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Three NFL teams in meltdown already

It doesn't take long in the NFL for a whole offseason of a city's frothy expectations to turn into full-scale panic.

Atlanta, New Orleans and Chicago are three franchises in deep trouble before we even get out of September.

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* The Falcons' woes were entirely predictable. In this case, fans couldn't have been expecting much from the team to begin with. Michael Vick's legal problems -- which just got worse when state prosecutors in Virginia decided to pile on the federal government's already incredibly effective investigation -- have doomed Atlanta for the foreseeable future. That is unless you think Byron Leftwich can be the answer. ... I didn't think so. The fiasco involving CB DeAngelo Hall (left), where he cost his team 67 yards on three penalties and then blew up on the coaching staff, was beyond belief.  The Falcons actually had a chance to win that game before Hall flipped out.  Reportedly, he's being dinged with a six-figure fine but no suspension.

* New Orleans is simply a sad situation that may be righted -- but it has to happen quickly. As much as an 0-3 start hurts, the season-long loss of much-respected running back Deuce McAllister is even worse. McAllister's absence puts even more weight on Reggie Bush, and I don't think he can be effective if he has to touch the ball 25 or 30 times every game. At least not at this stage of his career.

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* And in Chicago, coach Lovie Smith reportedly is pulling the plug on QB Rex Grossman after a 1-2 start. The belief in Chicagoland is that the unspectacular but steadier Brian Griese will be enough of an improvement to allow the Bears' defense and special teams win games. It'll help, but I don't think it'll be enough. The Chicago defense is a very good one, but I don't think they can consistently give Griese a short field and following the Cowboys' lead, a lot of opponents will not give Devin Hester the chance to beat them. The Bears have to win both games against Green Bay to win the NFC North, and I don't see that happening as long as there's breath left in Brett Favre.

Photo credit:  John Bazemore/AP

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