NFL Shorthand

The most concise NFL preview ever: 32 sentences on 32 teams.

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The start of the NFL season brings thousands of previews. This isn't unusual, but no league is easier to forecast at the top nor harder to forecast in the middle and bottom. Here's a very concise look at the NFL.

New England is the best team. Indianapolis is second and those two are followed by a gaggle of teams that includes Dallas, Jacksonville, Seattle, Minnesota, San Diego and Green Bay. Last year, the gaggle included different teams (except Seattle and San Diego which have settled into a consistent run of good but not quite great teams).

Most of the previews focus on "skill" players like quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and cornerbacks, but the real key to win is in the trenches where a usually anonymous bunch of offensive and defensive linemen engage in a hand-to-hand combat. Your team's star quarterback won't look very good if he's on his back a lot. But, your team's defense will look really good if opposing quarterbacks don't have time to throw or opposing running backs are usually struggling just to get back to the line of scrimmage.

Yet in the character-driven world of sports media, linemen rarely get their due. So in the name of offering a slight correction to this situation, here's an NFL preview that focuses on how teams fare where it counts—at the point of attack.

1. The Super Bowl champion New York Giants could barely afford to lose one great defensive end in Michael Strahan, but losing a second, Osi Umenyiora dooms their season to mediocrity.

2. Dallas keeps its linemen remarkably healthy (important since the drop-off from starter to reserve offensive lineman is usually steep), and they should enable Cowboy fans to forget about Jessica Simpson.

3. The play of the Washington Redskins defensive front four was as much as part of their late season run as the memory of slain free safety Sean Taylor, but except for Anthony Montgomery, the unit is old and likely to experience age-related declines.

4. Philadelphia has a Super Bowl contender of a team everywhere but in the offensive line, and that weakness should knock them down to a wild-card contender.