Kaiserslautern RaidersLast year: 3-2 (lost semifinal)Coach: Aaron Scalise (fourth year)Returning talent: 10 players, 10 startersProjected top players: QB Bridger Hawkins (Sr.); WR Antwan Haynes (Sr.); WR Kilian Knight (Sr.); RB David Zaryczny (Jr.); LB Bradly Lemon (Sr.).Key games: Sept. 19 vs. Wiesbaden; Oct. 4 at RamsteinBad news: The program erased a seasons-long winless streak and launched into contention last season before falling in their playoff opener. Was that their peak, or can the Raiders take another step?Good news: In addition to a moniker fit for a buddy-cop flick, the quarterback-receiver duo of Hawkins and Haynes has the potential to form DODDS-Europe’s best airborne offensive attack.

Lakenheath LancersLast year: 0-6 (no postseason)Coach: Josh Kueter (first season)Returning talent: Seven players, five startersProjected top players: RB/LB Zach Adamson (Sr.); OL/DL Sam Dail (Sr.); RB/DB Nick Mills (Sr.); WR/K Elmer Ramos (Sr.); QB/DB Bailey Babineaux (Sr.); QB/DB Hunter Novotny (Sr.).Key games: Sept. 13 vs. Wiesbaden; Oct. 18 vs. KaiserslauternBad news: With a first-year head coach, an inexperienced roster and the lingering sting of a winless season, the situation is cloudy in the U.K.Good news: The schedule is as favorable as possible for the hopeful Lancers; they’ll tackle Wiesbaden, Ramstein and Kaiserslautern on Lakenheath turf and will cross the Channel just twice.

Patch PanthersLast year: 2-3 (lost semifinal)Coach: Bill Ratcliff (first season)Returning talent: 12 players, seven startersProjected top players: OL Brian Mogavero (Sr.); OL Josh Puentes (Sr.); QB Bryce Hill (Sr.); LB Jeremy Nix (Jr.); DB Jay Deal (Sr.).Key games: Oct. 4 at Vilseck; Oct. 18 vs. WiesbadenBad news: Two years removed from a title-game appearance, the Panthers find themselves at a crossroads in 2014. Can they hover around the playoffs and championship contention, or sink into the division’s lower tier?Good news: Ratcliff is new to this particular job, but he’s a former head coach at Vilseck and Seoul American and a linchpin of Panther athletics. His young team should respond.

Ramstein RoyalsLast year: 6-0 (lost championship game)Coach: Carlos Amponin (sixth season)Returning talent: Eight players, four startersProjected top players: WR/DB Gabe Moreno (Sr.); RB/LB Ben Ciero (Sr.); OL/DL Tyler Peoples (Sr.); RB/LB Antonio Ortiz (Sr.); OL/DL Clesson Allman.Key games: Oct. 4 vs. Kaiserslautern; Oct. 11 at WiesbadenBad news: Roster attrition and low preseason turnout have left the Royals as thin as they’ve been in recent memory, a problem exacerbated by the ongoing talent boom in Wiesbaden.Good news: Reinforcements are coming in from all angles: transfer (Lakenheath All-European Ciero), JV callup (new quarterback Tyler Dotson) and in-house return (Peoples, who missed the entire 2013 season with a shoulder injury).

Vilseck FalconsLast year: 2-3 (no postseason)Coach: Jim Hall (seventh season)Returning talent: 12 players, six startersProjected top players: WR/DB Johnathan Wade (Sr.); RB/LB Tiernam Callaghan-McCann (Sr.); RB/LB Andrew Pickney (Jr.); QB/DB Austin Archangel (Soph.); RB/DB Desmond Flanagan (Sr.).Key games: Oct. 4 vs. Patch; Oct. 18 vs. RamsteinBad news: A shrinking talent base is making it harder all the time for DODDS-Europe’s second-smallest Division I school to compete with its larger rivals. Good news: The gritty Falcons faced similar challenges last season and acquitted themselves well; they allowed the second-fewest points in Division I and earned a regular-season win over eventual champ Wiesbaden.

Wiesbaden WarriorsLast year: 4-2 (European champion)Coach: Steve Jewell (12th season)Returning talent: 14 players, 11 startersProjected top players: WR/DB CJ Pridgen (Sr.); QB/DE Tim Cuthbert (Sr.); RB/LB Anthony Little (Sr.); OL Hunter Lunasin (Sr.); OL Jack Tone (Sr.); DL Donovan Edwards (Sr.).Key games: Sept. 19 at Kaiserslautern; Oct. 11 vs. RamsteinBad news: It takes some effort to find reasons for pessimism in Wiesbaden, aside from the usual defending-champ concerns about complacency and the like. A relatively unproven group of linebackers might create issues if they fail to develop as expected. Good news: Again, almost everything. The skill positions are set, the lines are strong, the team’s speed runs circles around DODDS-Europe, Jewell’s system plays to his roster’s strengths, and more than half of last year’s starting lineup returns to provide guidance and leadership.

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