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One thing each NFC team can do to earn spot in Super Bowl LIV

Super Bowl LIII's nearly upon us -- but 30 teams already have begun the effort to reach Miami next February for Super Bowl LIV. Here's one thing each NFC team can do to supplant the Los Angeles Rams as conference champions.

Arizona Cardinals: Be right about Kliff Kingsbury. No team in the NFL feels further away from the Super Bowl than the Cardinals, so it's safe to say there's more than one thing this roster needs. This was the worst team in the NFL by a wide margin in 2018, and it will be tough for Arizona to cover up all its shortcomings -- especially on the offensive line -- in one offseason. Enter Kingsbury. General manager Steve Keim is banking on the new coach providing Josh Rosen with a schematic advantage, like Frank Reich did for Andrew Luck and Matt Nagy did for Mitchell Trubisky as first-time NFL head coaches in '18. If Keim isn't quickly proven right, there could more organizational upheaval a year from now.

Atlanta Falcons: Build the defense Dan Quinn talks about having. It is easy to get hypnotized by Falcons coach Dan Quinn's offseason speeches about speed, energy and accountability on defense. It has been much tougher for Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff to translate Quinn's defensive philosophy into production; his defenses haven't ranked in the top 20 in DVOA in any of Quinn's four seasons at the helm. Whether it's because the pass rushing talent isn't good enough or Quinn's coaching doesn't move the needle, the Falcons' defense has consistently underperformed relative to expectations. Injuries alone didn't explain their 2018 showing. We'll see if Quinn taking over the play-calling makes a difference.

Carolina Panthers: Pray to the Football Gods for Cam Newton's shoulder. The work that GM Marty Hurney must do to improve line play on both sides of the ball pales in importance compared to something that is totally out of Hurney's control. The Panthers will go as far as Cam Newton's right arm takes them. Newton was already streaky with accuracy before his recent surgery, the second on his right shoulder. The latest procedure is a concern for coach Ron Rivera entering a season where he'll likely be on the hot seat. Early, optimistic timetables about Newton's recovery don't mean much at this point, because all offseason timetables are optimistic.

Chicago Bears: Expand Mitchell Trubisky's playbook. Year 1 of the Matt Nagy era went better than anyone could have expected, resulting in an NFC North title and a home playoff game. That includes Trubisky's development, which followed a Jared Goff-like, second-year leap from overwhelmed rookie to mid-level offensive caretaker. Now comes the hard part. With every starter expected back on offense, the biggest opportunity for the Bears to grow will come in the offseason. Goff noticeably took on more responsibility at Rams practices before his third season, and it translated in the games that counted. It's on Nagy and Trubisky to build the Bears offense together, with more expected from the quarterback in 2019.

Dallas Cowboys: Pay DeMarcus Lawrence his money. A year ago in this spot, I made the case for the Cowboys to release Dez Bryant. Jerry Jones can use some of the savings from Bryant's departure to give soon-to-be free-agent pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence all the money. After backing up his breakout 2017 campaign with a 10.5-sack effort in '18, Lawrence is one of the top five defensive linemen in football. At 26 years old, he's cap space well spent.

Detroit Lions: Find defensive difference-makers.Matthew Stafford's stagnant 2018 season in a stale Lions offense got a lot of attention. So did coach Matt Patricia's press-conference demeanor. Less talked about: a total lack of defensive playmakers. The Lions are beefy up front (with Damon Harrison, A'Shawn Robinson and Da'Shawn Hand) in a spread-it-out world. Who are opposing offenses worried about in the back seven, aside from cornerback Darius Slay? Heading into Year 4 of his tenure, GM Bob Quinn needs to find some difference-makers through the draft or free agency -- preferably both.

Green Bay Packers: Maximize Aaron Rodgers' strengths. Talent isn't the issue. Aaron Rodgers went God Mode enough in 2018 to prove he still has it. Left tackle David Bakhtiari, wideout Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones provide a stable foundation to build from. New coach Matt LaFleur is a mystery, but any change for Rodgers should be positive after it became so clear his marriage to Mike McCarthy lost its spark years ago. Getting a fresh voice in Rodgers' ear may be just as important as getting fresh ideas in the playbook.

