NFL team training camps got under way earlier in the week, the first true sign that the kickoff to the 2008 season is approaching.
To get you caught up and prepared for all the action, here's a breakdown of some of the big stories, teams and players to keep an eye on throughout the coming year.
Rebuilding the Dolphins
It will take more than an off-season to heal the wounds left by an NFL-worst 1-15 season and the departure of a majority of the coaching staff, but it should be interesting to see just how the Dolphins do in their first year of rebuilding.
No. 1 overall draft pick Jake Long has the potential to be a franchise tackle, and fellow rookie Chad Henne should give some competition to John Beck at quarterback. But the real area of focus is on the front office, where Bill Parcells was brought in -- but not as a coach -- meaning it remains to be seen if he can work his turnaround magic from somewhere other than the sidelines.
That turnaround won't be easy, but after last season, the team has nowhere to go but up.
The Brett Favre Saga
What should've been a hero's goodbye for one of the game's best ever has turned into a complete mess for both Favre and the Packers. The record-setting QB has filled out his papers for reinstatement after initially retiring at season's end, but the Packers are ready to move on. Unfortunately, the only thing worse for them in this situation would be to see Favre bolt for a division rival like the Vikings, so team GM Ted Thompson asked Favre to stay at home, out of training camp.
It's a finger-pointing, flip-flopping nightmare on both sides, and I'm doubtful anyone involved has a clue how this story will end.
Can the Patriots Do It Again?
Forget Spygate; that was hammered into our heads enough during the offseason. Now is the time for focus to shift entirely to the team and whether it has the pieces to repeat last season's undefeated performance -- but this time finish with a Super Bowl trophy.
Obviously things look promising on offense as long as Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker are out there, but the defensive secondary took a hit in the offseason with the departure of Asante Samuel and Rudy Gay, not to mention the injury to Ellis Hobbs. The Pats brought in some new faces to fill the spots. Time will tell just how much of a hit that pass defense will take.
Going undefeated again is unlikely, but you can probably bet on another trip to the playoffs for New England.
How Good Will the Vikings Really Be?
I'm not predicting any Super Bowls, but I wouldn't be shocked to see Minnesota upset a few teams and make a run at the NFC North title. After his rookie season, tailback Adrian Peterson is already an elite player and adds a much needed reliable ground game to an offense that doesn't have the most polished QB in Tavaris Jackson.
Still, second-year wideout Sidney Rice is a red-zone playmaker who could quietly rack up big touchdown numbers, and the offseason signing of Bernard Berrian adds dangerous speed at receiver.
Defense was already an area of strength, and the acquisition of DE Jared Allen -- who led the NFL in sacks last year -- will only make it stronger.
Trouble in Cincinnati
As if a losing record last season wasn't bad enough, the Bengals have been bombarded with off-the-field issues that only make matters worse heading into this season. Often-troubled receiver Chris Henry was suspended indefinitely following his fifth arrest in April, and linebacker Odell Thurman was released -- and subsequently suspended from the league -- after failing multiple drug tests.
On top of all that, star wideout Chad Johnson held a public display of drama throughout the offseason where he demanded to be traded. Johnson has since resolved his issues and is ready to begin workouts, but he is only one small part needed if the Bengals are to return to their AFC North-winning 2005 form.
Is Dallas Ready to Win It All?
For the past two years the Cowboys have come up just short, posting good records and earning playoff spots but failing to advance once they got there.
This season, the question will once again be whether QB Tony Romo is ready to take his team to the next level -- and whether the Jessica Simpson curse will be a factor. Terrell Owens has remained relatively drama-free and the addition of Adam "Pacman" Jones to the secondary is a can't-lose situation for Dallas.
The talent is there, just as it has been for a couple seasons now, so all eyes should be on whether the Cowboys can turn the corner and be the Super Bowl contender everyone thought they could be last year.