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Sound Sleepers
Sure, they're a bit of a gamble, but these five players are primed for their big breakout. If your bet on one or more of them pays off, you could be sitting pretty come December
From the Editor
Air and Space
Inside: The Week in Sports
Inside
2006 NFL Preview
Believe
A team jumping from worst to first isn't so rare anymore, which means everyone's preseason playoff hopes aren't crazy at all. It really is anybody's ball game
Play Loud
Yeah, his bark is bad--but his bite is worse, which is what makes voluble All-Pro Joey Porter not just the most quotable but also the most feared player in football
Just Arrived
They are the next generation of NFL superstars, nine players coming off big years in which they revealed extraordinary talent that has placed them among the elite
Back in the Open
Larry Johnson's transformation from enigmatic malcontent to maturing leader has been as quick and dramatic as one of his bursts up the middle
1 Miami Dolphins
The starting lineup makes this club the AFC team to beat! (It's a different story if stars like Daunte Culpepper go down)
3 Buffalo Bills
While quarterbacking remains the talk of the town, it's the high-impact special teams that could spark a resurgence
4 New York Jets
The new coach made his name patching up the Patriots' defense, but the holes in this team won't be easily filled
2 Baltimore Ravens
Starting with the passer, the retooled roster is a Who's Who of onetime stars. The question is, How much do they have left?
3 Cincinnati Bengals
Forget about the high-powered offense for a minute. Even if Carson Palmer comes back strong, is the defense up to snuff?
4 Cleveland Browns
Roster turnover has produced hope for the 3-4 defense and-smile if you've heard this one before-stability at quarterback
1 Indianapolis Colts
The team that always produces regular-season pyrotechnics looks for ways to keep from petering out in the playoffs
2 Jacksonville Jaguars
The "reward" for last year's big success is a tougher schedule, but this team-eager to go deeper in the playoffs-can handle it
3 Tennessee Titans
Bring Vince Young along slowly? Don't count on it. He'll get a sniff of the action early, and then ... let's see what happens
4 Houston Texans
While Mario Williams is a quick fix on D, there's a lot of work involved (new system, new players) with repairing the offense
1 Denver Broncos
The AFC runners-up got a big-play threat in Javon Walker, the missing ingredient in their drive to the Super Bowl
4 Oakland Raiders
Back in Silver and Black, Art Shell is cracking the whip, and the Hall of Fame tackle is starting with the offensive line
3 Dallas Cowboys
They took a big chance on the game's most controversial player, but if all goes well, the potential payoff is huge
1 Chicago Bears
Coach Lovie Smith continues to emphasize defense, but it's time for Rex Grossman and the offense to pull their weight
2 Detroit Lions
The Motor City makeover brings a new coach, a new offense, a new quarterback and-most important-a new attitude
3 Minnesota Vikings
It's a clean slate (well, almost) for a new coach who has big plans for the offense and for keeping the players in line
4 Green Bay Packers
Brett Favre takes one more shot, but glory will be elusive unless the line, the back and the wideouts all come through
1 Carolina Panthers
A team that was one healthy back short of the Super Bowl last year will go all the way if its ground game stays potent
3 Atlanta Falcons
They have a running problem, and it's not Michael Vick. The defense has to do a better job of stopping ballcarriers
4 New Orleans Saints
Their return to the Big Easy and the debut of Reggie Bush have fans buzzing; if only there were more to be excited about
1 Seattle Seahawks
Losing the league's best guard is a serious blow to the ground game-not serious enough to deny a third straight division title
2 St. Louis Rams
The Greatest Show on Turf is sticking closer to earth as a new coach puts a renewed emphasis on rushing and defense
4 San Francisco 49ers
A new coordinator and additional playmakers help the offense, but this club is still taking only baby steps back to respectability
Life of Reilly
Departments
A Herd of Zebras
A third brother having earned his stripes, the Paganellis are the first trio of siblings to officiate in the NFL
Does Power Corrupt?
Absolutely, say Tiger Woods and others who worry that high-tech golf equipment--and the threat of steroids--are hurting the game