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Tampa Bay Bucs among the most improved NFL teams

The NFL season doesn't start for another five months, so every team with their 0-0 record thinks next season will be a good season. But on the heels of the NFL draft, we look at five teams that took a giant step forward in the offseason. Only one looks like a legitimate Super Bowl contender and perhaps none of these teams are on the same level as the Saints or the Colts. Still there's a reason for optimism that next season will be way better than last season. Here is our Fab Five.

New York Jets

They went to the AFC Championship Game last season so this was already a pretty good team. Quarterback Mark Sanchez now has a season under his helmet and the Jets have given him help by adding wide receiver and former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes and running back and former Chargers great LaDainian Tomlinson. The NFL's best defense in 2009 added cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and first-round pick Kyle Wilson and it already has the best corner in football in Darrelle Revis. Provided the mix of personalities doesn't blow up under coach Rex Ryan, the Jets are now a serious Super Bowl contender.

Detroit Lions

No need to map out parade routes just yet, but this team will win more games next season than the last two seasons combined. That won't be hard because they only won two games the past two years. Still, you get the feeling the Lions are turning the corner. Quarterback Matt Stafford looks like the real deal and many believe the Lions got the best player in the draft in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh from Nebraska. They also added running back Jahvid Best out of Cal. Six or seven victories are possible and that sounds great to a team that has won only three times in the past 40 games.

Kansas City Chiefs

With their first pick, the Chiefs may have picked up the player most ready to make an impact — safety Eric Berry out of Tennessee. He's already drawing comparisons to Baltimore's Ed Reed. On offense, they picked up 1,400-yard rusher Thomas Jones and drafted Largo's Dexter McCluster, who could play wide receiver for the Chiefs. The biggest offseason move of all might not even be a player, but a coach. The Chiefs brought in Charlie Weis to run the offense. Maybe Weis can't coach Notre Dame, but he proved in New England that he knows how to direct an offense and quarterback Matt Cassel should get only better.

Seattle Seahawks

When USA Today came out with its draft grades, only one team got an A-plus. It was the Seahawks, who were just one of two teams to get an A from ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. The Seahawks picked up stud left tackle Russell Okung from Oklahoma State and big-time safety Earl Thomas from Texas in the first round, Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate in the third round and they traded to acquire LenDale White, Leon Washington and Kevin Vickerson. But most of all, they added a dynamic coach in former USC coach Pete Carroll, who seems better equipped for the NFL this time around. The Seahawks could easily win a weak NFC West.

Tampa Bay Bucs

That's right. Don't rub your eyes. The Bucs are better. Are they playoff bound or even a .500 team? Probably not. But they are better. Hey, don't forget this team won two of its final three games last season, including a victory over the eventual-champion Saints, and was competitive for most of the second half — about the same time Josh Freeman took over at quarterback. A strong draft produced what could be several starters, including No. 3 overall pick Gerald McCoy. And the schedule is not daunting. Yes, the Bucs still have holes and they remain a work in progress. But the word is "progress.'' We are feeling it.

Tampa Bay Bucs among the most improved NFL teams 04/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 8:29am]

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