2013 record: 12-4

Why the pessimism? The Panthers came out of nowhere to improve by five games and win the NFC South. The defense should remain solid, but they lost a lot of pieces on offense and are suspect at the receiver position. This is an aging roster that will go only as far as Cam Newton carries it.


2013 record: 8-8

Why the pessimism? The defense looked bad last year, and losing DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee and Jason Hatcher is not going to make things any better. The offense still has weapons and will have to carry the Cowboys if they hope to make a run at their annual 8-8 record.


2013 record: 11-5

Why the pessimism? The Chiefs shocked the NFL by reeling off nine consecutive wins to start the season. They then limped into the playoffs and fell to Andrew Luck and the Colts. Some key losses across the offensive line and a lack of receivers means this team could be in for a fall.


2013 record: 12-4

Why the pessimism? The 49ers will spend a considerable amount of time without linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith to start the year. After being on the cusp of the Super Bowl the last three years, it’s quite possible that San Francisco will not get another opportunity to clear the hump.


2013 record: 4-12

Why the pessimism? It’s almost impossible for the Bucs to fall lower than a four-win season. That isn’t why they are on this list. Many talent evaluators believe they’ve improved more than any other team this offseason. And while they might have, the season hinges on journeyman quarterback Josh McCown.