The new NFL season kicks off Thursday night with the Green Bay Packers visiting the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, followed by a full slate of games Sunday and Monday night.

Not caught up on the major storylines for 2014? Read these quick takes on all 32 teams and you'll sound like a seasoned pro around the water cooler. Do they still have those? Alright... charging station?

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: Traded up to draft receiver Sammy Watkins, but jury is out on second-year QB E.J. Manuel and the defence lost stars Kiko Alonso (injury) and Jairus Byrd (free agency).

Miami Dolphins: Should be less drama with bullying-scandal figures Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin gone.

New England Patriots: Perennial Super Bowl contenders hope QB Tom Brady's off year (for him) was a fluke and new cornerback Darrelle Revis can recapture his All-Pro form.

New York Jets: Same story — need coach Rex Ryan's defensive genius to cover for talent-poor offence and second-year QB Geno Smith's mistakes.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: Super Bowl champs in 2012 season, missed playoffs last year, now dealing with domestic-violence scandal involving star running back Ray Rice, who's suspended for the first two games.

Cincinnati Bengals: Everyone rags on QB Andy Dalton, but the Red Rifle has made the playoffs in each of his first three seasons and has never missed a start.

Cleveland Browns: Only a matter of time before Johnny "Football" Manziel replaces overrated Ohio boy Brian Hoyer at quarterback, but excitement tempered by NFL receiving-yards leader Josh Gordon's season-long marijuana suspension.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Fading power in danger of missing the playoffs for the third straight year, which hasn't happened since 1998-2000.

AFC South

Houston Texans: Last year's pre-season Super Bowl hopefuls lost their final 14 games, but bounce-back hopes abound after drafting pass-rush phenom Jadeveon Clowney first overall.   

Indianapolis Colts: Super third-year QB Andrew Luck is the Sun King of an otherwise thin roster. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: League's go-to laughingstock (despite winning more games than Houston and Washington) drafted project passer Blake Bortles third overall.

Tennessee Titans: Make-or-break year for oft-injured, erratic QB Jake Locker.

AFC West

Denver Broncos: League's top offensive team — Peyton Manning threw for a record 55 (!) TDs — was embarrassed by Seattle in the Super Bowl, then added veteran stars DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib to shore up the defence.

Kansas City Chiefs: Rode soft schedule, excellent health and run/catch machine Jamaal Charles to nine-game improvement, now a prime candidate to regress.

Oakland Raiders: Signed a bunch of OK veterans in an effort to reach mediocrity, then gave their starting QB job to rookie Derek Carr over shell-shocked vet Matt Schaub.

San Diego Chargers: Coach Mike McCoy rejuvenated veteran passer Philip Rivers last year, now must repair porous defence.


Philly's LeSean (Shady) McCoy rode coach Chip Kelly's innovative offensive tactics to an NFL rushing title last season. (Elsa/Getty Images)

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: Salary-cap concerns forced Jerry Jones to release star pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, putting more pressure on QB Tony Romo and receiver Dez Bryant to outscore opponents.

New York Giants: Two-time Super Bowl champ Eli Manning threw 27 picks last year (five more than anyone else) and the injuries piled up, but neither is likely to happen again.

Philadelphia Eagles: Division champs are really fun to watch with coach Chip Kelly's vanguard offensive tactics and aggressiveness on fourth down helping NFL rushing champ Shady McCoy run wild.

Washington: Seriously, ditch the nickname already, guys.

NFC North

Chicago Bears: Former CFL coach Marc Trestman's pass-happy offence leans on massive receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but the defence needs to rebound from an un-Chicago-like year.

Detroit Lions: Perennial disappointments ditched coach Jim Schwartz for Jim Caldwell, who should try to rein in QB Matt Stafford and continue to feed peerless receiver Calvin Johnson.

Green Bay Packers: Won the division despite losing MVP-calibre QB Aaron Rodgers for half the season, and now he's back to form a potent pass/run combo with second-year back Eddie Lacy.

Minnesota Vikings: Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater waits in the wings if/when Matt Cassel falters, while new coach Mike Zimmer (ex-Bengals defensive boss) aims to improve everything surrounding star runner Adrian Peterson.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: Went from being a play away from the Super Bowl to 4-12 last year, but top wideout Julio Jones is healthy and Matt Ryan is a good passer.

Carolina Panthers: Defence sparked a surprise division title last year, but the offence is talent-poor and QB Cam Newton is already banged up.

New Orleans Saints: Have maybe the best coach-QB combo in the league with Sean Payton and Drew Brees, just need the defence to be good enough.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Respected defensive specialist Lovie Smith replaces volcanic coach Greg Schiano; running back Doug Martin, an excellent rookie two years ago, returns from a shoulder injury.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: Superb cornerback Patrick Peterson anchors an excellent defence, but veteran QB Carson Palmer (24 TDs, 22 INTs last year) is always a risk to implode.

San Francisco 49ers: Three straight NFC title-game appearances, but linebacker NaVorro Bowman is out with a knee injury, pass rusher Aldon Smith is suspended for nine games, and coach Jim Harbaugh reportedly was close to leaving in the off-season.

Seattle Seahawks: Youth and skill on both sides of the ball gives the Super Bowl champs a much better chance of repeating than fluky Ravens and Giants title teams that preceded them.  

St. Louis Rams: Ever-disappointing QB Sam Bradford is out for the year with a knee injury, but the defence is fierce, even in a division of fierce defences.