Seven teams open to mandatory 'Hard Knocks' stage

As the coaching carousel spins on this Red Monday, let's focus on the important stuff. Like, who will star on the next season of Hard Knocks?

A refresher: NFL owners passed a resolution in 2013 stating that teams can avoid mandatory inclusion in the acclaimed HBO documentary series 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.

Now that the playoff field is set and we appear to have a grip on which teams will have new coaches by September, here are the seven organizations that can be tapped by the NFL to headline on premium cable: Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams.

Keep in mind that teams can also volunteer to take part in Hard Knocks, as the Falcons did in 2014. This past season focused on the Houston Texans, who went on to win the AFC South and further obliterate the mindless "Hard Knocks is a distraction" narrative that will surely pop up in the comment section below. Fun fact: The last six teams to appear on the show have improved or matched their record from the season before.

HBO typically announces the Hard Knocks team in late May or early June. As always, I'll handle the weekly episode recaps. This is literally the most important thing I do here.

Here's a Spotify playlist that doubles as the Hard Knocks 2015 soundtrack. Never forget J.J. Watt rapping to Fort Minor.

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