Buccaneers playoff hopes not dead yet

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a crucial game and are almost out of the playoffs -- but they still have a mathematical chance.

The Bucs have a chance, you say? Even after losing to the Eagles, they have a chance to make a playoffs? Yes they do. A tiny, tiny chance -- but any chance is a chance. Right now, the Bucs are in trouble: they're two games behind Seattle and Chicago for a wild card spot, they're also one game behind three other teams and half a game behind the Rams. And they lose almost every tiebreaker, which usually involves head-to-head record and conference record.

Still, there are a few paths to the playoffs. Obviously, the Bucs must first win every game remaining on their schedule. They now cannot make the playoffs if they lose just one game, as they won't win tiebreakers against the Seahawks or Bears, who would at a minimum tie the Buccaneers in the end.

So, here's what does need to happen. The Bucs need two of three divisions to drop out of the wild card race. Here's the scenario for each division:

NFC North

Either the Chicago Bears or Green Bay Packers need to suffer a collapse. A collapse means losing two of the remaining three games in Chicago's case, or losing all of the remaining games in Green Bay's case. This is not implausible: the Chicago Bears play the Packers at home next week, then face the Cardinals and Lions on the road the last two weeks. They could easily drop two games there.

NFC East

The Buccaneers need two of the NFC East's three winning teams to collapse. By a collapse, I mean losing two games in the case of the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, or losing all three games in the case of the New York Giants. The Bucs lose tiebreakers to each of these teams (because they lost to all of them), so they cannot be tied with any of them at the end. This is a tough assignment, but it's not completely impossible.

The Redskins and Cowboys will play each other, so at least one of them will lose a game (unless they tie, which is fine too). Then, the Redskins play at the Cleveland Browns and at the Philadelphia Eagles. Losing two of those three games is certainly within the realm of possibility. Similarly, the Cowboys play the Steelers, Saints and, of course, Redskins. I wouldn't be surprised to even see three losses there.

NFC West

This is the toughest cookie. Mostly because the Bucs cannot catch the 49ers (they would have a 9-6-1 record even if they lost everything, better than the Bucs' supposed 9-7 record). So the Bucs then would need the Seahawks to lose their final two games against the 49ers and Rams at home, while their week 15 game against the Buffalo will be irrelevant. The Bucs would then beat them on a tiebreaker on the record in common games.

If two of these three scenarios, occur, the Bucs can make it in.

But, let's face it, they've basically given their playoff chances away today.

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