I didn't think I'd do it this year but the suckitude of the NFC South has forced my hand. Keep in mind, the Bucs are in such bad shape that none of these scenarios likely will happen but they might...
The bottom line is Tampa Bay, under any scenario, must finish with a better record than any of their NFC South brethren to win the division which of course is their only shot at the playoffs. They lose at every conceivable tie-breaker due to their performance in division up to now.
(And yes draftniks, we know you'd rather see the team lose the rest of their games in search of the mythical "franchise QB" than play in a "meaningless playoff game". This article isn't for you.)
So here we go....
Most Likely Scenario
I don't think any Bucs fan not with a residency in Arkam Asylum believes the Bucs will win out down the stretch. So let's say the Bucs go 4-2. That means they'd have to beat at least one of the teams left on their schedule that owns a winning record and hold serve against all the losing teams left on the schedule.
That puts the Bucs at 6-10.
Now here's what has to happen -
Week 12 - Falcons lose to Cleveland, Saints lose on the road to Baltimore
Week 13 - Saints lose at the Steelers, Panthers lose in frigid Minnesota, Falcons remain winless out of division, dropping another home game to Arizona.
Week 14 - Panthers upset the Saints at the Superdome, Falcons get frostbite in Green Bay
Week 15 - Bucs beat the Panthers, Steelers stomp the Falcons and New Orleans is frozen out in Chicago
Week 16 - Saints hold serve against the Falcons, Panthers lose at home against Cleveland
Week 17 - Falcons wrap up the season with a win against Carolina, the Bucs beat the Saints.
For every win that doesn't bounce Tampa Bay's way, they need to win more games.
If Atlanta beats Cleveland, Arizona, Pittsburgh or New Orleans OR
New Orleans beats Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Carolina or Chicago OR
Carolina beats Minnesota or Cleveland
The Bucs will need to go 5-1 down the stretch.
If they beat two of those teams (or both in Carolina's case), the Bucs must win out.
If the Bucs lose to Carolina or New Orleans, it's over.