The Bucs are 8-6 following their Sunday Night Football loss to the 12-2 Cowboys. The loss immediately dropped them from the 6th seed in the NFC to the 7th seed with the Panthers and Redskins playing on Monday night. A Redskins loss would mean the Bucs would get bumped back into the final spot with two games remaining in the regular season. Well…that’s exactly what happened. Now, the Packers are the only team the Bucs really need to worry about as both Green Bay and Tampa Bay have identical records across the board in both overall, division, and conference.
So we asked our writers this question…
If the Bucs win out – are they a lock to make the playoffs? Our own Ed Greene and Ryan Adams debate.
Ed says “No”
Like the great Lee Corso would say on College Gameday, “not so fast my friend!” Prior to Sunday Night’s game, the Buccaneers have been one of the league’s hottest and surprising teams. Yes, the loss in Dallas was heartbreaking, and yes, they fell a game behind the Falcons for the division crown, Tampa Bay still has a shot to make it into the postseason. These last two games (at New Orleans and at home against Carolina) are winnable, but it’s going to take a lot more than just winning to at least make the wild card.
With Washington losing to Carolina, it drops them a half game behind both the Bucs and Packers in the NFC. But Pewter Nation unfortunately doesn’t have complete control of their postseason destiny. Forget about winning the NFC South for the moment as Atlanta also closes against Carolina and New Orleans as well. Looking at the standings now, the best bet is for Tampa to win their last two games, coupled with either Green Bay or Detroit losing their last two games. And going by the schedules of both NFC North teams, the Packers seems more than likely to finish out their season with two straight wins. Now if by some miracle Atlanta loses one of their last two games while the Bucs win out, they’ll win the NFC South crown.
There are other factors involved in the case of ties, where the league has to consider the strength of schedule of potential postseason hopefuls, but we’ll be here all day trying to determine all the other team’s chances that are still in the hunt. The five game win streak was a huge factor, running the table from here on out will keep the Bucs’ hopes alive. But again, the Dallas loss was key in controlling their destiny, especially if Detroit defeats the Cowboys next Monday night. So for now Pewter Nation, cheer on your Buccaneers. Just to be on the safe side, it wouldn’t hurt to cheer on the Cowboys and Vikings next week either.
Ryan says “Yes”
I said it on The Scrum Sports podcast last week. Losing to the Cowboys isn’t the end of the world – although it would have all but secured the Bucs at least the wild card if not kept them tied for the NFC South crown. Well they lost to the Cowboys, and slipped back to the 7th seed. So with very winnable games left in New Orleans and back home to round out the season against those same Panthers who helped them out by taking down the Redskins – the Bucs have a legit shot to run the table and lock up that first playoff berth since 2007.
Of course, they’ll need some more help.
The Packers are the team directly ahead of them in the playoff race and Green Bay doesn’t exactly have it easy in the final two weeks of the season. Did you watch that very near choke job against the Bears last weekend? If not for one very deep and very clutch pass and catch between Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson that set up the game-winning field goal – we could be having a very different conversation. The Pack take on the Vikings this weekend in what could very well be a trap game. Minnesota has a legit defense and a healthy Adrian Peterson. It’s not going to be a pushover by any means and they could very well lose that game. If they do and the Bucs beat the Saints on the road (where they’re 5-2, by the way) then Tampa has that final wild card pretty much in hand.
Let’s say the Packers win and head to Detroit for a “must win” against the division-leading Lions. “Mr. Fourth Quarter” himself, Matt Stafford, is going to give that Green Bay defense fits as he did in Week 3 putting up 27 points on them despite Detroit losing. This is, in my mind, a different Lions team since that loss and for my money – they win the NFC North.
Of course, if the Lions lose to the Cowboys this weekend and Green Bay beats Minnesota, well…things get very interesting come Week 17. But that’s a story and a debate for another time…if that scenario takes place at all
Can the Bucs clinch the wild card if they win their final two games of the season to finish an unprecedented 10-6?
Yes. Yes they absolutely will.
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