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Could the Buccaneers go from worst to first?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hoping to go from worst to first, something that used to be a mainstay of NFC South teams -- but the Bucs haven't managed to pull it off since 2007. Writing for ESPN, Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz gives the fourth-best chances in the NFL to from worst to first.

Football Outsiders gives the Bucs a 24.6% chance of making the playoffs, which isn't great, but isn't the worst either. The why  is a lot more interesting than the exact odds, though, and Schatz point out that while it's easy to construct a scenario where everything goes right, it's a lot more likely that something eventually goes wrong.

The problem with that story is that it just isn't very likely, except for the part about Winston. Martin is unlikely to repeat the strong performance of his 2015 season. The Bucs are adding a bunch of old guys to a mediocre defense; Grimes in particular is past his prime, but at least he's not on a milk carton at this point like Alterraun Verner. Carolina's defense will take a step back -- their high turnover ratio last year will lead to a regression effect that's the opposite of what will happen to the Cowboys -- but the Panthers' inexperience at cornerback will probably still be masked by a spectacular front seven, making it hard for any other team to win the NFC South.

The biggest problem may be something that isn't mentioned here: the Bucs' tough schedule. They're set to have one of the hardest schedules in the league by most analysts' reckoning, including that of Football Outsiders. Meanwhile, they're coming off one of the easiest schedules in the league. Even substantial improvement in quality of play may not lead to a big bump in win totals, leaving the Bucs outside the playoffs for the umpteenth time.

I'm going to give preference to the optimistic scenario. The one where not everything goes right, but enough does to give the defense a boost, and Jameis Winston's improvement manages to compensate for the rest. Maybe it's finally the Bucs' turn to get lucky. It's been long enough.