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NFL Playoff Picture: Buccaneers almost out with loss to Saints

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a hefty blow to their playoff chances today, losing to the New Orleans Saints 24-17. The Bucs are now 6-7, two games behind the 8-5 Seattle Seahawks and 8-5 Minnesota Vikings and need a minor miracle to get into the big ball.

At the same time, they're not quite eliminated yet. The Bucs need to win their last three games, against the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers, to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2010. If they do that, they're certain to win any of the tiebreakers that are likely to come up -- so all they need is for either the Vikings or the Seahawks to drop two games in three weeks.

That's unlikely, but it's far from impossible: the Vikings have to play the Chicago Bears, New York Giants and Green Bay Packers, while the Seahawks play the Cleveland Browns, the Rams and the Arizona Cardinals.

Obviously, the Bucs are going to have to play better football than they did today to do that, and they need a lot of help. But the season isn't over until it's really over -- and right now, the Bucs are still in it.

Here's what the NFC looks like right now:

NFC Playoff Picture

1. Carolina Panthers
2. Arizona Cardinals
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Washington

Wild Card 1: Seattle Seahawks
Wild Card 2: Minnesota Vikings

In the hunt: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7), Atlanta Falcons (6-7), Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), New York Giants (5-7)