The story in Miami is no different.
The Dolphins faithful can hang their dreams on a defense that was the NFL's fourth-best last year, the acquisition of free agent Joey Porter, and the replacement of Nick Saban with new head coach Cam Cameron.
Those with true rose-colored glasses can even point to Trent Green's arrival as a step in the right direction.
To the unbiased observer, however, things don't look promising.
Not that you can blame them for believing, of course; that's what true fans are supposed to do.
The problems for the Dolphins begin at the quarterback position. Daunte Culpepper, Joey Harrington, and Cleo Lemon played poorly enough in 2006 that the club was compelled to trade for an aging, inconsistent quarterback who may or may not be fully recovered from a serious concussion suffered last year.
Green has had his fair share of good seasons in Kansas City, but his performance in 2006—especially after returning from his injury, and even more especially in the Chiefs' Wild Card loss to the Colts—was well below average.
If Green is the answer in Miami, the Dolphins are asking the wrong question.
Even worse, the Fins had a chance to fix their quarterback situation before it ever got to Green: Brady Quinn fell into their laps in the first round of the draft, but the team passed—apparently citing the need not to have a franchise quarterback.
Instead, the Dolphins drafted Ohio State WR/KR/IR Ted Ginn Jr., a hit-and-miss threat whose presence may or may not be felt anytime in the next five years.
Ginn could be either the next Devin Hester or the next Peter Warrick. Quinn, on the other hand, could be the next Dan Marino....or he could be the next slightly better version of Trent Green.
In any event, Cameron has an uphill climb ahead of him. He worked wonders with the Chargers (or did the Chargers work wonders with him?), and he'll be acting as his own offensive coordinator in Miami. Whether he turns out to be a Brian Billick offensive genius or a Mike Martz offensive genius remains to be seen.
Cameron does have a budding star in RB Ronnie Brown, who has the potential to fill a LaDainian Tomlinson-type role. The rest of the offense is a question mark, though, especially given the decline of WR Chris Chambers and the issues along the offensive line.
As was the case last year, the defense will have to win games for the Dolphins in 2007. DE Jason Taylor is the league's reigning Defensive Player of the Year. MLB Zach Thomas is coming off a solid season and leads a strong linebacker corps alongside Porter and Channing Crowder.
The Dolphins' schedule doesn't offer much encouragement. An early three-game stretch against Oakland, Houston, and Cleveland will help, but Miami's second half is brutal: Starting in Week Seven, the Fins have New England twice, Buffalo twice, three games against the best of the AFC North, the Jets at home, the Eagles away, and the Giants in London...which by the way leaves the team with only seven home games.
Miami might not win a game after Halloween.
Essentially, the 2007 Dolphins look an awful lot like the 2006 model. The defense will be leaps and bounds better than the offense. A new quarterback may or may not work out as planned. Questions abound on the O-line and at several skill positions.
And, most importantly, Miami will be back at the bottom of the AFC East.
Projected finish: 3-13, 4th AFC East
Keep your eyes on: LB Channing Crowder—Will fit in great with Thomas and Porter.
Take your eyes off: TE David Martin—Like Randy McMichael, minus the catching.