Daniel Jeremiah, former NFL scout and now an analyst for NFL.com, has examined every bottom-dweller in the NFC to determine which team has the best chance of making it to the top of the division this year. His conclusion: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the best chance of winning the division.
(1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(2011 record 4-12) (NFC South Division Winner- New Orleans 13-3)
Why it will happen:
I've heard nothing but positive things about the discipline and structure that new head coach Greg Schiano has brought to the organization. That alone should be reflected in the win-loss column. Josh Freeman has rededicated himself following a disappointing 2011 campaign and he should benefit from several new offensive additions. Vincent Jackson will provide Freeman with a true No. 1 wide receiver while Carl Nicks will be a huge (literally and figuratively) addition at left guard. On defense, first-round pick Mark Barron should provide some big plays at safety while he develops into the leadership role held by current veteran Ronde Barber. The drama in New Orleans has made the goal of catching the Saints more attainable, and despite their recent success, the Atlanta Falcons don't seem to scare anybody.
Why it won't happen:
The Bucs will be relying on a lot of new faces to contribute in key roles. While it's conceivable that things could come together quickly, it will likely take a few games to smooth out some rough areas. The defense has already been dealt a big blow after losing second-year lineman Da'Quan Bowers to an Achilles injury last month. There is reason for optimism in Tampa Bay, but you can't sugarcoat the fact that this team is coming off a season in which it lost the last 10 games.
It's interesting that Jeremiah's so positive about the Bucs, while Joel Thorman was a lot more negative. But the Bucs are getting a lot of positive reactions to their new regime, and that's always good to see.