Tampa Bay Buccaneers Playoff Picture and Draft Order

Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a losing record, but are they out of the playoff hunt yet? And where do they stand on draft order?

Seven games into the 2012 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't have a clear shot at the playoffs. With a 3-4 record, they're 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Falcons (6-0) for the division crown. Barring some massive injury streak in Atlanta, the Falcons probably can't be caught this season. But the Wild Card picture is a lot closer, and the Bucs are far from disqualified on that front.

With a 3-4 record, the Bucs lead just three NFC teams in the Wild Card. Only the Detroit Lions (2-4), the New Orleans Saints (2-4) and the Carolina Panthers (1-5) have a worse record. Moreover, the Bucs' conference record (2-4) and head-to-head losses to the New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants would lead them to lose on tiebreakers in many cases.

Yet they're still close to the playoffs. Currently, the Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks are tied at 4-3 for the final Wild Card. That means the Bucs are just one game behind several teams in the playoff hunt. Unfortunately, they would actually lose to each of those teams on tiebreakers right now, but there's still time for that to change.

The Bucs don't have the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL. Football Outsiders ranked their future schedule as the 11th hardest - fairly middle of the road, and that was before they beat the 11th-ranked Minnesota Vikings. With a road trip to Oakland, a home game against the San Diego Chargers and a trip to to the Carolina Panthers coming up the Bucs have three very winnable games on their docket. It would not be a surprise if they emerged from that series with a 6-4 record, and their playoff prospects would look a lot rosier.

Still, this would be far from easy. The Bucs have yet to face the Atlanta Falcons, who they must play twice, and the Denver Broncos in Denver will be a tough nut to crack. If they lose those three games, the Bucs must win every other game on the schedule -- which includes Philadelphia, New Orleans and St. Louis -- to have a shot at the playoffs. That would leave them with a 9-7 record, where they'd have to sneak into the playoffs on tiebreakers. A 10-6 record would almost certainly guarantee them a playoff berth, but would require a 7-2 run over the next nine weeks.

If the Bucs miss the playoffs, the draft picture would be the only relevant one. There, the Bucs are currently tied with seven other teams for the seventh overall draft pick. Ties are broken by opponent record, but it's much too early to start looking at that.

NFC Playoff Picture Right Now

Division Leaders

Atlanta Falcons (6-0)
Chicago Bears (5-1)
New York Giants (5-2)
San Francisco 49ers (5-2)

Wild Card

Minnesota Vikings (5-3)
Green Bay Packers (4-3)

In The Hunt

Arizona Cardinals (4-3)
Seattle Seahawks (4-3)
Dallas Cowboys (3-3)
Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
St. Louis Rams (3-4)
Washington Redskins (3-4)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)
Detroit Lions (2-4)
New Orleans Saints (2-4)
Carolina Panthers (1-5)

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