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NFL Week 12: The NFC Playoff Picture

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NFC South Standings

Atlanta 8 2 0 256 192
Tampa Bay 7 3 0 209 206
New Orleans 7 3 0 235 170
Carolina 1 9 0 117 252

(updated 11.22.2010 at 4:51 AM EST)

Tampa Bay fans are living large today. The world is a happier place because their young, upstart Buccaneers are an improbable 7-3. My sports radio-filled commute this morning was filled with hosts talking playoffs. My co-workers are talking playoffs instead of business this morning. Hell, even my fiancée is talking playoffs and she barely watches the games. But there is a problem…

The phrase "if the season ended today" is a sports media favorite, but its a trite cliché used mainly to hype up the matchups well in advance of the postseason and give fans of teams in the hunt something to root for in other games. In reality, there’s a reason that the league plays 16 games, because the season doesn’t end today and things change, often drastically, in the final weeks of the season.

But, I’m a sports blogger and I just can’t help myself.

If the season ended today the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be watching the playoffs from their couches.

The Atlanta Falcons would win the NFC South, the Philadelphia Eagles the East, and the Green Bay Packers or Chicago Bears the North. The wild card teams would be the New Orleans Saints and either the Bears or Packers.

That’s right, at 7-3 the Buccaneers would be on the outside looking in but the 5-5 Seattle Seahawks would host a home playoff game. Oh, that good ol’ NFC West! The NFC South may be the best division in football as it hosts arguably three of the NFC’s best teams and one of them may be left home come the post season.

Rays fans, is this sounding awfully familiar?

The Buccaneers have had an incredible start and are no doubt exactly where they had hoped to be, but there is still work to be done. A tough road test this week in Baltimore is the first step followed by matchups against the two teams they are chasing with Atlanta at home on Dec. 5 and a Week 16 game in New Orleans that ultimately may decide the season.

One thing is for sure; it’s going to be a fun ride.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.