EAST Dallas - Assuming that a quarterback duel between veteran Danny White and youngster Gary Hogeboom doesn't rend the offense asunder, the Cowboys should be as solid as ever with the ball. The defense may not leave opponents shivering in their cleats anymore, but Coach Tom Landry has made sure complacency is not a problem.
Washington - It's hard to imagine the Redskins taking a bad nosedive. QB Joe Theismann won't let the offense sink slowly in the east. Besides, Coach Joe Gibbs has everybody playing with that old Redskin pride.
New York - If defense wins games, and in the NFL they say it does, this club should win its share. Middle linebacker Lawrence Taylor may be the best in the business, and he's surrounded by talent. The offense remains a question, with multiple-choice quarterbacks and no real gamebreakers.
St. Louis - More than a few experts think this will be a surprise team. After all, the Cardinals have improved steadily under Jim Hanifan. Still, given their division, moving up won't be easy.
Philadelphia - The bloom is off the Super Bowl bud of two years ago. Coach Dick Vermeil retired suddenly, quarterback Ron Jaworski is under fire, and things are generally on the rocks. CENTRAL
Green Bay - Don't breathe a word to anybody, but the Pack may actually be back this time. Of course, there have been so many false alarms under Coach Bart Starr that no one's getting his hopes up too high. But if Lynn Dickey can stay in one piece long enough make to connections with receivers John Jefferson and James Lofton, Green Bay ought to wrap things up in this weak division.
Chicago - Now that the Bears have a receiver with blazing speed in rookie receiver Willie Gault, and a quarterback in Jim McMahon to get him the ball, the offense could be more explosive and much improved.
Tampa Bay - So-so without quarterback Doug Williams, who has left for the USFL. Defense keeps them in the picture, though.
Minnesota - Bud Grant is a shrewd coach, and always seems to find a way to make things uncomfortable for opponents. The Vikings moved indoors last year, however, so the club can't win games anymore with its cold weather mystique.
Detroit - Spotty talent plus a history for getting little out of it on a consistent basis could put the Lions in the cellar. WEST
San Francisco - This is the age of the forward pass, right? And as long as it is, a team that throws the ball as well as the 49ers do is dangerous, especially with a quarterback like Joe Montana. Wendell Tyler, a pickup from the Rams, adds needed dash to the backfield as the Super Bowl champs of a year ago try to rebound from a disappointing 1982 campaign.
New Orleans - If you're looking for the only NFL team that's never had a winning season, you've just found it. Still, Bum Phillips has enough pieces in place to break .500.
Atlanta - New Coach Dan Henning will try to stabilize the unpredictable Falcons. The offense has all the tools for a quick turnaround, but the defense won't garner much fan mail.
Los Angeles - If Ray Malavasi really lost control of the Rams, maybe John Robinson, after a successful career at Southern Cal, is the man to restore it. In any event, one can expect noticeable, through probably not spectacular improvement this season. And oh, yes, watch for rookie running back Eric Dickerson.