With eleven games down, we are inching closer to the conclusion of the regular season, and the playoff picture is beginning to take a slight shape. ESPN’s NFL Playoff Machine is back, so it’s a good time to start talking about playoffs. Playoffs?? We’re talking about playoffs?!
The Bucs come-from-behind victory against the Colts in Indianapolis increased their lead in the division and improved their playoff odds.
Let’s take a look at the updated NFC South Standings:
- TB: 8-3
- ATL: 5-6
- CAR: 5-7
- NO: 5-7
The Bucs still find themselves in first place in the NFC South with a 3-game cushion. Just about a month ago on Halloween, Tampa only had a half-game lead for the division after falling to the Saints in New Orleans. Since then, the Saints have dropped five straight, largely in part to the loss of QB Jameis Winston to a torn ACL.
The Bucs are looking to win the division for the first time since 2007. If the Bucs win their next three games (@ATL, vs. BUF, vs. NO) they will be NFC South Champions and will have clinched a playoff berth. The Bucs would have 11 wins and would have handed Atlanta and New Orleans their seventh losses, making it impossible for anyone else in the division to reach 11 wins. What a treat it would be for Bucs fans if they win the division at home on Sunday Night Football against the defending NFC South Champions!
The Bucs still have aspirations of finishing as the #1 seed in the NFC. The Bucs know how important it is to have home-field in the playoffs this year with full stadiums. Last year the Bucs rolled through the playoffs on the road as a wild card team, but empty or limited capacity stadiums made the daunting task just a little easier. So far, the Bucs are undefeated at home and have had some struggles on the road. Up until the Colts game, the Bucs had not scored 30 or more points on the road. A first-round bye and home-field advantage would be huge for the Bucs.
Let’s take a look at the updated NFC Conference standings:
- AZ: 9-2
- GB: 9-3
- TB: 8-3
- DAL: 8-4
- LAR: 7-4
- SF: 6-5
- WFT: 5-6
The Bucs currently sit in third in the NFC, trailing Green Bay by a half-game and trailing Arizona by a game. Green Bay heads into their bye week after defeating the Rams. Many Bucs fans would’ve liked to see the Rams defeat Green Bay to allow the Bucs to jump into second, but the Packers win still helped the Bucs a little because they would have needed another loss from the Rams if they’re going to finish as the top seed. A Bucs win on Sunday against Atlanta would give the Bucs the same record as the Packers, but the Packers would still remain in second due to having a better conference record. Tampa would need another loss from Green Bay in order to pass them.
Assuming the Bucs were to win out, they would need the Cardinals to lose to the Cowboys in Dallas in Week 17 to jump them, based on the common opponent tiebreaker. Otherwise, if the Cardinals were to beat Dallas, the Bucs would need the Cardinals to drop two other games.
If the Season Ended Today
As it stands right now, the Bucs would play host to the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card round. However, with a lot of football still remaining and a tight cluster of teams fighting for a wild card spot, the playoff picture is likely to change several times before the season ends.