CBrian De La PuenteCBKeenan Lewis
    RGJahri EvansSRoman Harper
    RTZach StriefSMalcolm Jenkins
    KGarrett HartleyPThomas Morstead

    3. Tampa Bay

    Coach: Greg Schiano (2nd year, 7-9)

    Last year: 7-9, fourth

    Outlook: The Bucs are well-coached and play tough under Schiano, and have a lot of good talent on the roster, between Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, Lavonte David, and Darrelle Revis. But it’s all going to come down to Josh Freeman, who completed 54.8 percent of his passes last year and is wildly inconsistent.

    WR impact rank: 13th. Vincent Jackson is a monster and Mike Williams is a nice No. 2.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBJosh FreemanDEDa’Quan Bowers
    RBDoug MartinDTGerald McCoy
    FBErik LorigDTAkeem Spence
    WRVincent JacksonDEAdrian Clayborn
    WRMike WilliamsOLBDekoda Watson
    TELuke StockerMLBMason Foster
    LTDonald PennOLBLavonte David
    LGCarl NicksCBDarrelle Revis
    CJeremy ZuttahCBLeonard Johnson
    RGDavin JosephSDashon Goldson
    RTDemar DotsonSMark Barron
    KRian LindellPMichael Koenen

    4. Carolina

    Coach: Ron Rivera (3rd year, 13-19)

    Last year: 7-9, second

    Outlook: No more excuses for the Panthers in Year 3 of Rivera and Cam Newton, who has put up flashy stats but hasn’t won a lot of ballgames. An improving defense should be even better with rookie Star Lotulelei, but the Panthers don’t have the offensive firepower to compete in the toughest division.

    WR impact rank: 23rd. Steve Smith still has talent at age 34, but he doesn’t have much help.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBCam NewtonDECharles Johnson
    RBDeAngelo WilliamsDTDwan Edwards
    FBMike TolbertDTStar Lotuleilei
    WRSteve SmithDEGreg Hardy
    WRBrandon LaFellOLBThomas Davis
    TEGreg OlsenMLBLuke Kuechly
    LTJordan GrossOLBJon Beason
    LGAmini SilatoluCBJosh Thomas
    CRyan KalilCBCaptain Munnerlyn
    RGGarry WilliamsSMike Mitchell
    RTByron BellSCharles Godfrey
    KGraham GanoPBrad Nortman

    NFC WEST

    1. San Francisco

    Coach: Jim Harbaugh (3rd year, 24-7-1)

    Last year: 11-4-1, first

    Outlook: The 49ers were one play away from winning the Super Bowl, and there’s little reason to think Harbaugh won’t have his team competing for back-to-back trips. Colin Kaepernick now gets 16 games to unleash the Pistol offense, and a dominant defense adds Nnamdi Asomugha for good depth.

    WR impact rank: 27th. They better hope Anquan Boldin has enough left in the tank.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBColin KaepernickDERay McDonald
    RBFrank GoreNTIan Williams
    FBBruce MillerDEJustin Smith
    WRAnquan BoldinOLBAhmad Brooks
    WRKyle WilliamsILBNaVorro Bowman
    TEVernon DavisILBPatrick Willis
    LTJoe StaleyOLBAldon Smith
    LGMike IupatiCBCarlos Rogers
    CJonathan GoodwinCBTarell Brown
    RGAlex BooneSDonte Whitner
    RTAnthony DavisSC.J. Spillman
    KPhil DawsonPAndy Lee

    2. Seattle

    Coach: Pete Carroll (5th year, 25-23)

    Last year: 11-5, second

    Outlook: The Seahawks might be the second-best team in the NFC, behind the 49ers. Russell Wilson was a huge revelation at QB, and the Seahawks are loaded on both sides of the ball, although losing Percy Harvin (hip) for the season and DE Bruce Irvin for four games (suspension) will hurt.

    WR impact rank: 11th. Nice unit would have been spectacular with Harvin.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBRussell WilsonDERed Bryant
    RBMarshawn LynchDTTony McDaniel
    FBDerrick ColemanDTBrandon Mebane
    WRSidney RiceDE*Chris Clemons
    WRGolden TateOLBK.J. Wright
    TEZach MillerMLBBobby Wagner
    LTRussell OkungOLBMalcolm Smith
    LGPaul McQuistanCBRichard Sherman
    CMax UngerCBBrandon Browner
    RGJ.R. SweezySKam Chancellor
    RTBreno GiacominiSEarl Thomas
    KSteven HauschkaPJon Ryan

    3. St. Louis

    Coach: Jeff Fisher (2nd year, 7-8-1)

    Last year: 7-8-1, third

    Outlook: The Rams were a tough team last year and figure to be even tougher in Fisher’s second year, especially on defense. Sam Bradford has shown flashes in his first three seasons, but now needs to take a big step forward with his new targets: Chris Givens, Tavon Austin, and Brian Quick.

    WR impact rank: 18th. Givens, Austin, and Quick have a lot of potential, but are unproven.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBSam BradfordDEChris Long
    RBDaryl RichardsonDTKendall Langford
    WRChris GivensDTMichael Brockers
    WRTavon AustinDERobert Quinn
    WRBrian QuickOLBWill Witherspoon
    TEJared CookMLBJames Laurinaitis
    LTJake LongOLBAlec Ogletree
    LGShelley SmithCBCortland Finnegan
    CScott WellsCBJanoris Jenkins
    RGHarvey DahlST.J. McDonald
    RTRodger SaffoldSDarian Stewart
    KGreg ZuerleinPJohnny Hekker

    4. Arizona

    Coach: Bruce Arians (1st year)

    Last year: 5-11, fourth

    Outlook: The Cardinals are starting over under Arians, but still expect to win after signing Carson Palmer to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald. If Arizona can find a semblance of a running game it could be a surprise team, but a brutal division will ultimately keep the Cardinals down.

    WR impact rank: 7th. Fitzgerald is still one of the best in the game. Michael Floyd wasn’t great as a rookie but has potential.

    STARTING OFFENSESTARTING DEFENSE
    QBCarson PalmerDECalais Campbell
    RBRashard MendenhallNTDan Williams
    WRLarry FitzgeraldDEDarnell Dockett
    WRMichael FloydOLBLorenzo Alexander
    TEKory SperryILBJasper Brinkley
    TERob HouslerILBKarlos Dansby
    LTLevi BrownOLBSam Acho
    LGDaryn ColledgeCBPatrick Peterson
    CLyle SendleinCBJerraud Powers
    RGPaul FanaikaSYeremiah Bell
    RTEric WinstonSRashad Johnson
    KJay FeelyPDave Zastudil