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Bucs may be mired in NFL’s toughest division

Posted Mar 21, 2011 by Ira Kaufman

Updated Mar 21, 2011 at 03:36 PM

BY IRA KAUFMAN

NEW ORLEANS—Thomas Dimitroff looks around at the rest of the NFC South and cringes.

New England’s former scouting director has served as general manager of the Falcons for three seasons and Atlanta won the NFC South in 2010, when the division posted a cumulative 36-28 record, despite a 2-14 mark by Carolina. The Falcons, Saints and Bucs averaged 11 wins between them and Dimitroff is impressed with the collective strength of the NFC South.

“I think it’s an incredibly challenging division from game to game and from quarter to quarter,’’ Dimitroff said Monday from the NFL owners meetings. “You just never know what you’re going to see. You basically have everything you could ask for in my mind—talented quarterbacks, big-time defenses, good coaches. It makes for quite a challenging division.’‘

The Falcons have beaten the Bucs in each of the past five meetings, but three of those wins were by four points or less. Dimitroff credited Tampa Bay’s coaching staff for helping the Bucs to a 10-6 record, a 7-game improvement that marked the NFL’s biggest turnaround in 2010.

“I’m very proud to be a part of this division and the Bucs have a very bright future,’’ Dimitroff said. “Our games against them could have gone either way and their talented quarterback (Josh Freeman) is going to do nothing but get better.’‘

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