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A Panthers loss opens the door for Buccaneers in NFC South

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be back in the NFC South division race with a Carolina Panthers loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Yes, that sounds outlandish -- but after the Atlanta Falcons lost to the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, it's no longer impossible. Just unlikely.

If the Panthers lose to the Seattle Seahawks today, they'd be 4-1 while the Atlanta Falcons are 5-1. That'd put the Bucs two games behind the Panthers, and two-and-a-half games behind the Falcons. A sizeable deficit with a quarter of the season gone, but hardly an insurmountable one -- especially given the fact that the Bucs have two games against the Falcons and one against the Panthers to make up for their deficit.

That's still a very long shot, of course. The Bucs would have to considerably raise their level of play all across the board to get anywhere close to that, and recent history suggests it's not going to happen. Every time we've talked about the Bucs making the playoffs "if they do X", X has not been what they've done.  In addition, independent assessments don't give the Bucs much of a chance. For instance, Football Outsiders gives the Bucs just a 3.8% chance of making the playoffs, and an 0.8% chance of winning the division.

Those are pretty low odds, but low odds are not the same thing as no odds. Usually, you'd expect these things not to happen. But stranger things have occurred in the NFL, and the Bucs haven't been on the lucky end of any statistical prediction in quite some time. Not that that means they're due -- that's not how random chance works -- but it makes us forget that this is the NFL, and sometimes things do work out for the better.

Here's to hoping today's a start.