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8 teams eligible for mandatory Hard Knocks inclusion

A hearty thanks to old friend Will Brinson, who reminds us that we now have a roster of Hard Knocks eligible teams.

Yes, you can get excited about the tournament that ends with Super Bowl LI. I will focus on a premium cable series that won't air a first-run episode for eight months.

As fans of the ground-breaking documentary series are surely aware, NFL owners passed a resolution in 2013 stating that teams can avoid mandatory inclusion on Hard Knocks if they fall under any of three exemptions: 1) They have a first-year head coach in place; 2) They have a playoff berth in the past two seasons; 3) They have appeared on Hard Knocks in the past 10 years.

Let's break it down:

Teams that will have a new head coach in place

Teams that have had a playoff berth in the last two seasons

Teams that have appeared on "Hard Knocks" in the last 10 years

So who does that leave us? Under the league parameters, 24 teams are eliminated from mandatory inclusion. It leaves us a group of eight: Bears, Buccaneers, Browns, Colts, Eagles, Ravens, Saints and Titans.

Our initial reaction: It feels like Hard Knocks has been doing a devil's dance with the Browns for years now, and the built-in storylines: Year 2 of Hue, the well-worn but still compelling Factory Of Sadness back story and the No. 1 overall pick all lay a nice foundation.

Then again, HBO and NFL Films might prefer to document a team with more immediate promise than a Cleveland franchise in the midst of yet another hyper-rebuild. The Season 11 study of the Rams gave us juice-deficient access what appeared to be a clearly mediocre (and as it turned out, much worse) Jeff Fisher team.

A perhaps more appeasing option that I will endorse: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a young team on the upswing with a charismatic franchise quarterback at the center of it all. The Bucs could also use the publicity that Hard Knocks brings. It feels like a win-win for both sides.

One final reminder: Any team can volunteer to be on Hard Knocks. So while there's a good chance the team comes from this pool of eight, it is not definite. OK, you can get back to your precious playoffs now.

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