Among residents of the football-crazy state of Florida, there is competition for bragging rights over which of the state’s three NFL teams is the best. Heading into 2011, the competition is close among the three, but hardly fierce. It’s not as if this is the state of Pennsylvania, where it looks as if both the Eagles and Steelers both have legitimate Super Bowl hopes. The Jacksonville Jaguars are coming off an 8-8 year, and the Miami Dolphins are coming off a year where they lost their final three games to finish 7-9. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were clearly the best team in Florida last year, finishing with a surprising 10-6 record and making it to the playoffs.
In 2011, it’s hard to imagine anything more than continued mediocrity for Jacksonville and Miami. Each has a less-than-stellar quarterback situation and a reasonably physical defense that can keep the team in games. The difference for Tampa is that they have a rapidly developing young quarterback in Josh Freeman. If Freeman can take another step forward from an excellent year in 2010, he’ll keep the Bucs moving forward, and they will stay head and shoulders above their Florida neighbors for the foreseeable future.