By Tom Jones
Published November 5, 2006

The poll

The Devil Rays finished last. The Lightning is off to a sluggish start. And the Bucs are bringing up the rear in the NFC South. So the present isn't looking great. But what about the future? We asked you: Of the three pro teams, which one's future looks darkest? Here are the results:

Bucs chat

I listened to the Jon Gruden news conference last Monday, and one thing is clear. I'm tired of all the excuses. The man does not look in the mirror to see the problem. The Bucs offense since he has been here has been better than 22nd in the league only once, and this man is an offensive guru? Suggestion to Mr. Gruden: Look around the league and see what other successful offenses are doing. (It's not just talent - another excuse.) Open your mind and change to what works.

Greg Fudala, Largo

What they're saying

They're always close games. A lot of guys know each other, have been around each other for a while. The teams know each other. There are certain ways you play against certain teams. And it just so happens that we're competitive from top to bottom.

Saints guard Jamar Nesbit to the New Orleans Times-Picayune on how good the NFC South is

Saints QB Drew Brees must find his rhythm in the short, controlled passing attack to set up the running game. Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will attack the Saints' rushing game and force the Saints into a one-dimensional team through the air. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden must find a way to jump-start his offense against a Saints defense that can be exploited. Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs will load up the box against the run and attack QB Bruce Gradkowski with his multiple zone pressure schemes in passing situations. If the Saints are going to make a run at the NFC South title, they must win this game on the road.

ESPN Insider

The Saints come to Raymond James. A (Bucs) win and the season can be salvaged. A loss - and it's time to start looking forward to next year.

Peter Schager, FoxSports.com

The picks

Sixth-round Toledo Rocket Bruce Gradkowski runs his starting record to 3-2. Got a Man Law for you, Burt Reynolds: Jon Gruden is the best in the business at getting lightly regarded passers to play competently in the NFL. Bucs 16-13.

Peter King, Sports Illustrated

The Saints didn't play well in losing to the Ravens last week, so now come the questions as to how good they really are. The Bucs led them late three weeks ago but lost when Reggie Bush ripped a punt for a touchdown. This time, the Bucs hold on. Bucs 21-14.

Pete Prisco, CBS Sportsline

Devil Rays: 188 votes (69 percent)

Bucs: 72 votes (27 percent)

Lightning: 11 votes (4 percent)

Baltimore, loss, 27-0

Record: 0-1

at Atlanta, loss, 14-3

Record: 0-2

Carolina, loss, 26-24

Record: 0-3

at New Orleans, loss, 24-21

Record: 0-4

Cincinnati, win, 14-13

Record: 1-4

Philadelphia, win, 23-21

Record: 2-4

at N.Y. Giants, loss, 17-3

Record: 2-5

New Orleans, 1 (Ch. 13)

Nov. 13: at Carolina, 8:30 (ESPN, Ch. 28)

Nov. 19: Washington, 1 (Ch. 13)

Nov. 23: at Dallas, 4:15 (Ch. 13)

Dec. 3: at Pittsburgh, 1 (Ch. 13)

Dec. 10: Atlanta, 1 (Ch. 13)

Dec. 17: at Chicago, 1 (Ch. 13)

Dec. 24: at Cleveland, 1 (Ch. 13)

Dec. 31: Seattle, 1 (Ch. 13)