FOX Sports South offers up 10 NFL teams that are guaranteed to experience a jump in victories for 2015, relative to last season. Our definition of a jump constitutes two or more wins. To clarify, we're not cementing playoff berths or forecasting championship success for every franchise here. The only common thread amongst the group: There will be substantially more highs than lows, compared to last year's levels of progress. (Photos: Mike Dinovo/Ron Chenoy/Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports)
2014: 7-9 ... OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: WR Mike Wallace, LB Casey Matthews; Draft -- CB Trae Waynes, LB Eric Kendricks ... REASONS FOR OPTIMISM: 1) Barring an unforeseen trade, RB Adrian Peterson (right -- 3,751 total yards, 24 TDs from 2012-13) returns from last year's personal nightmare and reclaims his legacy as a Hall of Fame shoo-in. 2) Of his final six games last year, rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater (left -- 2,919 yards passing, 15 total TDs) accounted for 300 yards passing and/or multiple TDs five times. 3) The Vikings defense -- led by Everson Griffen (12 sacks), Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith -- held the opposition to under 20 points seven times last year. 4) Minnesota could go 6-1 or 5-2 from Weeks 6-12 -- taking on the Chiefs, Lions, Bears, Rams, Raiders, Packers (home) and Falcons. (Photos: Raj Mehta/Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports)
2014: 7-8-1 ... OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: CB Charles Tillman; Draft -- LB Shaq Thompson, WR Devin Funchess ... REASONS FOR OPTIMISM: 1) The 2014 Panthers became the first NFC South team in history to claim back-to-back division titles. 2) QB Cam Newton (left) will bounce back, after posting career lows in yards passing (3,127) and TDs (23). It helps to have Kelvin Benjmain (right) as the go-to target. 3) The left side of the O-line looks sturdy (center Ryan Kalil, OG Andrew Norwell, OT Michael Oher), which should bolster the rushing attack. 4) Don't be fooled by the Panthers' 21st ranking in scoring defense (23.4 ppg). Carolina surrendered 19 or fewer eight times last year. 5) Carolina may be favorites for its first four games -- Jacksonville, Houston, New Orleans, Tampa Bay. (Photos: Kirby Lee/Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)
2014 RECORD: 3-13 ... OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Free agency -- WR Michael Crabtree, C Rodney Hudson, RB Roy Helu, RB Trent Richardson, S Nate Allen, DT Dan Williams, LB Malcolm Smith; Draft -- WR Amari Cooper, DT Mario Edwards, TE Clive Walford, LB Ben Heeney ...REASONS FOR OPTIMISM: 1) The Raiders shall no longer be laughingstocks in the NFL, partially due to last year's 1-2 draft punch of LB Khalil Mack (left -- future All-Pro) and QB Derek Carr (right -- 3,271 yards passing, 21 TDs). 2) Oakland added 3-5 starters during free agency, which doesn't even account for the stealth acquisition of Helu. 3) RB Latavius Murray averaged 96 total yards/0.4 TDs in his final five games. 4) The Raiders have forged a substantial upgrade at receiver, with Cooper, Crabtree and Kenbrell Thompkins. (Photos: Kyle Terada/Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
2014: 2-14 ... OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: LB Brian Orakpo, CB Perrish Cox, WR Harry Douglas; Draft -- QB Marcus Mariota, WR Dorial Green-Beckham ... REASONS FOR OPTIMISM: 1) Last season, the Titans became the first team in 35 years to start a rookie left tackle (Taylor Lewan -- right), rookie tailback (Bishop Sankey) and rookie QB (Zach Mettenberger) in the same game. 2) The Titans have nice depth at QB, featuring Mettenberger (a future NFL starter) and Mariota (left), the No. 2 overall draft pick. 3) Orakpo (40 career sacks) should bolster a Titans defense that ranked 18th in sacks last year (39). 4) From a talent standpoint, the enigmatic Green-Beckham could someday rival the numbers/real-world impact of receiver Dez Bryant. 5) It's rare for NFL teams to post back-to-back seasons of 2-14. (Photos: Cary Edmondson/Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets
2014: 6-10 ... OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Free agency -- CB Darrelle Revis, CB Antonio Cromartie, CB Buster Skrine; Draft -- DE Leonard Williams, WR Devin Smith, QB Bryce Petty ... REASONS FOR OPTIMISM: 1) With add-ons Revis, Cromartie, Skrine and Leonard Williams, the Jets should have a top-5 defense in 2015. 2) The Jets substantially upgraded their receiving corps, trading for Brandon Marshall and drafting Devin Smith. As such, Marshall and Eric Decker (left) are now candidates for 85 catches/1,200 yards/9 TDs. 3) In last year's Week 17 finale, QB Geno Smith crushed the Dolphins for 358 yards passing/three TDs. 4) For Weeks 6-14, Muhammad Wilkerson (right) and the Jets (vs. the Redskins, Patriots, Raiders, Jaguars, Bills, Texans, Dolphins, Giants, Titans) should go 6-3 during that stretch. (Photos: Steve Mitchell/John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Giants
2014: 6-10 ... OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Draft -- OL Ereck Flowers, S Landon Collins, DE Odighizuwa Owamagbe ... REASONS FOR OPTIMISM: 1) It's Year 2 for the Giants offense under O-coordinator Ben McAdoo. In its final five games last season, New York averaged 29 points per outing. 2) QB Eli Manning (above) enjoyed a stellar campaign in 2014, passing for 4,410 yards, 30 touchdowns and just 14 INTs. He even torched the vaunted Rams defense for 391 yards and three TDs in Week 16. 3) Odell Beckham Jr. posted the second-greatest rookie campaign of the Super Bowl era, among wideouts (trailing only Randy Moss, circa 1998), rolling for 91 catches, 1,305 yards and 12 TDs. 4) In the Tom Coughlin-Manning era, the Giants have won the Super Bowl whenever playing the AFC East during the regular season (2007, 2011). The same holds true for 2015.
