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Posted: Thursday July 9, 2009 1:35PM; Updated: Thursday July 9, 2009 3:09PM
Don Banks Don Banks >

Five sizzling storylines to watch in each division as camp begins

Story Highlights

The entire 2009 season could hinge on Tom Brady's surgically repaired knee

With scapegoat T.O. now in Buffalo, Tony Romo's out of excuses in Dallas

More on Brett Favre, Josh McDaniels, the Detroit Lions and other juicy topics

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The Jets hope first-round pick Mark Sanchez can replicate Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco's success by reaching the playoffs as a rookie.
The Jets hope first-round pick Mark Sanchez can replicate Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco's success by reaching the playoffs as a rookie.
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With NFL training camps opening in a little more than two weeks, it's time to dive into all the juicy storylines we've watched develop throughout the long offseason. Here's my ranking of the league's eight divisions, based on the sizzle factor of their top five subplots. Consider it a primer on the 40 hottest topics of the coming NFL season.

NFC North

1. Stop me if you've heard this one before: Brett Favre will try to get a ring and a little revenge at the same time. In Minnesota, no less.

2. Cutler gives Chicago a top-notch quarterback for the first time since Sid Luckman retired.

3. Will the Lions ever win another game? It's 17 losses and counting in Detroit, meaning rookie head coach Jim Schwartz can go 1-15 and claim first-year success.

4. Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford will start for Detroit this season. The question is: How soon will the Lions throw their No. 1 pick to the, uh ... rest of the league?

5. Once Favre becomes a Viking, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers will be the division's longest-tenured starting quarterback, in terms of continuous service with one team. You can look it up.

AFC East

1. Not to overstate this, but the outcome of the entire 2009 NFL season could hinge on the state of Tom Brady's surgically repaired left knee.

2. Terrell Owens will spread his unique brand of sunshine in Buffalo, where it's usually quite cloudy and gray for most of the fall and winter.

3. If nothing else, the Jets won't play boring football. It'll be fun watching rookie head coach Rex Ryan try to back up his brash offseason talk and make a playoff team out of these Jets.

4. Speaking of great expectations, the Jets hope rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez turns into the next Joe Namath and not the next Richard Todd.

5. What can Miami and Chad Pennington possibly do to top their magic carpet ride of 2008?

AFC West

1. With a new general manager, head coach and starting quarterback, the Chiefs hope their total makeover pays immediate dividends the way Atlanta's did last season.

2. After a rocky offseason, rookie head coach Josh McDaniels needs to prove he's up to the big job he landed in Denver.

3. Kyle Orton used to be in Chicago. Jay Cutler used to be in Denver. We're waiting to discover if the Broncos are better or worse for the switch.

4. Tom Cable says he's the guy who can end Oakland's long nightmare, but that won't happen unless quarterback JaMarcus Russell takes a big step in Year 3.

5. The Chargers and LaDainian Tomlinson are still together. Now they have to prove celebrity breakups aren't inevitable these days.

AFC North

1. The Browns lacked both discipline and victories last season. New head coach Eric Mangini must supply a bunch more of both in Cleveland.

2. Baltimore's Joe Flacco finished just one game shy of the Super Bowl as a rookie quarterback. Talk about a tough encore.

3. The last time the Steelers were coming off a Super Bowl win, they went 8-8 and missed the playoffs in 2006. Coach Mike Tomlin must prevent Pittsburgh from getting fat or sassy.

4. It's time for Cleveland to find out what it has in Brady Quinn. If Derek Anderson wins the Browns' starting QB job, it won't be good news.

5. It's a make or break season for just about everyone in Cincinnati, starting with the receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson.

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