Minnesota Vikings: Fix the offensive line. The carefully constructed defense coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman have created can only take the Vikings so far -- and it can only stay together for so long. With excellent talent throughout the skill positions, the potential for growth clearly lies with the offense. Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who landed the full-time gig after serving in an interim capacity in 2018, needs to create an offense that takes advantage of its incredible wideouts without driving Zimmer to grumble to reporters about establishing the run. That is only possible to do with a better offensive line. While play-calling and Kirk Cousins' struggles in big games drew plenty of criticism, the bottom line is, the Vikings weren't going anywhere with their line performing as poorly as any in the league. The coaching and the personnel need to be better.

New Orleans Saints: Move on. Sean Payton said it well: The Saints will probably never get over the no-call toward the end of regulation in their NFC title-game loss. That will be doubly true if it's the closest 40-year-old Drew Brees ever gets to a Super Bowl again. Payton sets the tone for his team, and how he navigates this group past one of the most brutal playoff defeats imaginable will be a huge challenge. Just a few seasons removed from three straight 7-9 seasons, Payton and Brees are well aware that it's easier to fall right out of the playoffs -- like 2017 conference title game participants Jacksonville and Minnesota did in '18 -- than it is to get homefield advantage once more.

New York Giants: Say goodbye to Eli Manning. This is not about what's out there in free agency or in this draft. To keep Manning at quarterback is to accept a ceiling on the Giants' potential. If the team can protect Manning well and supply him with open receivers early in the down, the Giants' offense can be functional. But hoping your franchise quarterback maxes out as, say, the 16th-best starter in the league is aiming too low. The championship window with Manning has passed. They've already won two titles with him -- hanging on for another year or two in hopes of one last 9-7 season is just delaying a future the Giants should embrace after recording five losing seasons in six years.

Philadelphia Eagles: Swing big on the offensive line. Left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce and guard Brandon Brooks are longtime mainstays with uncertain futures due to big contracts, retirement and injury. Facing an offseason with a ton of moving parts throughout the roster, GM Howie Roseman will make aggressive moves, if past history is any indication. Even with a tight cap situation, the Eagles have proven nimble at making trades or finding value in the market.

San Francisco 49ers: Improve their injury luck. GM John Lynch knows that his roster needs a lot of work, especially on defense. But a little more injury luck would also go a long way. The 49ers ranked 23rd in Football Outsiders' adjusted games lost in 2017, then lost Jimmy Garoppolo, running back Jerick McKinnon and a host of others throughout the 2018 season. Lynch needs to build on an improved 2018 draft class with another big draft and spend wisely in what is likely to be a busy 49ers free agency period.

Seattle Seahawks: Draft another edge rusher. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer understandably took heat for the Seahawks' wild-card loss to the Cowboys, but it was also notable that Pete Carroll's defense couldn't get fourth-quarter stops against a limited offense. The team had a higher offensive DVOA ranking for the season (ninth) than defense (14th), and the lack of pass rushers outside of Frank Clark was one big reason why. The Seahawks can use the franchise tag to retain Clark, but he could use someone to serve as the Cliff Avril to his Michael Bennett.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Address the secondary ... again. The good news is that new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has a strong history of coaching up defensive backs, especially under new Bucs coach Bruce Arians during their time together in Arizona. The bad news is that the Bucs don't have many sure things on the roster, despite spending six picks on the secondary over their past three drafts (including two second-rounders in 2018 and a first-rounder on Vernon Hargreaves in '16). The new Bucs staff will have to quickly evaluate which remaining players fit in their plans, then attack free agency and the draft to cover up the remaining holes.

Washington Redskins: Do the impossible by finding a good, cheap quarterback. The Redskins are operating as if Alex Smithwon't be back for the 2019 season. But his $20 million cap figure remains, which complicates the team's efforts to regroup at the position. With current backup Colt McCoy not looking like a long-term solution, the Redskins are likely to look to veterans and the draft for help. Smith's salary could also impact decisions on whether to keep veteran defenders Josh Norman and Zach Brown.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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