Getty ImagesRobert Deutsch
St. Louis Rams
2014: 6-10 ... OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Trade -- QB Nick Foles; Free agency -- DT Nick Fairley; Draft -- RB Todd Gurley, OT Rob Havenstein, QB Sean Mannion ... REASONS FOR OPTIMISM: 1) The Rams have been building a steady playoff contender over the years -- minus the quarterback and wide receiver. 2) Foles and Mannion have staying power with the Rams -- even if the club relocates to Los Angeles. Mannion projects to be a down-the-road threat for 4,000 yards passing; Foles is two years removed from 2,891 yards passing/27 TDs over just 10 starts with the Eagles. 3) The Rams' blossoming defense (led by Aaron Donald, left, and Robert Quinn, right) allowed an average of 16 points in the final nine games -- including back-to-back shutouts. 4) St. Louis is finally primed to leapfrog San Francisco and Arizona in the rugged NFC West.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY SportsBrad Mills
2014: 3-13 ... OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Free agency -- TE Julius Thomas, CB Davon House; Draft -- Dante Fowler, Jr. (torn ACL), RB T.J. Yeldon, WR Rashad Greene, DT Michael Bennett ... REASONS FOR OPTIMISM: 1) On paper, it doesn't make sense that three AFC South clubs would improve by two games in 2015. But with J-ville, how hard can it be to rise from three to five wins? 2) It's a shame Justin Blackmon (NFL suspension) didn't get reinstated. The Jaguars are slowly building a solid receiving corps in Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns and Rashad Greene. 3) New tight end Julius Thomas had more receiving TDs with Denver last year (12) ... than passing TDs from rookie Blake Bortles (11 -- right). 4) RB Denard Robinson (left) averaged 105 total yards/1 TD from Weeks 7-10 last year. (Photos: Tommy Gilligan/Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2014: 2-14 ... OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Free agency -- LB Bruce Carter; Draft -- QB Jameis Winston, OT Donovan Smith, C Ali Marpet, LB Kwon Alexander ... REASONS FOR OPTIMISM: 1) The Bucs have far more talent than last year's record suggests; they also have one of the NFL's best head coaches (Lovie Smith). 2) Winston should be Tampa Bay's Day 1 starter. 3) Smith loves to run the ball, and the Bucs' duo of Doug Martin (right) and Charles Sims both have the capacity for 1,000 yards/double-digit TDs. 4) Winston (left) inherits the superb receiving tandem of Mike Evans (68 catches/1,051 yards/12 TDs) and Vincent Jackson. 5) After its Week 7 bye last year, Tampa Bay's defense yielded 27-plus points only twice (spanning 10 games). 6) The Bucs draw the middling AFC South this season. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
2014: 11-5 ... OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Free agency -- WR Andre Johnson, LB Trent Cole, RB Frank Gore, DT Kendall Langford; Draft -- WR Phillip Dorsett, CB D'Joun Smith ... REASONS FOR OPTIMISM: 1) The AFC South remains the AFC's weakest division; and 2015 represents the Colts' best chance -- during the Andrew Luck era -- to garner home-field advantage for the playoffs. 2) Luck (above -- 4,761 yards, 40 TDs last year) should be a strong candidate for NFL MVP, given Indy's reasonable shot at 13-14 wins and his absurd arsenal of playmakers (Gore, Johnson, Boom Herron, Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener and Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton). 3) The Colts defense kept the opposition under 20 points nine times last season -- including back-to-back playoff victories. 4) Indy draws the pedestrian NFC South this season.