Updated: Clinching Scenarios, 12/16/15
Things started off great for the Buccaneers. Minnesota took another loss. The Bears and Falcons each took losses. But then the Bucs took their loss against the Saints and that really delivered a crushing blow to their hopes.
Add to that another blowout Seahawks victory and the playoffs seemed to have slipped away.
To be sure, the Bucs odds of making the playoffs decreased dramatically after falling to the Saints. They need one of the two current playoff teams to basically collapse down the stretch and they need to accomplish something they haven't done all season - win three in a row.
Current NFC Playoff Teams
y-Clinched Division Z-Clinched Home Field B-Clinched division and first round bye X-clinched Playoff spot
In The Hunt
Why is Seattle ahead of Minnestoa?
The Seahawks moved into the 5th seed based on conference record.
Why is Washington still in first place in the NFC East?
The Washington franchise has beaten both Philly and the Giants head-to-head.
Why are the Bucs ahead of the Falcons, Eagles and Giants?
Its a muddle mess in the in the hunt crowd. As we discussed last week, when three or more clubs are tied for a wildcard spot, you have to apply division tie-breakers to eliminate divisional foes first.
Philly eliminates the Giants based on head-to-head. Tampa Bay eliminates Atlanta based on head-to-head. That leaves Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, Tampa Bay beats Philly on Head-to-Head. Tampa bay gets the 7th slot. Atlanta claims the eighth spot because they beat Philly. Philly claims the 9th spot because they beat the Giants.
None for the Bucs.
Carolina clinches home field advantage with WIN and Arizona loss or tie OR TIE and Arizona loss.
Arizona clinches the NFC WEST with Arizona win or tie OR Seattle loss or tie. Arizona can also claim a strength of victory tie-breaker over Seattle if Cincinnati and New Orleans win and Dalla and Pittsburgh lose.
Green Bay clinches a playoff spot with a WIN OR Tampa Bay loss or tie AND Washington loss or tie OR Tampa Bay loss or tie and NY Giants loss or tie.
Seattle clinches a playoff spot with a WIN AND a Tampa Bay loss or tie AND NY Giants OR Washington loss or tie. They can also clinch with a win AND Tampa Bay loss or tie AND Atlanta loss or tie AND MInnesota loss AND a Green Bay win or tie. Seattle can also clinch a spot with a tie and a combination of Tampa Bay/Atlanta/NY Giants loss or ties and Tampa Bay/Atlanta/Washington/Philadephia loss or ties.
Minnesota clinches a playoff spot with a WIN AND Tampa Bay loss or tie AND Washington OR NY Giants loss or tie AND Seattle OR Atlanta loss or tie. Minnesota can also clinch with a TIE and a combination of Tampa Bay/Atlanta/Philadelphia/Washington loss or ties.
Panthers - @NYG, @ATL, TB
Cardinals - @PHI, GB, @SEA
Vikings - CHI, @NYG, @GB
Redskins - BUF, @PHI, @DAL
Packers - @OAK, @ARI, MIN
Seahawks - CLE, STL, @ARI
Falcons - @JAX, CAR, NO
Buccaneers - @STL, CHI, @CAR
Eagles - ARI, WAS, @NYG
Giants - CAR, @MIN, PHI
Best Case Scenario for the Bucs
It's actually pretty simple. Tampa Bay must win out. Either Minnesota or Seattle will have to lose two of their last three games. Complicating things is the logjam in the NFC East and Atlanta still lurking around. The wrong combination of 9-7 ties could potentially knock the Bucs out of the race.
For example, if the Giants and Redskins both win out, a four way tie doesn't help Tampa Bay as the Giants would have a head-to-head sweep of the Bucs and Vikings.
If the Bucs Lose Another Game
There is a tiny opening for the Bucs to make the playoffs at 8-8, but a whole helluva lot must go right. Either Seattle or Minnesota would have to lose out.
The Giants or Redskins would need to win the NFC East - the loser would need to finish no better than 7-9. The Saints would need to finish no better than 7-9 (New Orleans would beat the Bucs in a tie-breaker base on record vs. common opponents). Atlanta can finish no better than 8-8. Philadelphia could finish no better than 8-8.
If the Eagles win the NFC East, then both the Giants and Redskins would need to finish no better than 7-9.
Bottom line, it would be a hot mess and highly improbable the Bucs would get in.
Who to Root For this Weekend and Why
Bucs over the Rams - We need to hope the Bucs don't let the Saints beat them twice and they can bounce back.
Cowboys to beat the Jets - Helps the Bucs strength of victory.
Bears to beat Vikings - For the Bucs to remain in play, Tampa Bay needs Minnesota losses.
Jaguars to beat the Falcons - knock Atlanta out of the picture for good.
Panthers to beat the Giants - Sure, we'd like to see Carolina get their first loss so they rest starters, but the Bucs have a bigger threat from the Giants.
Bills to beat the Redskins - Washington needs that 8th loss.
Browns to beat the Seahawks - Unless Johnny Football is Johnny Miracle, not much chance of this happening.
Raiders to beat the Packers - Because the Bucs need some damn options.
Eagles to beat the Cardinals - Eagles would take over the NFC East lead BUT give the Cardinals another loss and allow the Panthers to wrap up home field advantage.
Lions to beat the Saints - Just to make sure they don't crawl back into this thing.
Will there be another DLT's Crazy Insane Playoff Scenarios Next Week?
If the Bucs lose and both the Seahawks and Vikings win, its over.
If the Bucs win, hope springs eternal - at least for another week.