Bucs Push For The Playoffs; How It Could Still Happen

Believe it or not, your Tampa Bay Buccaneers remain playoff eligible heading into week 16 of the season. Here's how they can get in...

The Basics...

Six teams make the playoffs from each conference, four division champions and two wildcard teams; the two teams with the best records that didn't win a division championship. As of right now, this is the ranking of all the teams in the NFC, the conference the Bucs play in, that can still qualify for the playoffs:

  1. Atlanta Falcons 12-2 (current South Division leader)
  2. Philadelphia Eagles 10-4 (current East Division leader)
  3. Chicago Bears 9-4 (current North Division leader)
  4. St. Louis Rams 6-8 (current West Division leader)
  5. New Orleans Saints 10-4 
  6. New York Giants 9-5
  7. Green Bay Packers 8-6
  8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8-6
  9. Seattle Seahawks 6-8 (can only qualify as West Division winner)

The Bucs can't win the South Division but can still qualify for one of the wildcard spots...under the following circumstances (for the sake of simplification, we'll be ignoring all the scenarios that don't directly inmpact the Buccaneers):

Scenario #1:

  • The Bucs win both of their remaining games, giving them a final record of 10-6.
  • The New Orleans Saints lose both of their remaining games, giving them a final record of 10-6
  • The New York Giants lose both of their remaining games, giving them a final record of 9-7
  • The Green Bay Packers lose one or both of their remaining games, giving them a record of 9-7 or 8-8.

The Bucs claim the #1 wildcard spot by virtue of finishing with the same record as the Saints and tied with the first two tiebreakers (head-to-head and record within the division), but winning the third tiebreaker (record vs common opponents).

Scenario #2:

  • The Bucs win both of their remaining games, giving them a final record of 10-6.
  • The Saints beat the Falcons this week but lose to the Bucs the following week, giving them a final record of 11-5.
  • The New York Giants lose both of their remaining games, giving them a final record of 9-7
  • The Green Bay Packers lose one or both of their remaining games, giving them a record of 9-7 or 8-8.

The Bucs claim the #2 wildcard spot by virtue of having a better record than the Giants and Packers

Scenario #3:

  • The Bucs win both of their remaining games, giving them a final record of 10-6.
  • The Saints beat the Falcons this week but lose to the Bucs the following week, giving them a final record of 11-5.
  • The New York Giants beat the Packers but lose to the Redskins, giving them a final record of 10-6
  • The Green Bay Packers lose one or both of their remaining games, giving them a record of 9-7 or 8-8.

This one is tricky. The Bucs and Giants would finish with identical records and deadlocked through the first three tiebrakers; head-to-head, (not applicable), best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference and best won-lost-tied percentage in common games. The fourth tiebreaker is "strength of victory", which is the combined winning percentage of teams beaten. Right now, that is extremely difficult to calculate but the Giants have a huge edge. The Bucs would need a lot of wins from the Bengals, Rams, Cardinals and 49ers while getting losses from the Bears, Texans, Lions, Cowboys, Jaguars, Vikings and Packers. The simpler variation, and not good for the Bucs is the Giants lose to the Packers but beat the Redskins, which gives them the common opponents tiebreaker.

Scenario #4:

  • The Bucs win both of their remaining games, giving them a final record of 10-6.
  • The Saints beat the Falcons this week but lose to the Bucs the following week, giving them a final record of 11-5.
  • The New York Giants lose both of their remaining games, giving them a final record of 9-7
  • The Green Bay Packers win both of their remaining games, giving them a record of 10-6.
The Bucs claim the #2 wildcard spot by virtue of having a better conference record than the Packers.
It IS possible for the Bucs to get in as the #2 wildcard with a 9-7 record but the combination of factors needed to make that happen are extremely difficult to present coherently at this time. It's much simpler if we just follow the credo of coach Raheem Morris and get 10 wins, or at least take another crack at it next week.

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