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A lot can happen between now and the start of the 2024 NFL season: injuries, training camp battles, last-minute roster changes. But now that the first wave of free agency is in the books, it's a little easier to project which teams are closer to contending than others. Keeping in mind that April's draft will further shape the short- and long-term futures of every franchise, we decided to take stock of the league as it stands, "seeding" teams in the spirit of March Madness.

Here, we're tackling the NFC specifically, ranking every team from No. 16 to No. 1 after a week of frenetic activity:

16 seed: Carolina Panthers

Bryce Young's offensive line is thankfully a bit stronger on the interior, and Johnson actually gives the receiving corps some sizzle. But this still feels like a preseason-level outfit. A lot will fall on new coach Dave Canales.

15 seed: Arizona Cardinals

The investment in both sides of the trenches is commendable. But where is the skill talent? Kyler Murray still has some dual-threat dynamism, but the perimeters remain sorely devoid of playmakers.

14 seed: New York Giants

The front seven should be formidable with Burns joining Kayvon Thibodeaux, but the offense still lacks any legitimate punch. Is another signal-caller on the way to challenge Lock and/or Daniel Jones for the starting job? Even so, the line and pass catchers remain iffy.

13 seed: Washington Commanders

New coach Dan Quinn and general manager Adam Peters have reshuffled the whole deck. The middle of the defense should be more physical. But until a real answer arrives under center, the offensive tweaks feel like mild upgrades.

12 seed: New Orleans Saints

The endless salary-cap manipulations have kept them from making a major splash, and while Young brings upside to a tough, if aging, defense, the same concerns remain about the ceiling of a Dennis Allen and Derek Carr-led attack.

11 seed: Chicago Bears

Obviously everything hinges on the presumptive quarterback pick atop the draft. But Swift and Allen bring a solid pairing of burst and reliability to the offensive infrastructure, and Matt Eberflus' unit found its groove late in 2023.

10 seed: Minnesota Vikings

It's Kwesi Adofo-Mensah's world, with Cousins' exit signaling a justified shift into long-term strategy. Darnold is a so-so placeholder under center, but they've got real strengths at the skill spots and across a growing defense.

9 seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

GM Jason Licht was initially heralded for "running it back" after their 2020 title run. He's once again excelled at retaining core vets, including Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans. But have they improved? Or are they still just scrappy?

8 seed: Seattle Seahawks

This is a transition year for Seattle, where Geno Smith may or may not be settled as the signal-caller. Mike Macdonald's arrival atop the staff should help the defense tighten up and better utilize its multi-level talent.

7 seed: Atlanta Falcons

It all comes down to Cousins, who's been more steady than special. Fortunately, he's got young weapons in Bijan Robinson and Kyle Pitts, plus an underrated defense and fresh leaders like Raheem Morris and Zac Robinson.

6 seed: Los Angeles Rams

Donald's exit leaves an unfillable hole at the anchor of their "D," and Matthew Stafford's durability is always a question at his age. But emergent playmakers like Kyren Williams and Puka Nacua should benefit from a beefed-up line.

5 seed: Green Bay Packers

Perhaps no player did more for his team's future stock than Jordan Love late in 2023. The young gunslinger now has a bruising ball carrier in Jacobs to help balance a Matt LaFleur lineup flush with ascending pass catchers.

4 seed: Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys still possess some of the game's top playmakers on both sides, from Dak Prescott to CeeDee Lamb to Micah Parsons. The concern: What's changed? They've stood pat, and the big-game hurdles remain.

3 seed: Philadelphia Eagles

  • Key additions: QB Kenny Pickett (PIT), RB Saquon Barkley (NYG), OLB Bryce Huff (NYJ), LB Devin White (TB), S C.J. Gardner-Johnson (DET)
  • Key departures: QB Marcus Mariota (WAS), RB D'Andre Swift (CHI), C Jason Kelce (retired), DT Fletcher Cox (retired)

The offense is still comprised of all-world talent, with Barkley joining the splashy triumvirate of Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. But talent alone couldn't save them late in 2023, so the real X-factors reside on the staff, where coach Nick Sirianni has new coordinators on both offense (Kellen Moore) and defense (Vic Fangio). This truly feels like a boom-or-bust operation.

2 seed: Detroit Lions

Jared Goff proved he can still take a playoff-caliber lineup on a deep run, and now his defensive support should be slightly improved with Reader and Davis injecting battle-tested experience. With Dan Campbell and Ben Johnson refusing to dial down their aggression, and the O-line remaining one of the game's best, they still project as a well-balanced contender.

1 seed: San Francisco 49ers

There's a reason this team was one score away from dethroning the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl just a month ago. Brock Purdy is only hitting his stride as the point guard for Kyle Shanahan's all-purpose attack, and the vaunted defensive front might actually be better with Floyd and Collins joining Nick Bosa and Javon Hargrave. They're the cream of the crop.